Between April 14th and 16th , 2016, a series of earthquakes struck Kumamoto, a city in southern Japan, killing over 40 people and injuring thousands. Kumamoto Castle was among those buildings badly damaged by the earthquakes, the strongest of which measured a magnitude of 7.3. The castle, which was built over 400 years ago by the feudal lord Kiyomasa Kato, withstood artillery fire during the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, although some of the buildings were burned down and have since been rebuilt. This recent earthquake damaged the stone walls of the castle, many of which are part of the original, 17th century structure.
In the spirit of JapanFest, which promotes cultural understanding between Japan and the Southeastern United States, there will be a Kumamoto Relief Fund donation booth near the main entrance of JapanFest, to support the rebuilding of Kumamoto Castle. Sales of items donated for a bazaar on Sunday, Sep. 18, as well as profits from the sales of uchiwa fans ($3) and chopticks ($5) at the donation booth, will be donated to the cause.
Additionally, Kumamon, the chubby, cheerful bear mascot from Kumamoto city, will make his appearance at JapanFest to support these fund-raising efforts. Kumamon is a public official of the city, holding the titles of Happiness Director and Deputy Sales Manager of Kumamoto Prefecture! He achieved notoriety in Japan, through the Kumamoto Surprise Campaign, to promote the new bullet train line from Osaka to Kumamoto. The cuddly bear made surprise appearances in Osaka, and then disappeared, prompting a mock press conference by the governor asking the public to help find the bear. After this widely publicized stunt, Kumamon was voted the top local mascot in a Japanese national mascot contest in 2011. Since then, he has successfully promoted Kumamoto, its products and tourist attractions. JapanFest is grateful to the Center for Global Partnership for making Kumamon’s visit possible, and is happy to introduce him to JapanFest visitors!
To view Kumamon and hear his song, please click on the link: