A hand-drawn card from a child — featuring a heart, or people holding hands — is powerful stuff. It can bring a lump to the throat for moms and other sensitive types.
That’s the kind of innocent beauty that can be found in a set of quilts that arrived in Whitehorse from Japan this month, and are on exhibit until Nov. 5.
The quilts are made of squares of fabric, each one designed with warm wishes from Canadian kids to kids in Japan.
Last year Whitehorse elementary students drew images of love and compassion on one-foot by one-foot square cloths for kids their age in Japan who lived through the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The initiative, called the Canada-Tohoku Kids to Kids Cloth Letters Project, was the idea of Japanese Canadian filmmaker Linda Ohama. Ohama, based in Vancouver, spread the word across Canada that all were invited to channel their concern, shock, and empathy into this action of creativity and love.
Here in Whitehorse, retired teacher Fumi Torigai and his wife Taeko heard about the project in March of 2012 and approached the school system with an invitation to participate.
Their interest in this arty and emotional project came on the heels of helping to fundraise serious cash — $40,000 — for the Red Cross in Japan.
“We felt this was a very nice way to support kids who were devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, and in a way, continue the connection between the people of Whitehorse and the Japanese people,” says Torigai, who is president of the Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon (JCAY).
Three classes in Whitehorse participated: one Christ the King, Jack Hulland, and Whitehorse Elementary Schools. The cloth letters were then mailed to Vancouver, and added to the ones made by students from across Canada. Organizers sewed them all together into a series of five-foot by 12-foot quilts, and mailed them off to Tohoku, Japan.
“The original idea for the project was for the Canadian kids to communicate with the Japanese kids, and they didn’t have to know the language – they could communicate with images,” Torigai says. “You could see the kids’ feelings of sympathy and deep compassion written in the simple language of their drawings. So it was really nice.”
Now there’s a chance check out this expression of human compassion from the under-12 crowd. The set of quilts toured Japan, and have come back to North America to visit several Canadian cities. Fifteen quilts have arrived in Whitehorse, and are on display at the Yukon Arts Centre and the Canada Games Centre.
The Canada-Tohoku Kids to Kids Cloth Letters Project will be on exhibit at the Yukon Arts Centre and at the Canada Games Centre from Oct. 25 to Nov. 5.
For more information email Fumi Torigai at JCAYukon@gmail.com.
A Sunday Afternoon of Free Japanese Films
JCAY is inviting the public to check out a couple of Japanese films – for free – on the big screen at The Old Fire Hall. The event takes place on Sunday, Nov. 3, and both films are family friendly.
An anime called Brave Story will be shown at 1 p.m., and a drama called Always: Sunset on Third Street 3 will be shown at 3:15 p.m.
The second movie is set in Tokyo in the 1960s, which is a period burned into JCAY President Fumi Torigai’s memory – he was a young man in university at that time.
“From my personal point of view, that’s a good era to learn about people’s feelings and how people deal with each other,” Torigai says. “This film is about ordinary people’s life. So there’s a lot of humour and maybe some sad episodes in it, and successes and failures – all those life stories.”
The goal of the event, which is sponsored by the Japan Foundation, is to share Japanese culture.