Ganbare Japan! 日本がんばれ!

An edited version of a column I wrote two years ago, after the undersea megathrust earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, northeastern Japan.


I don’t know if any of the more astute of you readers ever identified my uncanny knowledge of all things Japanese, but the reason that I’ve cultivated enough cool to become a food critic/ fashionista/ irrepressible columnist (and soon-to-be multi-disciplinary artiste) is the fact that I am—as I’ve rediscovered—a Japanophile. Yes, Japan has honed its aesthetics since prehistoric times. I studied at the supposedly illustrious Nanzan in dull Nagoya; for my senior thesis, I translated excerpts of Sei Shōnagon’s tenth century Pillow Book from classical Japanese into BPSTFU English vernacular (it was pretty easy, actually, with Shonagon’s lists of “hateful things“—yes, she was considered a total betch at the Kyoto court).

In fact, thinking about it, I dare say that this After Hours column is somewhat of a contemporary Pillow Book for Hong Kong’s nightlife. So naturally, Japan is very dear to my heart, and the Zen attitude colors my thinking and aesthetics (although I am moving further back in time toward Vedic India in philosophy and attitude nowadays.) I’m rambling. Anyway…

I’ve had the privilege to have partied with my graphic designer friend Mieko Sai (who resides in HK) all over Paris and NYC when she was living in those two cities. We’ve gallivanted around the Marais, and danced around the forest in Vincennes in the eastern outskirts of Paris at noon, after getting completely sloshed at a morning wine tasting held at the Château. And I’ve lugged a care package filled with Japanese feminine products from Hong Kong to her in NYC when she was living in Brooklyn, before painting Chelsea and the then-cool meat-packing district red with her.

As globe-trotting as Mieko is, she has roots in Miyagi prefecture, and her family’s still there. Her brother and parents are safe, thank God, but they told her that there was literally no food for the first few days after the catastrophe hit. Can you fathom? She just left for Japan this week for some volunteer work in her hometown, taking a five-hour bus ride from Tokyo to Miyagi as the trains are still not running. On Facebook, she’s posted that she’s facing a grim reality: “We lost the beautiful beach, cove, fishing port and fruits of the sea, [all the things I was so proud of my hometown.]” But she’s also very touched: “Japanese are awesome! People from all over Japan (not just Sendai in Miyagi or Fukushima), are there helping out with the volunteer work, even if they don’t have family there.”

Mieko’s also created a site “” with other Japanese expats in Hong Kong. They’re providing info on all the various ways you can help by donating to the charities involved, making it easier for anyone who wants to offer help to actually make a difference, like getting a donation box installed at your shop or office. Check it out for more info.

Egypt’s shaken up by the population on the streets, China’s shaken up by Ai Weiwei, a single artist, but Japan’s been shaken up by Mother Earth herself. It’s not easy seeing your own country vomited on by Nature oh so violently. It’s truly impressive and educational watching the Japanese and overseas Japanese communities dealing with the sitch with such noble restraint, grace and dignity, and come after hours, with such vim and fun. Oh yes, I’ve had a lot of heroic doses of sake and wahaha with the Japanese crowd in Hong Kong lately at charity parties. Nippon ganbare~~!

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