June 4, 2013


Children of Japan's Earthquake Disaster Stage Musical to Present Gift of Compassion to the World

Keywords: Civil Society / Local Issues Disaster Reconstruction Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.129 (May 2013)

Some children that lived through the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster, from the Tohoku district, were joined March 30, 2013, by professional actors in staging a musical performance, with this in mind: "We, the ones who experienced the disaster, have something important to tell you."

What were the main messages the children wanted to convey from the stage? This article reports on how the musical performance, hosted by JFS, was organized to support the reconstruction efforts in Tohoku and support the desire to address the world's social problems.

Directing the Children on Stage

"In this musical, you should not try to play anyone else but yourself. You are here to convey what you experienced, thought, and felt," the children were told before rehearsals even started by stage director Mayumi Kamata, who is also president of CARE-WAVE, an organization formed especially to support the production.

The title of the musical was "CARE WAVE AID: Future Declaration 3.11 by Disaster-Area Children." A total of 21 kids from the Tohoku district performed in the work, including children from Uoza, a theater group in the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, and students from high school drama clubs in Koriyama City and Tamura-gun in Fukushima Prefecture.

The children said they lost their lives of normality in the instant the earthquake hit, and then lived through a lot of fear, anxiety, and sorrow. Though they did not really want to remember or talk about the disaster, they decided to appear on stage, inspired by a sense of mission that they have an important lesson to deliver about what they had learned.

"What is it that no-one but me can deliver?" "What message do I really want to communicate?" With these questions in mind, the children looked deep within themselves during rehearsals. In fact, parts of the musical were performed using the words they themselves spun.

Performers included not only children from the Tohoku district but also people belonging to Yumetsukuri, a citizens' theater group in the city of Anan, Tokushima Prefecture, which had been forging friendships with children from Uoza since before the earthquake, and children in Tokyo moved by CARE WAVE AID's dramas who wanted to participate. They said that, "Even though we didn't experience the disaster directly, we can imagine how the victims feel, and we stand by them," and, "Even people outside the affected areas in Tohoku, but that still belong to the same generation, have a mission to fulfill." Keeping these thoughts in mind, these children from all over Japan appeared together on the stage as their future "adult" selves.

Bringing Compassion to the World

The musical opens with a scene of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. The cast acted to recreate the situation that the victims of the 1986 accident were in and how they felt -- meant as a strong message for the people of Japan. Then, the children raised their voices up for the future of the Earth. Specifically, the experience of the children in the disaster-stricken areas, the awareness of children from Tokushima and Tokyo who didn't experience the disaster, and their determination and wishes were together conveyed as a "future declaration." After that, an omnibus format performance -- including scenes of poverty in Asia, a refugee camp in Africa, and child soldiers -- was followed by the drama's finale.

Why did the musical include problems that apparently have nothing to do with the Great East Japan Earthquake?

Various forms of conflicting feelings occur in the quake-hit areas in Tohoku. These problems happen not only in the quake-hit areas but also in workplaces and schools across Japan, and various parts of the world. Conflicting feelings can lead to bullying, discrimination, and eventually great tragedies like wars. Looking around the world, the kids found that children around the same age as themselves suffer from starvation, discrimination, and conflicts. They thought that there must be something of great significance for children in previously rich, peaceful Japan to suddenly face suffering similar to that of children in other countries.

The children that lived through the disaster say they've come to truly understand the suffering of other people in tough situations in the world, and that they think of the problems faced by others, if only partially, as their own. They think that the more people try to understand the opinions of all sides of a conflict, the more solutions can be found, no matter how complicated the problems are. Above all, they wish each of us to think of the people suffering in the world with compassion and love, just as what was expressed when many people in Japan and from around the world lent a helping hand to the people in the Tohoku area after the earthquake.

The children, no longer calling themselves disaster victims, made the following declaration about their future in the musical:


"We, who survived the great earthquake, which was said to occur once in 1,000 years, have a great 'mission,' which is to spread compassion throughout the world.

