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Bainbridge Island relief efforts continue for Japan

Michiko Sackett (at left) and Bainbridge High School Japanese teacher Lani Kawasaki sort through donated Japanese items that will be auctioned off May 14 at Seabold Hall as a fundraiser for Japanese victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.  - Joel Sackett Photo
Michiko Sackett (at left) and Bainbridge High School Japanese teacher Lani Kawasaki sort through donated Japanese items that will be auctioned off May 14 at Seabold Hall as a fundraiser for Japanese victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
— image credit: Joel Sackett Photo

Tsunami of love

A silent auction of Japanese items will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 14 at Seabold Community Hall, 14450 Komedal Rd.

For more information contact Michiko Sackett or Lani Kawasaki at wildflowerbi@aol.com.

To view photos of available items, visit their Facebook page: Search for JapanRelief-Bainbridge.Is.WA.

 

Western media is known for saturating the airwaves with breaking news, then letting the topic drop off the radar.

For Michiko Sackett the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit her native Japan isn’t something she can easily forget.

Watching Japanese television stations via satellite, the disaster still dominates the evening news. And the images she’s seen, and the feelings they evoke, still dominate her thoughts almost two months later.

“People have lost everything. It’s a freezing area. Many of the old and sick who could not evacuate, are staying in school gymnasiums without blankets. It was so cold that when they slept they put all their legs together just to keep warm.”

Michiko, who was born in Morioka, had been in Japan visiting her mother just two weeks before the quake.

“We were shopping, relaxing. I thought, maybe I should come back more often. Then — everything changed.”

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake near the town of Sendai, was followed by a powerful tsunami.

Immediately Sackett contacted her mother Hamako, 83, who has since come to stay with her and her husband photographer Joel Sackett on Bainbridge Island.

Still, Michiko suffered from feelings of guilt and anxiety following the devastation.

Soon after, she ran into Lani Kawasaki, a Japanese language teacher at Bainbridge High School. The two Japanese nationals hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but both felt the magnitude of the tragedy.

“Can we do anything?” Michiko asked.

Kawasaki remembers  March 11 the same way others remember what they were doing Sept. 11, 2001 or Nov. 22, 1963.

“It was a huge emotional roller coaster,” she said. “I was frantic, trying to get a hold of my family in Tokyo.” Distraught, she showed up to class that day without even zipping her boots.

Kawasaki and her students immediately organized several fundraisers.

A Japanese film festival raised awareness, followed by a car wash at the Chevron Station at High School Road and SR-305 which raised $2,000 in one day.

Kawasaki connected with the Bezos Family Foundation, whose Students Rebuild program donates $2 for every origami crane students made and sent in.

About 6,400 cranes later, Bainbridge students and the community had raised $12,800 for reconstruction efforts in the hardest-hit areas.

Student Caitlin Harlan designed a t-shirt to help raise funds. After selling the first 150, a second printing is under way. Other students sold Japanese candies to raise funds.

One day, Eagle Harbor student Kian Ashabi handed Kawasaki an envelope.

“I could feel change in it. I thought it was for candies,” she said. Turns out Ashabi, of his own accord, played his violin for Japan and single-handedly raised $50.

Kawasaki and Michiko brainstormed ideas for a more substantial fundraiser.

“We can’t write personal checks for large amounts,” Michiko said. What they could offer was some of the items they’d collected from their many trips to Japan in a silent auction. From there, they contacted nearly 40 other local women who are Japanese nationals to see if they had anything they’d be willing to donate. The response has been tremendous and a side benefit  has been a strengthening of community among the women, many whom felt helpless in dealing with the disaster.

The Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Community has offered its name as an endorsement for the effort. The Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District is sponsoring the event, and waived the rental fee for the use of Seabold Hall.

Mieko Seltzer contacted the Peninsula Women’s Club for donations items and Chizuko Farley brought back a suitcase of kimonos.Masako Guidry offered treasured items as well.

The keepsakes, some exquisitely crafted, are worth the sacrifice, Michiko said.

She recalls seeing footage of a family searching the rubble for family photos.

“For me, no comparison, Michiko said. “I have time to say goodbye to special things. The people who lost things in the mud instantly did not.”

The event, different than a rummage sale, will feature two sessions of silent bidding, one from 10 a.m. to noon and another from 2 to 4 p.m.

The sale will feature many kimonos, including a wedding kimono, laquerware, silk obiage which can be used as scarves, many items with crane and carp motifs, antique teapots, a quilt, textiles, ceramics and more. Items are still coming in, and Kawasaki said they will still accept donations through next week. To donate, email wildflowerbi@aol.com.

All proceeds, 100 percent, will go to the Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund (www.japansociety.org).

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