Youko and Kazuma Yamamoto work together to raise awareness of nuclear energy issues that will ultimately impact the livelihood of future generations. They are hosting a festival, the Bon-Odori Dance Festival for Peace, at Kingston Point Beach on August 6th, 2017 from 1-7pm, (dance at 6:30pm) and they welcome everyone to come and have fun while raising funds for an important cause. What better way to shake off unnecessary usage and preoccupation of nuclear energy than to create good vibes through dancing?
Back to the grim: statistics reveal that over 75,000 people in Nagasaki, and 150,000 in Hiroshima have been killed since the nuclear bombings of each city. And these numbers likely don’t accurately measure the true number of lives taken; many Japanese have the concept of shame attached to physical or mental disabilities, and so they don’t report theirs or their children’s issues in analytical studies.
With nearly 450 reactors worldwide, mostly located along water and even more being constructed in America and China, Youko and Kazuma are concerned that we are cornering ourselves in potentially dangerous conditions, especially if our nuclear energy usage only increases.
Most recently, a nuclear meltdown disaster resulting from a tsunami and earthquake in Fukushima shocked residents and worldwide onlookers, enforcing the anxiety that nuclear energy is valid. Though Youko and Kazuma were involved in anti-nuclear campaigns before, disaster Fukushima sparked a renewed interest in advocacy and led them to ways in which to promote peace and environmental justice.
While Youko was at the family restaurant, Gomen-Kudasi located in New Paltz, NY, Livia and Billy of the Vanaver Caravan dance company asked her, “”Youko, do you know ‘Tanko-bushi’?” from the traditional Japanese coal-mining song. While singing, an idea for a dance festival came to mind. “Why not do something locally?” Later tying the idea of her routine spiritual ritual of chanting Buddhism suturas with the impromptu vocal performance, Youko states, “chanting heart sutura is a good practice, but it isn’t so popular, especially among young people. I thought if I transform it as a fun dance festival, it could invite a lot more people to join us to think about those who suffered in the radiation disasters, such as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and a lot more.” She figured a dance event would bring people together to participate and learn effectively, since there is more power in numbers than there is in individuals trying to make changes.
Youko states that when dancing together, “the best part is, even though it is a Japanese folk dance, it’s simple! Our feelings, heart, and spirit unite and our ancestors are with us… we all feel it together.”
A pre-event fundraiser for Bon-Odori Dance Festival for Peace will be held on July 23rd at Lace Mill, 165 Cornell Street, from 2-5pm. Preparing for both the fundraiser and the festival is no easy feat. Youko says costs determine what activities and supplies will be undertaken or purchased. “All the money raised will be used to host the event: insurance, fees to the professional helpers and performers, equipment rental (one large tent cost $2,500!), legal fees, printing all promo material including registration packets, cards, posters, programs, banners, road signs. We usually need more than $5,000 total.” Youko hopes to raise $1,500 at the Lace Mill Fundraiser.
What’s the big draw to the June 23rd Lace Mill fundraiser? The food! Youko, a restauranteur, will “prepare amazing, high quality food with my own recipes.” A plethora of Japanese cuisine and the preparation to make the foods will reflect old traditional practices—down to the ice, which will be hand-shaved and put in drinks, including cold brew tea. Cuban jazz music from the 30’s and 40’s will fill the atmosphere with a different flux of energy to add to the cultural celebration.
All are welcome to attend the Lace Mill fundraiser, which will only mark the beginning of a communal resistance effort. The ultimate goal of the fundraiser, festival and subsequent advocacy efforts is, according to Youko and Kazuma, “to see a nuclear free future.” Besides eating delicious food and getting your groove on, the Yamamoto’s suggest taking action as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint and care for the Earth in a more intentional way. The other approach is to lobby against the building of nuclear power plants, since only a small number make large profits from the construction and distribution of nuclear energy, and the losses incurred from pollution and radioactivity emission risk are outsizing the gains. The Yamamoto’s carry on Pete Seeger’s message of having a peaceful world, eventually creating a movement that advances human relationships to each other and to the Earth in a determinedly holistic approach.
Make a donation online here; all contributions benefit the dance festival and the creation of a safe and enjoyable community event.
Contact Sakura Kojima at (845) 255-8811, or email [email protected] for further details.