City Council and The Japan-America Society of San Antonio, partnered with almost 20 local organizations to create the Kumamoto Earthquake Relief Fund. The six-month initiative will provide aid to San Antonio's Japanese sister city which was struck by devastating earthquakes in May. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio International Relations Office.
City Council and The Japan-America Society of San Antonio, partnered with almost 20 local organizations to create the Kumamoto Earthquake Relief Fund. The six-month initiative will provide aid to San Antonio's Japanese sister city which was struck by devastating earthquakes in May. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio International Relations Office.

Among San Antonio’s global connections is its thoughtfully tended friendship with the Japanese Sister City of Kumamoto. Mayor Ivy Taylor and the City of San Antonio, in conjunction with the Japan-America Society of San Antonio (JASSA) and the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF) are hosting a reception Aug. 9 to welcome the Honorable Tetsuro Amano, Consul General of Japan, who is based in Houston.

RSVP by Aug. 2 by emailing internationalrelations@sanantonio.gov  or calling (210) 207-8100. The reception will be held in the Mayor Cockrell Room at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center starting at 5:30 p.m.

The reception is more than a welcome for the new Consul General of Japan. It will also serve as means for the Japanese government to convey its appreciation to the city and community of San Antonio for the generous earthquake relief funds from San Antonio’s corporate and community organizations after the April 2016 earthquakes in Kumamoto.

“Kumamoto has been our sister city since 1987,”  Shahrzad “Sherry” Dowlatshahi, the City of San Antonio’s chief of protocol at the Office of International Relations said. “After the earthquakes, we felt we had to reach out to and help our sister city of 29 years.”

Head of International Relations, Sherry Dowlatshahi (right) speaks with Yasuo Saito. Photo by Scott Ball.
Chief of Protocol and
Head of International Relations, Sherry Dowlatshahi (right) speaks with former former Japan Ambassador Yasuo Saito Yasuo Saito during a visit in 2015. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

On April 14 and 16, two deadly earthquakes measuring 6.4 and 7.3 shook Kumamoto City and the surrounding communities, killing 49 citizens, injuring over 3,000, and causing 44,000 to evacuate their homes as over 1,000 aftershocks hit the region and damaged infrastructure and historic sites, as well as homes and businesses.

The aftermath from the earthquakes spurred to action San Antonio individuals, institutions, and businesses with connections formed through hundreds of exchanges since Kumamoto became a sister city. As a result, JASSA organized a six-month Kumamoto Earthquake Relief fundraising campaign that kicked off May 12 at the City Council Chamber.

The steering committee for the Kumamoto earthquake relief effort brainstormed ways to support San Antonio’s sister city, leading committee member and former Mayor Henry Cisneros to set a fundraising challenge of $100,000 by the end of 2016. To date, little less than half that amount has been raised.

Funds will be used to help the victims and survivors of the earthquake, as well as to rebuild Kumamoto’s infrastructure and the heavily damaged Kumamoto Castle, a historic landmark much like the Alamo in San Antonio. To donate, go to JASSA’s website, where funds collected will be sent to Kumamoto to help its citizens recover from the devastation.

“We hope the reception for the Consul General will be another opportunity to highlight the Kumamoto earthquake relief effort to help generate more donations as we introduce the Consul General to San Antonio’s community leaders,” JASSA’s Interim President Alvin Wallace said.

Toyota headquarters both in Japan and for North American operations have already donated to help Kumamoto rebuild after the earthquakes. Yet Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas was the first major contributor to this effort, donating $25,000 to the cause.

“We at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas and our 23 on-site suppliers thought it was important to be a part of the community effort in San Antonio supporting our sister city,” said Mario Lozoya, director of Government Relations and External Affairs for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas. “Kumamoto is our sister city, thus, we feel they, too, are part of our extended family.”

Other community partners helping with fundraising efforts include: the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, Musical Bridges Around the World, the Alamo Asian-American Chamber of Commerce (AAACC), the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the University of the Incarnate Word, the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the East Asia Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Bexar County Medical Society (BCMS), the Naoko Shirane Memorial, the San Antonio Japanese Companies Association, Japanese Supplementary School of San Antonio, Our Lady of the Lake University, and URBAN-15.

With a population of 650,000 – approximately half of San Antonio’s – the funds raised will be vital to rebuilding efforts in Kumamoto.

“We welcome all donations, whether from a corporation or an individual,” Dowlatshahi said. “No donation is too small, especially when it’s to help our sister city. It’s a community effort.”

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Top image: City Council and The Japan-America Society of San Antonio, partnered with almost 20 local organizations to create the Kumamoto Earthquake Relief Fund. The six-month initiative will provide aid to San Antonio’s Japanese sister city which was struck by devastating earthquakes in May. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio International Relations Office.

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Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science, and veteran affairs. She won the Texas Veterans Commission Media Excellence Awards for her 2016 Veterans Day story "Life as a Veteran: What Veterans...