Japan hosts Myanmar fundraiser

A group of dedicated supporters gathered in Tokyo last month at a concert to raise money and awareness for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. Three years have passed since a military coup brought an abrupt end to the fledgling democracy and caused widescale suffering.

Some people in Myanmar people feel their situation has been forgotten amid the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine. Organizers of the January 20 Japan fundraiser hoped to address those concerns.

About 100 people attended the concert in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district, with another 50 joining online. It was hosted by people from Myanmar who live in Japan, along with other supporters.

People from Myanmar who live in Japan, along with their supporters, hosted the charity concert.

Burmese language graduate Ishikawa Wataru attended university in Tokyo and was set to visit Myanmar to study. But the coup shattered his plan, and he has now turned to volunteer work that brings Japanese and Myanmar people together.

Ishikawa Wataru

Ishikawa wrote and performed a song at the charity event, despite having no musical background.

The lives of the people he met in Myanmar during previous visits will never be the same after the 2021 coup. More than 4,400 people have been reportedly killed by the junta. About two million have been displaced as fighting between the military and pro-democratic forces and ethnic minority militants intensifies.

Demonstration in Myanmar

Many children are unable to attend school and face hunger. Some have been orphaned.

Children in Myanmar
A child spends time alone.

Otuski Misaki is from Myanmar and came to Japan 21 years ago to study. She was married to a Japanese man and has two young children. After the coup, she co-founded a group called "Association of Creating Peace for Myanmar" to support people in her native country.

Otuski Misaki

Otsuki quit a stable company job to dedicate herself to the cause, with a focus on Myanmar's children. Worrying about their welfare has taken a toll both physically and mentally, but she is determined to carry on.

"My mission is to continue to convey to people in Japan and beyond what is happening in Myanmar," she explains.

Otsuki was a tearful speaker at the charity event, sharing video footage and pictures taken at evacuee camps in border areas.

"Children's future and their growth are not visible. They are going nowhere and their future is now pitch black," she said.

Otuski Misaki shares video footage and pictures taken at evacuee camps in border areas.

Japanese rock singer Fujiwara MAX Masanori was among the concert organizers. He joined Japanese-Myanmar singer Shimaoka Yuzuna to perform a Burmese song "Yone Kyi Yar (Belief)." It is a popular track in Myanmar because of its powerful sound and an uplifting message to stick to one's beliefs and never give up.

Fujiwara MAX Masanori, right, and Shimaoka Yuzuna sang together.

One member of the audience attended because she is a Fujiwara fan. "I didn't know anything about Myanmar, even where it is located," she said. "I never knew so many children and civilians have been killed, so today's event was eye-opening and helped me learn. I want to share that knowledge."

Fujiwara vowed to continue his support until peace and democracy come to Myanmar. "It is just simple, I want to help them, that's it. All I can do is sing, so my wish is to support and empower people who need help by singing," he says.

Fujiwara MAX Masanori

The event raised about 5,000 dollars, which will go towards food, medicine and daily necessities for children at evacuation shelters in border camps and elsewhere. Some money has already been sent to central Myanmar to help build a school that will be named after Fujiwara: 'MAX Rainbow Gakuen.'

Awareness is also a key aim with a simple message from organizers, "Don't forget Myanmar."

Singers on stage
Performers take pictures with audience members.
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