Calling for Visual Artists for Japan! Dragon Project for Tohoku Japan 2012

Calling Visual Artists!!!
Nino (my friend in Paris) and Toko are working together on an international, collaborative project, in hopes of organizing a fundraiser exhibition for Tohoku, Japan (towards the construction of “Tohoku Rainbow House” for orphans)

Our plans are summarized in this little 1 minute video.
Could you take a time to watch?

Dragon Project for Japan 2012 from Toko Shiiki on Vimeo.

Any 2D arts, such as Drawing, Painting, Photographing are all great for this! (you can also make a sculpture and photograph, and print it!)
Make a cross-section of a dragon on a sheet of paper - 8x11 inches (approx. 20.5 cm x 28 cm)
We will send the template to you! Just let us know if you are interested!

All money will be sent to "Tohoku Rainbow House" Orphanage http://www.ashinaga.org/en/support/index.html

We plan to hold a fundraiser exhibition around March 11, 2012
(one year after the earthquake), in Ann Arbor MI and elsewhere!

If you are interested in participating, please let me know! 

Toko at 
dragonprojectjapan @ gmail.com 

Let's make a long dragon! :D



Happiness Seeds: Message in a Backpack Project...

So, finally completed the website for Messages in a Backpack Project - "Exchanging messages with the earthquake/tsunami survivors in Japan"

I wrote about the project a lot, here: 
So, if you'd like to know more about the project, please read the page :)

Here is the website:
I hope you enjoy this......

I am one of Japanese who heard the news about the earthquake in the other country. A strong coldness ran into my body when I got to know about it. Fear, sadness, anger, or I don't even know, many kinds of mixed emotions were crazily becoming a vortex inside. How are they really doing? Is he alive? Does she find her mom? Guilt; I was not there. Felt so far far away from my home country. "What is really going on?" I felt very helpless. 
...But at the same time... I didn't want to just stay in the sadness. Rather, I wanted to do something. But...     "What can I do, really?" 
That was the biggest question at that time. The disaster was too much anyway for me to even imagine.
...No matter what I tried so hard, I could not truly experience the disaster in just my imagination; however, I could imagine how this event will strongly effect on their lives (not only physically, but also mentally), especially younger people.

When I was around eight and nine years old, I was alone most of the time. I didn't talk or eat much. I threw up many times. I was very skinny ugly one who didn't have a friend. I could not express my sadness, fear, or anger. I think I didn't even know how to do. There were many difficulties for me to be at school and at home. I was drawing and writing stories to escape from the hardness in my room, alone, everyday, all the time. At that time, IF someone had written a letter to me... 

At that time, I loved the story "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I sometimes became Mary in my mind. I dreamed about opening the secret garden someday. One day I started writing a letter to Mary and also wrote a response from her. I took the photo of Mary (a tiny painting of her face on the front page of the book. She is in the secret garden in the painting. It was a very blur image. Only one time I showed the photo to someone.) I know, this is totally just in my imagination but I really dreamed to be a friend of her and exchange letters with her. I was very lonely and I didn't even think how silly what I was doing at that time: Writing letter to myself as the imaginary friend Mary and writing a response to her. But, seriously... actually... to be honest with you, it encouraged me. (I have never told this story before to anyone...) Too weird? maybe... well... I was very serious at that time.
... Long story short, when I have heard about the difficulties which those kids in the Tohoku area were experiencing, I wanted to let them know, "you are not alone. Someone in the other place is truly thinking of you." And started thinking about "how can I let them know about this?" and later it became this project...  
This might be really really small thing for the survivors, to compare to what they really have to go through. But... if they (actually not only the survivors but also the people who wrote a message to them) felt something by participating in this message exchanging project... that can be something really important later in their lives....
Or, maybe nothing. But, I think it's fine in both ways. In any case, I really really really enjoyed doing this. Yes, like the man whom I met in Japan said, this is "Planting happiness seeds". I enjoy planting them.
By thinking about the seeds, I am happy too.  Yes, hopefully they will bloom later... 
... I stop now... wrote toooooo much... I know!
...Please take some time to see these messages between people living on opposite sides of the planet. And if you feel something in-between those words and words... well...... I truly stop. ;p




IPA: International Photography Awards 2011 "In-between Midlife" 1st place in People - Other category

The series... "In-between" (a.k.a. Moon Man) is very very important work for me. (Of course, other works also very important for me but finding the subject inside me was really amazing coincidence at that time of my life.)

