Responses to March 11th: The Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, Photoji Project and ToBetterUs

Taylor Anderson Memorial Gift Fund
by Maria Valenzuela
The tragedy of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan earlier this year touched both current JET participants and JET alums who all have strong emotional ties to Japan.  JETs and the JET community have responded in various ways to help. Some have started up their own charities to benefit the Tohoku area. The two articles below are about organizations started by members of our own JETAASC community working in creative ways to aid Japan. Another way JETs have reached out to Japan and those who have been lost are through memorials. Two JET Program participants Taylor Anderson and Monty Dickson were sadly lost during those tragic events. AJET is running a memorial site where condolence cards are posted to an online blog. The memorial site is Taylor’s family is running a memorial gift fund towards projects they feel Taylor would have wanted to see through in Japan.

I had the special privilege to hear Taylor Anderson’s father, Andy Anderson, address all the JETAA USA chapter representatives at the JETAA National Conference in Washington, D.C. Primarily he wanted to thank the JET community for their heartfelt response in response to Taylor’s passing and the earthquake/tsunami devastation in Tohoku. Secondly, he wanted to inform the JET alumni community about the Taylor Anderson Memorial Gift Fund. The purpose of the Taylor Anderson Gift Fund is “To help schools, families and students in the Ishinomaki area recover from the earthquake and tsunami. The fund’s website is . Some of the projects the fund goes toward are: The Taylor Anderson Reading Corner; Smile Kids Japan – Tohoku Kids’ Japan; The Fruit Tree Project; Japan YMCA. Mr. Anderson hopes to channel the outpouring of support by JET alums in order to empower current JETs who are over there now.  He sees the JET alum community as a font of what we calls “Community Service Team Leaders – JETs who have been there and can inspire others.” He also want to bring to our attention the changing needs on the ground in Tohoku where current JETs serve as “the eyes and ears in the schools and communities.” In this regard the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund also aims to help JETs cover the expenses they personally incur volunteering (gas, tires, meals). He asks that we help these JETs who are spending their non-work hours attending to the affected area on their own dime. He told us, “What I’m seeing is passion over there” and “passion for service comes from helping from personal connections.” The Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund and other charities spurred on by the JET community area testament to the passion, service and person-to-person connections occurring in the JET worldwide community.

Photoji Project
by Gabriel Della Vecchia

During the summer of 2010, the members of Photoji Project spent three weeks documenting, through photographs and interviews, the historically important onsen hot spring town of Naruko in the Tohoku region of Japan. We focused our explorations on the concept of toji : a traditional method of healing by bathing in the medicinal waters of the hot springs multiple times a day over the course of a number of weeks.

Then came the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11th, 2011. Over the course of one terrible, bitterly cold winter afternoon, everything in this region of the world changed. In a strange twist of fate, fading Naruko, home to hundreds of usually empty hotel rooms, became a refuge for 1000 tsunami victims, relocated there by the prefectural government. The ritual of toji, staying in an onsen town for an extended period in order to heal, has taken on an entirely new meaning.

Photoji Project returned to Naruko in May and June 2011, nearly one year after our original visit, to document how a place that was written off has now become safe haven for hundreds of families.

We will share these stories in California in an exhibit we have named “Vanishing Point.” We will be showing at the Little Tokyo Koban and Visitors’ Center in Los Angeles in mid-August to coincide with Nisei Week, the largest Japanese-American Festival in the US. For the month of September, to commemorate the 6th month anniversary of the disasters, we will be showing at the wonderful Elsewhere Gallery in Fairfax, just outside of San Francisco.

The people of rural Japan were already facing steep challenges before the disasters, and now with added hurdles, we want to ensure their efforts towards recovery are seen as broadly as the images of destruction. At both locations, we will be collecting donations, selling prints, and holding a silent auction to raise funds for the Naruko community. We are looking forward to seeing you at exhibit!

