Folding multicolored paper cranes, nearly 350 students and faculty crammed into the Berkeley dining hall Thursday night to raise money for Japan in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The fundraiser, which raised over $5,000 and was hosted by the Japanese-American Students Union, was one of three events held Thursday to encourage contributions to relief efforts for Japan and to inform the community about the crisis in the country, which was hit by an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale. In addition, a symposium about the implications of the disaster held in the Loria Center featured experts from Yale and other universities, and a candlelight vigil on Cross Campus commemorated victims and their families. Other benefits for Japan will continue over the course of the weekend.
“This is a great opportunity to do something for the people suffering in Japan, to express our sorrow as well as our hopes to rebuild the country,” said Naomi Saito, a staff member at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library who has family in Japan and attended all three events.
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The symposium, titled “Analyzing Disaster in Japan,” drew a crowd of over 150 people to the Loria Center auditorium, some of whom perched on the stairs for lack of space.
Professor of political science Jun Saito GRD ’06, who organized the event, said the event aimed to provide a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the crisis. It brought together five researchers and professors from Yale, Harvard and the University of Tokyo, who spoke about scientific and political aspects of the crisis ranging from nuclear policy to the detection and prediction of earthquakes.
While all the speakers agreed on the severity of the situation in Japan, they also emphasized that understanding what went wrong could pave the way for a bright future for the country.. Yasuhiro Matsuda GRD ’82, a visiting professor from the University of Tokyo, said the crisis could strengthen ties between the people of Japan and their government.
He said that the earthquake and tsunami — which many have dubbed 3/11, after 9/11 — could raise public opinion of the government if officials respond effectively to the situation, and could lead the country to grow more united.
“If there is good politics and good leadership, Japan can convert this crisis into an opportunity,” Matsuda said. “But this opportunity will not last long. Opportunity never knocks twice.”
As the symposium drew to a close, Jun Saito encouraged the audience to participate in the vigil, which began shortly afterwards. On Cross Campus, about 60 attendees held paper cups containing flickering candles as they listened to a violin piece by Kisho Watanabe ’11, reactions to the tragedy from East Asian language and literature professor Mari Stever, and testimony from Toshiki Sakiyama ’13, whose brother was studying in the most-affected region of Japan at the time of the earthquake.
Sakiyama, whose family lives in Japan, said he heard news of the earthquake while he was in California over spring break. Though he said he was not originally alarmed because earthquakes are common in Japan, he quickly grew fearful for his brother’s safety when his family had not heard from him for several days.
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“I trusted my intuitive sense that my older brother was safe, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he was hurt by the tsunami,” he said at the vigil.
He added that his brother survived unscathed and contacted his parents, who live in Tokyo, several days after the earthquake.
University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said the vigil, organized by the Chaplain’s Office, was intended to offer the community a chance to come together for “reverent silent time.”
“We stand side by side, but we are also heart to heart with the people in Japan,” she said.
After the vigil, students and faculty streamed into the Berkeley dining hall for food, music and over $3,000 of raffle prizes to raise money for Japan. In contrast to the gravity of the symposium and vigil, students interviewed described the fundraiser as more light-hearted and “fun.” Still, in a corner of the room, a slideshow displayed photographs of Japan in the aftermath of the disaster.
A variety of New Haven businesses, ranging from American Apparel to Froyo World, donated food and gift certificates to the event and the raffle, event organizer and Japanese-American Students Union Co-President Mary Zou ’12 said. “Hope for Japan” T-shirts were also available for $10 each.
Fourteen students interviewed at the event said they were drawn by the all-you-can-eat buffet and the chance to contribute to a good cause. A minimum donation of $5 was requested for entry, and all proceeds will be donated to the Yale Relief Fund, which will give to the Red Cross for Japan relief, Zou said.
“It’s been a horrible tragedy to watch unfolding,” said Abigail Bok ’14, who attended the fundraiser. “Being able to do anything [for Japan] feels good. It’s a nice way for people to come together.”
The event was sponsored by the Chaplain’s Office, seven residential colleges, the Asian American Students Alliance and the Asian American Cultural Center, Zou said.
Jonathan Edwards College is holding a “Jump Start Japan” fundraiser tonight, and the Institute of Sacred Music is hosting a benefit concert in Woolsey Hall featuring Bach Collegium Japan this Saturday night.