The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

At first glance, child poverty may not appear to be a problem in Japan. In a society where most families seem to be remarkably middle class, the unmet needs of the young go unnoticed. Little exposure is given to the fact that many children do not have sufficient food and basic necessities. In reality, 3.25 million children—or one in six—live in poverty.

The Community Service Committee (CSC) of the Kansai chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) works to improve this situation and collabo­rated with Kitano Alley Gallery (KAG) in Kobe to present a series of events entitled “Art for Charity,” the first of which was held on June 24, 2017.

Founded by ACCJ members Royi Akavia and Rica Bradshaw, who also sponsored the Art for Charity (Part 1) event, KAG plays host to the events that feature work by local and visiting artists. They also donate 10 percent of the proceeds of their gallery’s sales of artwork that are made during and after the events.

The first event was attended by local artists Taro Mizushima and Yuki Horiko, and featured work by 16 KAG member artists including DAAS, Rajul Shah, Akavia, and Tennessee-based Clifford Land. One lucky guest went home with a delightful raffle prize, Land’s playful Marilyn and Mickey.

The beneficiary of these events is the NGO Food Bank Kansai (FBK), which distributes 180 tons of food free of charge to those in need, such as low-income, single-mother house­holds and domestic violence shelters. Sufficient food is essential for the proper develop­ment of a child’s mind and physical health, which in turn is critical to their confi­dence, self-esteem, communica­tion skills, and academic perfor­­mance. When these traits suffer, the future of the Japanese economy suffers.

FBK is staffed entirely by volunteers who manage the system, collect food from companies and individuals, and distribute it. This dedication inspired the ACCJ–Kansai to support them by donating proceeds from ticket sales. Combined with the additional monetary donations from KAG, the ACCJ–Kansai CSC has thus far been able to contribute ¥109,000 to support the needs of area children through FBK.

On September 14, 2017, the ACCJ–Kansai CSC held the second Art for Charity event in support of FBK. Co-hosted by Hakutaka Co., Ltd., a re­nowned sake company based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, “Art of Sake—Appreciating Art, Appreciating Sake” was orga­nized by Akavia and fellow ACCJ member Brent Jones and featured artwork for bottle designs entered into a competition held by Hakutaka.

Prior to the event, Hakutaka announced 12 finalists, and the top three winners were announced during the gathering at InterContinental Osaka. In addition to browsing the entries, guests were able to bid on the artwork and bottles in silent auctions, with the money going to FBK.

Sake is made from rice, a grain that is also the most in-demand food among families in need. After FBK explained that rice donations fall short of needs, the ACCJ–Kansai CSC incorporated the cost of two kilograms of rice into the price of the event ticket. As a result, ACCJ–Kansai CSC plans to donate 120 kg of rice to the organization.

FBK Director Megumi Asaba gave a speech at each event about the reality of poverty in Japan, the importance of their work, and why the support of the ACCJ–Kansai CSC and other groups, companies, and individuals is so important to creating a bright future for Japan and its children.

With the reestablishment of the ACCJ–Kansai Community Service Fund, the ACCJ–Kansai CSC plans to host more Art for Charity events in 2018 and con­tinue our support of FBK. We hope that you will join us for these wonderful events that make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable—our community’s chil­dren—and enrich our own lives with the incredible work of some of Kansai’s most talented artists.

Chisato Inagaki worked as an ACCJ–Kansai staff member from May to October 2017 and managed the Art for Charity events.