Photo Exhibit “Vanishing Point” in Los Angeles

Location: Little Tokyo Koban and Visitor’s Center, 307 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA
Dates: Friday, August 12th – Sunday August 21st
Admission: Free, donations appreciated.
Closing Party and Talk Session will be held on Saturday, August 20th
Doors at 5:30pm, Event at 6pm
Hours: 9am – 6pm

Photo Exhibit “Vanishing Point” in San Francisco

Location: Elsewhere Gallery, 1828 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard,Fairfax, CA
Dates: Friday, September 2nd – Tuesday September 20th
Admission: Free, donations appreciated.
Opening Reception and Talk Session will be held on Tuesday, September 6th
Doors at 6:30pm, Event at 7pm
Hours: 11am – 6pm

Contact : Photoji Project
E-mail :

Artwork to Aid Japan: ToBetterUs
by Raymond Gonzalez
ToBetterUs Co-Founder, Graphic Artist

JET Alumni, Miyazaki-ken 06-07

If a drawing or a song could help the tsunami survivors in Japan, would you pick up a pencil and start doodling, or a mic and start singing? If you could make a donation towards the tsunami relief without giving any money, just a bit of your time, would you?

ToBetterUs gives you the opportunity to do exactly that. ToBetterUs is a soon-to-be-launched webservice utilizing artwork and social networks to generate donations for the Japanese tsunami relief effort. The aim of ToBetterUs is to change the way we help those in need through a little creativity and time, without a penny from your pocket. We hope to affect positive by taking advantage of the internet and the digital age. Here’s how it works:

Creative people, like you, post their artwork on This can be anything from movies, music, posters, photography, or anything creative. It can be Japan related, or simply a piece of art you’ve created. Once on ToBetter.Us, invite your friends and other art admirers to see your work on the website. Then, those friends would spread the word on their social networks, driving more friends to admire your art. With every page visit to your artwork, revenue is generated through the ads on the page. Then, we donate the money generated to a charity helping in tsunami relief!

If you are interested in participating, check us out at and start uploading your artwork! If you have any questions, we’re more than happy to answer anything you may have. You can send any questions or concerns to You can also contact us through our social networking pages:

Tohoku Alums: Help Japan by Re-Visiting It (all expenses paid)

Invitation Program for Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Sendai-shi JET Alumni

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan National Tourism Organization have jointly organized an Invitation Program for JET Alums who worked as a JET in the above areas for 2 or more years to return to Japan (all expenses paid) as an ‘ambassador’.  The goal of this Program is to help promote the affected areas and to do PR work in the U.S. on their behalf.   As Japan struggles to regain the image of a safe place to live and travel, they are looking to JET Alums for assistance.
The deadline to submit applications is July 11, 2011. This is not a postmark date, but the date applications must be received by at the Consulate General of Japan –Los Angeles.

If you are interested in applying, please read the Application Guidelines below.

A note from the JET Desk
Alumni, due to many, many conflicting postings of this application/information and confusion about this program within Japan, please note the following:
Currently, the BoEs in Sendai, Miyagi and Iwate are still deliberating if they will participate in this program.  Therefore, although the directions encourage you to contact your CO/BoE regarding the ‘Confirmation of Acceptance’ Form and to arrange a meeting with them, please refrain from doing so at this time.  It might be better to contact former co-workers instead.  When the BoEs make their decision, you can then contact them regarding your schedule and to arrange a meeting with them.
Also, please refrain from depending on your CO to arrange or suggest transportation or accommodation options.



This program is jointly organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

and the Japan National Tourism Organization



    1. No limitations based on age or gender.
    2. Must have had two or more years of experience as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) or a Sports Exchange Advisor (SEA) in local governments in Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, Fukushima Prefecture or Sendai City via the JET Program.
    3. The travel advisory by the US State Department states “Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to destinations within the 50-mile evacuation zone of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. U.S. citizens who are still within this zone should evacuate or shelter in place”; therefore, those whose former workplaces are within the 50-mile zone are not eligible.
    4. Must directly contact the school and/ or local government where they were assigned as a JET participant.
    5. Must confirm acceptance (agreement to be hosted) by the contracting organization (CO) for which the participant worked.
    6. Must arrange exchange activities with the CO.
    7. Must be willing to travel unescorted for the duration of their time in Japan.
    8. Must disburse information about their stay in Japan in relation to their impressions as a foreign visitor. This PR should be covered in ways such as published articles, blogging, websites, Facebook, and any other media coverage they can garner.
    9. Must consent to interviews by Japanese and foreign media during their time in Japan.