I found Moon Man in me the end of last summer. In other words, I finally noticed him who has been there with me since I was little. My inner-life document photographic journey is an on-going project. Yes, keep moving forward...

Here is the link to the Winners Gallery: Winners Gallery ZOOM: Toko Shiiki "In-between"

If you want to see the whole images in the series, please visit:
http://tokoshiiki.com under "Portfolio "Midlife - Chapter 2 In-between"

Here is the press release about this. I'm very thankful to introduce Moon Man outside of the world... Thank you so very much. Toko

Toko Shiiki was Awarded: 1st place in People - Other category for the winning entry "In-between "Midlife""

Entry Description: This is my inner-life document photographs; a story about a man lost his identity, in between birth and death. Where, when, did he start thinking he chose the wrong path and lost the idea of "who he is?" He found a face, and somehow began moving forward, again...

About Winner: 
Born in Japan. Lived, Learned, and experienced in Tokyo most of her life and moved to Michigan, USA 2005. I have a passion for photography that tell a story. Many of my images are inspired by dreams and my life experiences. Now, I have been working on the "inner-life documentary" project, to visualize what I've experienced at this present time... I find photography to be a most effective way to express my view of the world (inside and outside.) No matter what my subject is, I want to create images that tell a story. But it is my hope that every time people see my photographs, they will feel encouraged to interpret the images in their own way. Art is my life power, and I am still finding ways to let it speak through me... 

About IPA:
The International Photography Awards is a sister-effort of the Lucie Foundation, where the top three winners are announced at the annual Lucie Awards ceremony. The awards event will be held at the Lincoln Center in New York on October 24, 2011, before returning to Los Angeles in 2012 in celebration of the 10-year anniversary. Over 8,000 submissions from 90 countries were received for the 2011 International Photography Awards with over 70 jurors, the largest to date. The Foundation's mission is to honor master photographers, discover new and emerging talent, and promote the appreciation of photography. IPA is dedicated to recognizing contemporary photographers' accomplishments in this specialized and highly visible competition.
Visit www.photoawards.com for more details.



Thoughts about Postcards Project: Japan Relief 2011

I've been thinking a lot recently, "Why did I decide to do this postcard project?" We can send money without creating postcards, so why? Why postcards?

...First of all, I wanted to do something for the Japanese people in such a difficult situation, of course.  After the earthquake on March 11th, I felt so helpless and sad because I could not do much for them, living on the other side of the planet, in Michigan. Sending money was one thing I could do. But I felt I needed to send something more, to somehow connect more deeply with them.

One day, I heard someone saying "Japan was destroyed". At that time I thought, "Wait... was Japan really destroyed?"  Of course, it's wasn't completely true, and I soon realized that the person who said this didn't literally mean it. But hearing this news of Tsunami was really shocking and strong to me. Since Japan is a very small country, I understood how this person thought it could be totally destroyed. Then it occurred to me that I'd love to share some images of Japan with people on this planet.   ...But how?

Luckily, I know several great artists in Japan who have been experiencing the earthquakes.  I started asking them if they'd be interested to contribute an image of Japan, or image which might convey their thoughts and feelings from this disaster. I would then make postcards of their images to sell and raise money for Japan Relief.

Also, since 2005, I have been fortunate to befriend many American photographers, who have visited and who dearly love Japan. Since I knew their images are wonderful, I'd like to include the images of impressions of Japan from people from another country. Fortunately, many of them joined this project!

