Photo caption: The photograph entitled “Going Home,” is the best-selling photo in the Friends of Fukushima exhibit held through April 2012. Taken of Fukushima before the tsunami, it symbolizes hope for those survivors who lost their homes. Photo credit: Frances Tong.

Friends of Fukushima (FOF) came into existence in May 2011, a couple of months after the devastating March 11th earthquake. It was created by a group of like-minded people in Hong Kong who felt the urgent need to respond to the victims of the disaster, and particularly those in Fukushima. Our founding member, Frances Tong, had a portfolio of beautiful Fukushima photos she took before the earthquake. She realized there was a unique opportunity to showcase these images as a tribute to Fukushima and its natural beauty (in contrast to the media image of it being a radiation disaster site).

This led to the  “Heart of Goodness Charity Photo Exhibition” which was held in Hong Kong and Shanghai from November 2011 to March 2012.   We hope that by seeing these beautiful Fukushima images, people would be touched, become more aware of our delicate planet and be mindful in our consumption of scarce resources.

In November 2012, FOF led a team of people (including Hong Kong Chinese, American and Japanese nationals) to visit Fukushima. We visited cities in Fukushima prefecture: Nihonmatsu, Iwaki City, Koriyama and Aizu-Wakamatsu. We met victims and evacuees of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, as they told us their stories — ones of “silent heroes” —  people on the front lines who made a difference by quietly rebuilding without recognition. We learned of the need to rebuild commerce and tourism in Fukushima, and also of the need to address the emotional trauma from the disasters due to lost family members, community, livelihood, home, etc. All of these will take time to rebuild, but we believe things are moving in the right direction.

Addressing the aftermath of the Fukushima disasters is a huge and long-term commitment. It will obviously require the participation of the Japanese government, Japanese and international communities, both public and private. While FOF’s role is only one of many participants, we believe our mission is unique in that the arts via the photos will showcase Fukushima’s natural beauty, a reminder to protect that natural beauty through mindful consumption, and to raise funds for those most afflicted by the disasters, including children, nuclear plant workers and farmers.

The public’s response to FOF’s message and photo exhibition have been extremely positive. Individuals and corporations have donated resources, including time, talent, and money to our project. Some of our partners include Canon Hong Kong, Fukushima Tourism Board and major Hong Kong venues such as Central Plaza and Man Yee.

Fukushima and what happened there can happen anywhere. The name is symbolic of our mission to promote environmental protection and mindfulness via the arts and creativity.

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