From Local Artists, Help for Japan

Mariko Osanai cupped her cell phone away from her mouth and whispered “Just one second, I’m on the phone with my sister in Japan – there’s been another big earthquake, and they’re having a blackout. Can you believe it?” She shook her head, visibly upset, and stepped outside Dlala salon on Avenue A to smoke a cigarette, taking deep drags and pacing as she listened to the news.

Weeks after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, Ms. Osanai, like many other Japanese living in the East Village, continues to spend much of her time on the phone, reaching out to friends and relatives from the hard-hit coastal regions.

But for Ms. Osanai and a handful of Japanese East Villagers, making phone calls is not enough. A group of local Japanese artists have designed a logo – emblazoned with the words “Love Save Japan” in capital letters – to draw attention to the crisis in Japan and which has already helped raise thousands of dollars for the relief effort.

IMG_8712Hadas Goshen The artists have posted the logo in local storefronts and on flyers.

You may have seen their logo “Love Save Japan” on local storefronts or on flyers for live art events, or maybe on the latest J.Crew t-shirt (whose proceeds are all entirely donated to Japan relief).  When Mariko Osanai, a hairstylist at dlala salon on Avenue A, called up her friend and artist PESU from down the block and asked him to design a graphic for her flyers, she didn’t know that the image would travel so far, or even beyond the village.

In the first days after the quake, which struck her hometown Aomori Prefecture in the Tohoku region, Ms. Osanai started posting her flyers on East Village streets. “You feel so far away, so helpless and useless. But you have to do something.”

What she and PESU (an illustrator and graphic artist also known as Naito Yushi), President of Old-Soulz Entertainment Firm Yaz Higashiya, his business partner Akimasa Koketsu and their collaborators have done is a substantial “something” — they’ve raised about $8,000 so far for Japanese charities, with two fundraising events each week showcasing urban art and music. DJs spin at local venues while PESU performs live illustrations. “You know, we’re not politicians or anything,” said Ms. Osanai, “but as musicians, artists, performers,” she hopes to make an impact.

The day after Ms. Osanai began posting the flyers, she received a call from Jcrew, inquiring about the logo. “I think New York is amazing,” she said in response to all the interest and outreach Love Save Japan has generated, and the eagerness of New York artists to get on board.

With the help of their Facebook page and social media to spread the word, what began as an East Village movement has caught on overseas, as friends back home began organizing their own Love Save Japan events to raise money for Japanese charities. In Ms. Osanai’s hometown of Aomori Prefecture, “some of my girlfriends have been hosting events using our logo. They are doing exactly the same thing, but in Japan! They said they got inspired by us, by what we’re doing.”

IMG_8698Hadas Goshen Some of the artists who worked on the logo.

But Yaz Higashiya of Old-Soulz is worried that outside of Japan, “a lot of people will just forget about it,” referring to the devastation, “maybe after another two or three weeks you know? So we’re just going to keep going with this. We’re committed.”

PESU added that it’s not only about helping Japan, “Haiti happened before, and Japan’s happening now, and in the future another country will happen and we want to help that country too. That’s why we have to make a movement not to forget.”

The hope is that someday, the group will be able to change their logo to the past tense, “Loved, Saved Japan. That’s our dream,” said Ms. Osanai, “and then maybe we can change the name to Love Save Give, it doesn’t have to be Japan. When Japan is good maybe we can do some other idea — to love art, music — that can save the people.”