And one more great thing! I have known such great artists in Michigan!
Some of them got to know that I have been organizing this project and asked me whether they also could join!  That was such a fantastic idea which I didn't have first! So, the possibilities which more people could join this project has been bigger! Also I started asking artists around me, "if you are interested..." Many of them contributed their beautiful images and created the postcards...
Yes.... Now, not only Japan and Michigan. Even from artist in France was interested in joining this project... This is really wow...

On the backside of the all the postcards are the words: "Japan Relief 2011".
I imagined that these postcards would begin traveling around the world...
Maybe someone who also wants to help support the cause will buy the postcards, and someday perhaps write a message on it, to send to her/his friend.  Thus, the postcards become a bridge to connect people. Someone might notice the words, "Japan Relief 2011" and wonder why/how the postcards were created. I hope that someone might see the postcard image and then feel something warm, intrigue, encouragement, or love.  It's all open-ended. I wish for the postcards to travel freely around the world and generate love.

All the money we raise will be sent to the victims in Japan. I don't know if this effort be much help at all.  Perhaps I'm just a dreamer (like John sings), but I really hope this fundraiser will have some positive effect...

Dear artist friends, thank you for joining this project. All of your beautiful images are so meaningful, and they add strong power to this project.

The postcards will be released on 12th April at first - roughly one month after the first earthquake.
I'd like to say to the cards, "Bon Voyage!!!"

If you are close to Ann Arbor, Michigan, please join us at this event! There will be wonderful local musicians playing for the event!! At Yellow Barn, 416 W. Huron, Ann Arbor, MI
I'll continue to keep you posted with further details as this project develops.
Thank you so much from my heart...




Thinking and learning, a lot...

After the earthquake, I have been thinking a lot of thing related to it.
Really still non of word is equivalent to express this whole condition over there.
There are several friends who live in the hard area. I still can't find one of them. My mom said, "Before the earthquake, I didn't appreciate my daily life much. I took it for granted. Everyday life seemed to be boring. Not exciting. However, this whole event told me how happy to have that "everyday life". I'm now so thankful to be able to do those things that are used to be just boring or non-special thing. This whole things tells me a lot. Everyday I'm learning." 
I've been really learning too. She also said, "If there are two choices: holding worry, sadness, and anxiety or living now. I'd like to choose, focus, and appreciate "living now" this moment. I really agree with her.

Anyway, I'd like to do something... and got this idea: Postcard Project, Japan Relief 2011.
Now, I've been focusing "now" rather than just being sad, or holding negative thoughts. So much better... Thank many people who have been really supportive.....

OK, here is the details about the fundraiser event: Japan Relief 2011

A fundraiser using Art and Music to support Earthquake and Tsunami victims in Japan

(Here is the event page on FB http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=172994592749352 )

• Selling postcards and art works created by artists in Japan and Michigan to raise money for Japan!
(We will send the money via Japan Red Cross since they have a special account for the victims.)

• Live music by local musicians! The lineup will be announced very soon!! It will be a nice acoustic heartwarming jam!
Among those present will be:
members of October Babies (Erik Santos, Ben Lorenz, Dale King, Mike Ouellette, Toko Shiiki),
Frank Allison,
members of Dragon Wagon (Don Sicheneder, Troy Radikin), members of 16 More Miles (Jason Magee, Brian Poore),
members of Rootstand (Brant Losinki),
members of Origami Cat Plan (Paul Schubach)
members of Hullabaloo (Terry Carpenter),
members of 7 Come 11 (Leilani & Dennis O'Brien, Sean Paradis), and

I've been inspired to realize that there are so many supportive people in Michigan (and actually all over the world) Thank you so much...

Although I am Japanese, I now live very far away from Japan. I've been thinking of friends and family struggling through such hard conditions. I strongly want to do something for them, and after I had the idea for this benefit, I discovered so many people who wanted to contribute to this postcard project and event.  I really appreciate all of your help...

I hope you can make it!
Please invite your friends too!
The more the better.

Thank you very much!!

OK, move forward...




a tune...

(from heavy snow day. reflection on a window...)
I don't now how many times I listened to the tune.

