Rocked by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami a little more than one month ago, Japan faces a long road to recovery.
But the devastated nation isn’t alone. From thousands of miles away, Owen Blake and Izumi Noda are helping raise “Hope for Japan.”
The couple was in Kyoto, Japan visiting friends and family when the earthquake occurred. Luckily, they were far enough away to be safe. They did, however, witness the tragedy and devastation firsthand — a memory that continues to haunt them today.
“We were relieved to make it home safe but it was hard to leave all that behind,” Blake said.
“Our hearts and our minds are still there,” Noda added.
Wanting to help in some way, Blake and Noda organized “Hope for Japan,” a charity event in Sequim.
The City of Sequim jumped on board right away and agreed to co-sponsor the event and donate the Guy Cole Convention Center at Carrie Blake Park for two days: Saturday, April 23, and Sunday, April 24.
An all-ages dance party is set for 7-11 p.m. Saturday night with DJ O.B.1 — aka Owen Blake. A $5 donation is suggested. The next day, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., various musicians will perform while a silent auction takes place. All proceeds benefit the Japanese Red Cross.
Silent auction items — donated generously from individuals, families, businesses and organizations — include restaurant gift cards, gym packages, gift baskets, coffee gift cards, salon certificates and more.
Donation boxes will be available at the event for additional contributions. The majority of boxes will be given to the Japanese Red Cross but one or two boxes will be designated specifically to animal rescue efforts.
Though none of their friends or family members died in the disaster, Blake and Noda know that thousands of others lost people they know and love.
According to the National Police, the death toll has surpassed 13,500 and the number of people missing is still well above 14,000.
“Unfortunately, when you turn on the TV, you don’t hear about what is happening there as much anymore,” Noda said. “Instead, you hear about the British wedding, Libya, or at the very least, the nuclear crisis. But there are still children separated from their parents, families living in shelters, loved ones missing and people who need them not getting relief packages.”
Part of Noda’s reason for organizing the event is personal. Not only was she born and raised in Japan, but she lived through the Kobe Earthquake in 1995.
“I remember getting woke up at like 5:46 in the morning,” she recalled. “Some people weren’t able to evacuate and then they didn’t receive food or medical; people who survived the earthquake died because they didn’t get the aid they needed.”
Noda and Blake visit Japan as regularly as possible. They were married in Japan and their almost 2-year-old daughter was born there.
Blake’s family roots run deep in Sequim, connected with the Blake family property.
The couple considers both Sequim and Kyoto “home.”