One week was all the preparation that was needed to draw long lines of supporters to sushi stands, teriyaki burrito bars, origami demonstrations and free musical entertainment. Thousands of onlookers cheered while Costa Rican bands played a lively dedication to the tens of thousands of victims in Japan. Costa Rica’s March 20 fundraiser at San José’s National Culture Center (CENAC) was an impressive act of solidarity.
One number was particularly striking: in less than one week, the Japanese Embassy in Costa Rica, along with the help of many others, managed to put together a fundraiser that raised ¢28,000,000 ($56,000) for earthquake victims in Japan.
“The most important thing is that the Costa Rican people showed their solidarity, their kindness for Japan,” said Tomoya Yamaguchi, the cultural events coordinator at Japan’s embassy in Costa Rica.
The number of attendees at Sunday’s fundraiser for “Día Arigato: Ticos por Japón” (Day of Thanks, Ticos for Japan) surpassed all expectations, says Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 supporters showed up, and the line to enter the venue stretched around the block.
The fundraiser benefited victims of Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which left approximately 18,000 people dead. Proceeds were donated to the Red Cross.
The embassy is also sending a video of the event to media in Japan to show Costa Rica’s support, along with 1,000 origami paper cranes, a gift that symbolizes world peace in Japanese culture. Many Ticos helped fold the cranes.
Eric Madrigal passed out square sheets of colored paper to onlookers before giving lessons in the art of paper folding. Madrigal, 48, started Costa Rica’s Origami Association, and he was thrilled by Sunday’s turnout.
“It is so good,” said Madrigal, a resident of the western suburb Santa Ana. “The number of young people impresses me a lot. There is a whole national movement of young people that are very impressed by Japanese culture, like manga [Japanese comics], anime, martial arts and other activities.”
Some Ticos, like Christopher Castro, 18, wrote messages of hope in Japanese on a mural that will be sent to Japan. Castro, of Coronado, said he grew up fascinated by Japan’s culture, and wanted to support the event’s cause.
“Those who are having a difficult time in Japan will see in Costa Rica there are many friends, who are very, very near,” Yamaguchi said. “This is our message for Japanese people.”