We think that our major problems, not only experienced around the world in disaster-hit areas, but our immediate, everyday problems, will become clear and solvable if everybody tries with compassion to better understand diplomatic problems, conflicts, starvation, and poverty.

And we believe it is possible to get people who are in need, in Japan and around the world, smiling."


The message the children conveyed from the stage was an important one that adults and the world at-large should take to heart, while also saying that there is much that the Japanese should learn and emulate from other cultures and customs in the world.


A total of 1,000 people gathered for a matinee or nighttime performance of the musical at the Setagaya Public Theater in Tokyo, with many in the audience seen shedding tears. Some described it as the best musical they've ever seen.

(Below are some of the comments taken from questionnaires they answered after the show.)

  • I felt the sorrow when I heard the children crying, and then they sang, "The future can be better if we do what we can do, now." I couldn't hold back the tears. Thank you very much for a wonderful performance.
  • I discovered much that we should be thinking about, and I felt keenly how privileged I am. The performance made me want to become a better person, one who [is] strong enough in myself to think about the happiness of others.
  • I was struck by your performance. It was an amazing musical! I hope you will continue sending out your message. Your performance helped in expanding my views. It also provided me an opportunity to ask myself what I can do and to think about various things, such as the joy of being alive, environmental issues, and our future. I would like to be a person who does something good for the world. Thank you.
  • I was deeply moved by the strength of the children, who learned a lot and delivered a strong message after overcoming hardships caused by the earthquake and the subsequent nuclear accident. Thank you for your wonderful performance.
  • I was greatly impressed by the eyes of the children who were so focused while performing. I could not stop my tears flowing, from the beginning to the end of the play. Keep up the good work! I'm going to tell my family and friends how deep of an impression this musical had on me.
  • On stage you successfully dealt with the issues facing not only Tohoku but also the whole world. Your performance was so impressive! The voices of the children, who themselves are in a tough situation, really touched my heart. I'd like to -no -I'm going to take some action. Thank you.

On the performance day, eight non-profit organizations (NPOs) working on issues related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, environmental conservation, or development set up exhibit booths. With the aim of directly connecting visitors and the NPOs, the exhibition showed visitors what's going on in the world and what these NPOs are doing to cope with the issues. The revenue from ticket sales and the money raised at the site were donated to the eight NPOs.

The Tohoku kids' performance was realized thanks to the goodwill of many people, and funded in part by donations raised for the disaster-affected areas by Nipponkoa Insurance Co., a cosponsor of this performance, through its "Eco-Net Agreement" program, in which it donates a certain amount of money per contract when customers choose paperless, on-line policy confirmation for their insurance contracts. Over two million people did so over 11 months (May 2011 to March 2012), meaning that the musical was supported by the contributions of more than two million people.

Furthermore, professional actors and musicians participated in the musical as volunteers. It couldn't have happened without the support of many dedicated people, including volunteers of JFS members who were involved in providing information, recommending people to see the play, and facilitating the smooth progress of the performance on the day. Some who supported the cause of the musical but said they wouldn't be able to make it to the show still made donations.

Along with the people who enjoyed the play, as well as those who worked together to make the performance a success, many said they intend to continue efforts to make it a priority to consider the happiness of future generations and creation of a sustainable society.

Finally, let us tell you about CARE-WAVE, a Japanese NPO that worked as a partner in organizing our musical project. It regularly stages a non-fiction musical performance called "CARE WAVE AID" to show people the actual miserable state of the world -- with its hunger, poverty, and conflicts -- and donates any profits from ticket sales to relief and aid organizations. Its mission is to connect musical actors and audiences to aid and assistance activities, with the aim of spreading a wave of caring, so we hope that you will support future CARE-WAVE activities.

Written by Takuya Goto

See also:
CARE-WAVE (In Japanese)