    1. Participants will stay in Japan approximately for one week, sometime between July and September.

    2. They will stay in Tokyo for one night upon arrival and departure.

    3. Participants will stay in their former CO location for three to four nights during which they will participate in exchange activities.

    4. Exchange activities should include interacting with their former colleagues, students and community members and observing reconstruction progress in the disaster stricken areas.

    5. They will stay in a neighboring tourist site for one night.

    6. Extending the trip beyond the approximate one-week period is not permitted.

    1. Expenses born by the Government of Japan are as follows:
      1. International flight expenses (Y-class flight tickets are paid in kind.)
      2. Travel expenses in Japan:
        1. Flight expenses: Normal class flight tickets are paid in kind.
        2. Long distance travel expenses in Japan: Normal JR tickets are provided.
        3. Short distance travel expenses: To be provided separately.
      3. Hotel and meal expenses: Paid in kind, in principle, at the limit of 15,000 yen per day*
      4. Regular insurance will be provided
    2. Participants must pay the following expenses:
      1. Travel expenses in their own country.
      2. Incidental expenses while in Japan such as phone costs, room service, laundry service etc.
      3. Any costs incurred due to an early departure from Japan.

Note: * This covers the nightly hotel rate, with two meals.  Lunch costs are paid for separately.


    1. Applicants must submit all application documents to the Japanese Embassy or Consulates General located in their own country by July 11, 2011.  Application documents will not be returned.  Applicants must submit one original and four copies of the following application materials:

      1. CONFIRMATION OF ACCEPTANCE form, to be completed by the CO

      2. Curriculum Vitae or resume

      3. Proposed schedule of events during his/her stay

      4. Copy of a document certifying his/her nationality (passport, birth certificates, etc.)**

      5. A medical health check may be required for all successful applicants

Note: **Applicant is not required to submit an original copy of this; 4 copies are sufficient


    1. Flight tickets and other travel arrangements will be provided to the participants through travel agencies located in their own country.


    1. Participation in this program may be revoked after selection if:

    2. the application documents of the participant are found to contain false statements

    3. the Program organizers determine that the participant has acted in an unsuitable manner


    1. Tokyo District Court has exclusive jurisdiction for all legal matters regarding the operations of this program. The governing law will be Japanese law.


JET Program Office

Consulate General of Japan-Los Angeles

350 S. Grand Ave., Ste. 1700

Los Angeles, CA 90071


Once again, the Application Materials can be found here: APPLICATION MATERIAL.

All decisions are final.

Tohoku Quake Relief Charity Picnic

We’re throwing a Tohoku Quake Relief Charity Picnic and we hope to see you there! Join JETAASC on Saturday, May 14 at Wilson Park from 11am – 3pm and bring your own food (enough to share for 10 people). We’ll be collecting donations on site to give to the Koban to aid the relief effort in Japan.

Who: JETAASC – JET Alumni Association of Southern California
What: Tohoku Quake Relief Charity Picnic
When: 11am – 3pm
Where: Wilson Park in Torrance: 2400 Jefferson St, 90510
Why: Because we love Japan!
For questions and to RSVP, email:


Socks for Japan – We Need New Socks!

Socksforjapan-ad270The JET Alumni Association of Southern California (JETAASC) is supporting a ‘Socks for Japan’ campaign.  Mr. Jason Kelly is American living in Tochigi.  He started a campaign to take clean, new socks to the refugee centers in the Tohoku area.  If you would like to learn more about Mr. Kelly’s efforts, please visit: (English) or

n/japanese/ (Japanese).

