Smile Kids Japan


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I am aware of no one not moved by the devastation that took place in Japan on 11th March 2011 at 14:46 hours. I remember my wife waking me in the early hours and telling me about the earthquake and tsunami that had hit Japan.

As we watched the devastation unfold through the media coverage, I remembered the many trips that I had made to Japan over the last 18 years in my pursuit of kendo and the people that I had met and made many friends with.

As the days passed and the true scale of the devastation became known worldwide, I remember thinking about the disaster. I had spent 31 years in the Ambulance service as a front line Paramedic and felt that I wanted to go to Japan and help with the rescue but I know this was not possible as I had not had any training in urban rescue.

In April I saw a TV programme about a charity called Smile Kids Japan, it was about a charity helping orphaned children many that had been orphaned and traumatised by the Tsunami, some of the children talked about their fear and their traumatic experience of the tsunami many of these kids had lost their homes, belongings, Toys, family and friends, they would need support with counselling to return to some sort of normal life.   I was so moved by this program that I felt that my dojo Kashi- no- ki kenyu kai UK could in some way raise some money especially for this charity as we had in March raised £2,000 for the Japanese Red Cross earthquake and Tsunami appeal.

I had talked with my friend in Japan about the TV program and he had told me that the Tohoku area was at that time still suffering hardship and having looked at the smile Kids Japan web site, I had found they were raising funds for the Tohoku Orphans Tohoku Kids Project.

In February we were very fortunate at my dojo to have had a visiting Kendo sensei Tashiro Junichi Kendo Hachidan Kyoshi. He spent one morning talking with the seminar candidates about his Kendo life and experiences he told us that when someone passes a dan grade they get a menjo with dan on it, which is an act of receiving. At this point the meaning of dan turns around to mean giving. Each dan grade awarded carries a responsibility to be generous.   Remembering Tashiro sensei words and reflecting on how I experienced so much help and kind hospitality during my visits to Japan. I felt that if I could raise funds for the Smile Kid Japan charity, this would then be a small way in repaying the kindness shown to me over the years, and,  these children were in some way part of Japans future.

My teacher Ozawa Hiroshi sensei in Tokyo and the members of Kobukan had raise funds for the Japanese Red Cross by organising a 1000 suburi charity event.  I talked with my Dojo members and suggested that we organise a 1,000 Suburi event like Kobukan and I asked them to ask for sponsorship from their friends, family and work colleges. Everyone agreed and we planned the event for Sunday 22nd May. I also had an Idea that I would write to some of the high ranking Japanese Kendo sensei and ask them if they would kindly donate some Kendo items so that we could set up a auction site on E Bay. I was a little apprehensive about this as I felt that my request would be impolite, therefore I asked the advice of my friend Miss Matsuda Kazuyo Kendo 6th Dan. She told me that this would be a good Idea and that she would help me in translating my letters to the sensei.

Soon I was receiving donated items from Hiroshi Ozawa sensei, Sumi Masatake sensei, Chiba Masashi sensei, Takizawa Kenji sensei, Tashiro Junichi sensei and the Japanese Kendo team; we had received shinai bags, Books, tenigui and many other items. Ozawa Hiroshi sensei kindly donated some tenigui that his father had designed. Ozawa Hiroshi sensei signed and dated the tenigui with the date of the earthquake and Tsunami.

The morning of the event came and I felt a nervous driving to the dojo, thinking that the situation in Japan had in some way taken a back seat in the UK media and would we be able to raise the same amount of £2,000 that we had raised in March for the Japanese Red Cross. I felt that I had not just asked my dojo members to take part in this event but also some of Japans most senior kendoka so therefore I wanted the event to be a success.

I had decided that morning to use a shinai that had been given to me that had belonged to Kozo Ando sensei Kendo 8th Dan, from Kobukan Tokyo to do my 1000 suburi. It had been given to me following his death in 2003. This shinai had his name embossed on one of the taki. I know that this may sound strange to some people but I felt that by using this shinai, Ando sensei spirit would in some way be taking part in the event and contribute to its success. When I arrived at my dojo there were eighteen of us in total that would be taking part two were children.  We started the event with one minutes silence in respect for all the children that had lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami.   I then read out a letter that I had received from Masashi Chiba sensei thanking every one taking part for their efforts.   After an hour everyone had completed the challenge and participants handed in their sponsor monies.  I was really amazed when I totalled up the sponsor forms of the participants. We had raised a total of £1,422.35 and we still had the auction to go.

I spent a considerable amount of time photographing and getting items like Tenagui translated that the sensei had sent and our Dojo secretary Daniel Lavarick had posted the donated Kendo items on eBay. Soon people in Australia, America and across Europe were making bids on these items, I was quite excited that the auction had attracted so much attention around the world but then again all of the senior Japanese sensei that I had written to were well known around the Kendo world and had for many years given their time and commitment in building international kendo relations.

Generally winning bids were from across Europe the furthest being Sweden The auction raised £1,234.00 and we also received £250 in donation from Kendoka and friends in total we raised £2,906.00.

I would like to say a special thank you to all the Sensei that were so kind as to donate kendo items for the auction, and also to Daniel Lavarick for all his hard work with the auction, and to Miss Matsuda Kazuyo for her assistance in Japanese translation also to my Dojo members and to the many people that gave me help and support both in Japan and the UK.

Trevor Chapman
Dojo Leader Kashi-no-ki kenyu kai UK