Not one donation box for Japan’s disaster relief was found at the Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF), which was held at the Seattle Center last weekend. There was not one display of the photos from the earthquake or on the tsunami’s impact on Japan.
At the festival’s reception, hosted by the Consul General of Japan Kiyokazu Ota at his residence on April 2, I asked him about the recent disaster relief in Japan.
“People think that Japan does not need any donations,” I said. “The Japanese government has not appealed to the world for help.” Besides, Americans assume that Japan is a wealthy country.
“No, no, no,” said Ota. “We welcome donation. We appreciate donations. Legally, government officials cannot ask people for money. I cannot ask people for money. If money is given to the government, it has to be taxed.”
Ota said the government does not have the infrastructure to handle donations. The best way is to give to the Japanese Red Cross or the American Red Cross, he added. That explains why the Consul General has been reluctant to attend fundraising events directly benefiting Japan’s disaster relief.
Ota also said many foreigners want to go to Japan to volunteer to help, but it is not that simple.
“The roads for the disaster regions have not been repaired [yet],” he said. “There’s no access [to those areas].” The affected areas have no roads, food, water, housing, bathroom, or electricity. Only Japanese soldiers and police are able to work through those parts of the country because they are trained to survive in extreme conditions, he said. ♦