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The Japanese Ambassador visits Shofuso House and Gardens to raise money for earthquake relief funds Credit: Laila Bey

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter presented Ambassador of Japan Shigeyuki Hiroki with a check for $230,000 from the Philadelphia-Japan Disaster Relief Fund on Friday.

The money, which included funds from Penn students, will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Taking place at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in West Fairmount Park, the event was also attended by Japanese consulate officials, the Japanese ambassador and Philadelphia attorney and Honorary Consul General Dennis Morikawa. The Shofuso garden was supported as a goodwill gift by the Japanese government to the people of Philadelphia in 1953.

The event was in honor of the earthquake and consequential tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.

Beginning with traditional Kyo Daiko drummers, the ceremony lasted just an hour but included powerful sentiments from both parties.

Nutter spoke about the need for people to stick together in the toughest of times. Ambassador Hiroki thanked the city of Philadelphia for its great contribution and not forgetting those in need of relief in Japan.

The J7, a group of Japanese cultural and heritage organizations in the Philadelphia area, held a variety of fundraising events to support the efforts, including bake sales by the Japanese Mother’s Association of Philadelphia, a multitude of collection boxes at local Japanese cultural and retail sites, community dinners organized by Japanese families, puppet shows and elementary school fund-raising events and initiatives.

The largest piece of the donation pool came from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Starr Restaurants. Together, they raised $80,000 through a private dining event at Freeman’s Auction House.

Penn students also contributed their share to the fund through student-initiated activities including a charity benefit and T-shirt sales.

“We personally went through a great deal of effort to raise only a small chunk of that total amount, so it’s really amazing to consider just how much care and aid the rest of the city provided,” said Lisa Marsova, a rising Wharton sophomore and member of the Japanese Student Association. She added that she was proud of “how far Philly has gone in its support of Japan.”

Rising Wharton sophomore and JSA member Yueyi Zhou said she was “pleased to see students at Penn contributing to the world outside of Philadelphia.”

Other students had similar sentiments. “It’s nice to know that people are still giving to Japanese relief efforts,” rising Engineering sophomore Dean Wilhelmi said.

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