Here is the statement that Kimiko Gunji, Director of Japan House, made at a press conference held here at Japan House today:
First I would like to send my heartfelt thanks to those who contacted me by phone and via e-mail expressing their concern for my family, friends, and all the people in Japan. Among them was President Hogan. He expressed his concern and prayers for people in Japan, which touched me greatly.
If I may, I would like to share his message with you.
“I write with my most heartfelt concern for our colleagues, friends, and family members who are suffering as a result of the devastation visited upon Japan today. I can only imagine how difficult these hours must be for you and others who are worried for those close to them and for the beautiful islands and people of Japan.
If there is anything that I can do or that our campuses can do, would you please let me know? I’ve already received an outpouring of concern from many in our community and I know that we all stand ready to help as best as we can. Perhaps you can share with the friends of Japan House that my thoughts and prayers are with them at this time of sadness, loss, and uncertainty.”
Since then, I have contacted many of my friends, and supporters of Japan House in Japan and found that they are all fine. However, as you all have been witnessing, so many aftershocks and the tsunami visited on them, the death total has exceeded 10,000.
With President Hogan’s gracious support, we have decided to organize a disaster relief fund.
This beautiful Japan House has been in existence for the last 12 and a half years, and we are able to offer many educational programs and also share a tranquil and peaceful time with many who visit here.
In order to maintain the high quality programs we offer, Japan House has engaged in several major fundraising projects including our recent endowment campaign. For all of our fundraising efforts, many Japanese individuals, and the groups such as the Japan-Illini Club, the Urasenke Tea School, the Ikenobo Flower Arrangement School, Yanai Rotary Club, and Tokyo Koishikawa Rotary Club have been major sources of our support.
Furthermore, the University of Illinois and the people of Japan have had a longstanding relationship ever since the first Japanese student enrolled in the University in 1900. For over 35 years the Japan Illini club has offered a scholarship program established by Mr. Hachiro Koyama, which allows gifted Japanese students educational opportunities at the University of Illinois. In 1975 the original Japan House was established through the efforts of Mort Weir and Shozo Sato. When the old Japan House was torn down for redevelopment in the area we started fundraising for a permanent facility. Major Japanese organizations such as the Urasenke Tea School donated two tea rooms, in 1997, the Japan Illini Club gave $100,000, and the Japan Expo Foundation and the Japan Foundation both donated $100,000. Without these strong Japanese supporters Japan House would not exist.
Almost 100 students from Japan are currently enrolled at the University of Illinois. Upon graduation many of them return to Japan and remain involved with the University through the Japan Illini Club, which is one of the largest alumni association clubs outside of the United States. Furthermore, the very mission of Japan House is to introduce Japanese arts and culture, to promote the US-Japan relationship and to promote tolerance for all cultures and peace.
Thus, I feel it is urgent for us to support Japan and the Japanese who are in the middle of this devastating situation.
Therefore, we are establishing a fund with the University of Illinois Foundation, which will allow private donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations to support the disaster relief effort in Japan. All gifts collected through this effort will go directly to support the people of Japan and we will work with representatives from the Consul General of Japan at Chicago to ensure the funds collected will provide the maximum benefit to the people of Japan.
The title of the fund is the Illinois-Japan Disaster Relief Fund.
We will hope to have an online giving page made available through the University of Illinois Foundation soon. For additional information you can reach Japan House at 217.244.9934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Checks should be made payable to: UIF – Illinois-Japan Disaster Relief and mailed to the address below:
Illinois-Japan Disaster Relief
2000 South Lincoln Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802