I was thirteen (almost became 14) at that time.
Really hopeless. I hated everything around me, about me. The worst thing at that time was "being myself". First time to get a rope. Tied it around my neck, but I could not until the end. Felt so stupid.  Pushed a pillow on my face and cried hard.
...Around that time, I found this song. I didn't even know who was singing, what kind of meaning of the song, or anything about it, but this tune really hit my heart, encouraged me to move forward.

It was in a cassette tape that my tutor gave me. Somehow I loved old foreign songs since I was a child. He made 6 cassette tapes collections of old (1950 ~ 1970) hit tunes in the US.
I stayed at my small room alone and continued to listen to them. And... I dreamed about the country where the singer sang this song, far far away from myself...  While listening to these songs, I dreamed about my visit there.

And many many years later, at this present time, interestingly I actually live in the place. (And even singing!) How could imagine such a thing at that time?
wow...    I'm glad that I didn't give me up.

Of course, I learned about the name of the singer and the title of the song. "Cher - Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves"

I still love it.




Soul Foundry

Create my own original shape




I wrote this song just around one year ago. It just came to me.
But sadly it has never been played in front of people, so far.
I could luckily make this video I attached with such a great creative partner friend, Eric...
but there was no chance to play.

...However, one year later, now, interestingly this song started evolving... bigger and higher, far more beautiful with other four people...
How amazing moment to feel that? When I jammed first, I could not hold tears in my eyes.
I wrote and quietly waited for one year and someone I can trust their sense of music see the video and loved it and brought this up again... This is............ such an unexpected gift............... to me.

Under the cold winter days condition, I needed this kind of wide open creative moment....
Can't wait to share re-arranged this song with you.




Do you see what I see?

(self-portrait, right after swimming)

Being in the water and just concentrated on being zero.
Felt better...

Long time ago (around more than 15 years ago), my ex-coworker told me I may die somewhere in water.  After the work, on a train to go back home, she suddenly mentioned about it.

"Water....  Be careful to be in water." She said softly. I didn't get what she tried to tell me.
"There was someone in your family who was dead in water...  Long time ago...  That's also your fate."  
"Is this some kind of joke?" I laughed at and asked her but she said, "I feel it."
She looked so serious. I could not ask anything more than that.
After the day, I have never seen her.
... and I forgot about the story and also about her little by little...

I was used to swim a lot. When I was a child, I more preferred  to be in water than being on ground. I didn't have many things that I was proud of but drawing/ painting, and swimming were special things to me.
But for a while - very long time, I stopped. Not because of the story - I may die in water, but, much earlier time than I have heard the story, after having my first menstruation and my body shape was changing into a "lady's" from a "girl's, I felt not comfortable to go to swim. So gradually being far from any swimming pool then started again more than 15 years later.

...Before moving to the US, I went to Shikoku and swam and also just floated in the ocean for a while. I was alone in the sea.  I recalled the story, "You will die somewhere in water" when I was floating in the ocean. But, I knew it was not the time yet to die for me. Rather, I was even feeling like soon to be born... I was holding my legs with both arms and kept spinning in the seawater. It was very nice... nice memory.  (Still Shikoku is one of my favorite places in the Earth after the trip. I must go back there...)

Now, I swim regularly again. The beginning of the last year, I started again since I got to know the gym has a salted water pool. This is very nice. I go there in order to purify myself and be free...

In the water, usually there is no distracting thought. (Oh, only one time I cried in the water. But just one time.)  Being able to be close to zero. Feel freer and freer.

In general, I feel "live my life" is very similar to "swim in a river." Sometimes there is a nice flow of the water. Sometimes I have to swim in an upstream. Every once in a while, take a break and look around... and meet, talk, and even fall in love with people who is swimming in the same flow and same speed. Maybe swim together for a while and/or say "See you again" or "Good luck" ... and keep swimming. Choose my own direction.  And, someday, I'll get the sea - usually called as "death".  The time must come, for each one of us.  Until the moment, I just keep swimming in this river. No try, just do.

...I thought something like that (again) today, after swimming...
And I thought it is not bad to think, now. Yes.