Khaldon Azhari & Shams El-Mutwalli
TOKYO: A “Pray for Beirut” charity event held in Tokyo on Sunday raised about $100,000 in pledged donations for Lebanon following the massive explosions at the Beirut port in August.
The event featured a traditional Japanese Noh play, the oldest surviving form of Japanese theatre, Arabic music and a Lebanese banquet.
The event was held at a Noh theatre in the Cerulean Hotel in Tokyo and was attended by Princess Takamado in a show of support and solidarity of the people of Japan for Lebanon.
Proceeds from tickets and a charity auction went to the Japanese Red Cross and UNESCO.
Held by the Beirut Support Group, the aim of the fundraiser was to aid in the recovery of Lebanon after the country suffered one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history, set off by a chemical-related accident, that killed over 200, injured thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
Madeleine Umewaka, a Lebanese long-time resident in Japan and Noh producer, was instrumental in organizing the event and leading it to success.
Umewaka came to Japan following her escape from Lebanon during the civil war in 1976, and married her husband Naohiko Umewaka, an actor tied to a six-hundred-year-old Noh lineage.
Although she is the only foreigner in the Umewaka family, she has been actively working to promote Noh theatre globally.
“I have produced various intercultural collaborations abroad including theatre productions in Lebanon. It is my passion to introduce this exquisite traditional Japanese art to the global audience and to be able to produce collaborations with artists from different cities and art fields” Umewaka told Arab News Japan.
In the past, Umewaka produced an avant-garde play written and directed by her husband, the production cast Lebanese actors from the Lebanese American University back in 2009.
While Umewaka has produced many productions, the charity event represents something different.
“This is the first production that I produced with the intention to raise funds that would go into rebuilding Lebanon and I am moved by the support from the community in Japan as all tickets have been sold out,” she said.
Noh performer Shonosuke Okura, a Japan Heritage Ambassador, performed in a short play about a stone bridge, or “ishibashi,” symbolizing a prayer for the bond between Lebanon and Japan to deepen and grow through the two countries’ traditional culture and arts.
Lebanese culture and history were also highlighted at the event through a video and a speech by Lebanese Ambassador Nidal Yehya, in addition to musical performances featuring Arabic instruments including the oud and riq (similar to a lute and tambourine).
“Allow me to give you a glance about Lebanon; it is the country of civilizations, history, excellence and the heavenly religions,” said the ambassador after thanking the various groups and individuals that contributed to the event.
He went on to briefly introduce attendees to Lebanon’s rich history, noting that four of the world’s 20 oldest cities can be found there, including Beirut, and that the Phoenicians who once inhabited the land made important contributions to history with their written alphabet, winemaking and shipping.
Ambassador Yehya mentioned that during the past two years, four prominent Lebanese citizens were awarded Japanese international prizes in various fields including Niwano Peace Prize, Midori Prize for Biodiversity, 3rd place in Karate World Champion held in Osaka, and the Minister’s Award for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Food.
Bachir Bou Rached, the economic attaché at the Lebanese Embassy in Tokyo, also made a presentation about Lebanon and its various aspects.
In addition, Japanese singer Midori Fairouz Inoue performed songs in Arabic with a Japanese band playing Oud, tabla and violin. One of the songs was the popular “For Beirut” of the iconic Lebanese singer Fairuz, that touched the hearts of over hundred people who attended the event.