JETAASC would like to invite you to join us in sending socks to those individuals in Japan that need them the most.  If you would like to donate socks, we will be collecting socks at all our May JETAASC events. Please follow Mr. Kelly’s guidelines:


  • Donate only new socks. All human beings are comforted by a fresh, clean pair of socks. Other advantages socks offer this operation: they’re light, their sizes are easy, they don’t break, people need lots of them in disastrous times away from home, and people can keep them forever to remember that somebody from far away cared. Please do not send any other items of clothing, food, etc. Just socks, but go ahead and choose nice ones that will brighten somebody’s day. You might receive a discount by showing our letter to your local store manager.
  • Put each pair in a sealed plastic bag. Want your socks to find needy feet asap? So do we! Please speed up our processing by taking socks out of bulk packaging, removing clasps or ties binding them together, and putting each pair in its own sealed clear plastic bag. Waterproof bags, such as Ziploc brand, are useful to people without homes. They serve a dual purpose: delivering socks in good shape, and providing a way for people to keep items dry.
  • Enclose a care letter. Japanese people treasure letters, especially ones from foreigners. Survivors of the 1995 Hanshin quake in Kobe said that care letters were among the most uplifting items they received. So, please enclose a copy of your letter with each pair of socks in a plastic bag. For help composing and translating your letter, see our care letter creation page. If you can’t make it to the events, some of our socks need letters to accompany them. Please submit a care letter by email to!
  • Label, compress, and seal. You should now have a pair of socks and your care letter in each plastic bag. One more helpful item: a label. Either write on the outside of the bag or insert into each bag a piece of paper identifying one of these categories: man or woman. (Please note that they do not need any more socks for babies or children.) Once that’s done, squeeze out excess air to make the bag as small as possible, then seal it shut. This preparation will make our inventory management and distribution a cinch!
  • Write your email address noticeably on the package. The most efficient way for us to keep in touch with you, and track the status of your package once we receive it, is via your email address. Please write it on the outside of your package so we can communicate with you without opening the package.

You don’t have to worry about writing “Urgent: Relief Supplies” boldly on the package because we, JETAASC, will be mailing the package.  These guidelines are also on the Japanese website, if you’d prefer.  Also, please note that they do not need any more socks for babies or children.

The JETAASC is really excited about this campaign and are encouraging everyone in the JETAASC community to join us in helping the refugees in the Tohoku area.


JETAASC Fundraising Event – Make Origami Cranes for Japan!

Make Cranes for Japan – JETAASC Fundraising Event
Sunday, April 10

Event Name: Northern Japan Earthquake Charity Fundraiser
Location: Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3350 Civic Center Drive, Torrance CA 90503
Date: Sunday, April 10
Time: 10 am – 3 pm

Come visit our booth for some fun activities at the Northern Japan Earthquake Charity Fundraiser and help Japan! Besides collecting donations that will go to the Japanese Red Cross, we will have two activities at our booth. The first activity is to teach people how to fold origami cranes. We’re raising funds by charging people to make the cranes – $1/crane.  The cranes will either be kept by the donor or would be collected by JETAASC to be hung at the Japanese Consulate.  The second activity will be writing messages of hope/comfort that will be sent to Japan as well through our Consulate connections. We’ve got volunteers but we need more! If you would like to volunteer, would like more information, or can’t attend but would like to make a donation please contact Elvira at

Want to volunteer for other events?

Thank you to the JET alums and Friends of JETs (FOJs) that have contacted us and donated their time and/or money! For everyone else, if you’ve been thinking you’d like to help we want to hear from you! Please contact us at  Our first official JETAASC fundraising event is the Northern Japan Earthquake Charity Fundraiser this Sunday, April 10. We’ve got many more events in the works. If you would like to be on our volunteer mailing list or have a great idea or would simply like to donate funds to help Japan please contact