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SXSW: Austin Steps Up for Japan


by Stephen Becker 17 Mar 2011

As the week wears on, the plight of Japan is becoming more and more visible thanks to a few of its citizens in town for South by Southwest. On Tuesday a booth popped up at the convention center seeking donations for the American Red Cross to be earmarked for Japan. The booth was the idea of a couple of Japanese trade show exhibitors who got together on Sunday to come up with an idea for a fundraiser.

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AUSTIN – While people here this week are checking out movies and music from around the world, they’re also taking time to help out the place that the rest of the world is focused on.

As the week wears on, the plight of Japan is becoming more and more visible thanks to a few of its citizens in town for South by Southwest. On Tuesday a booth popped up at the convention center seeking donations for the American Red Cross to be earmarked for Japan. The booth was the idea of a couple of Japanese trade show exhibitors who got together on Sunday to come up with an idea for a fundraiser.

By Thursday, the booth featured white T-shirts with a red Japanese sun in the middle and “Help Save Japan” written in English and Japanese. The shirts can be had for a $15 donation, and from the many people I’ve seen wearing them around town, it sounds like a lot of people are donating.

Hidemi Tsuji, and exhibitor in town from Tokyo, said dozens of people have stopped by to make donations, and many more have done so online. A large bowl at the booth was full of 1’s, 5’s 10’s and 20’s on Wednesday. And as of Thursday afternoon, the group had raised more than $67,000.

The reality is, $67,000 or $670,000 probably won’t make much of a dent in the massive cleanup project Japan has ahead of it. But Hidemi says the donations are a representation of people’s compassion.

“I can’t say enough thanks you’s to them,” she said. “Maybe their help will encourage people in Japan.”

I’ll be checking out Japan night on Friday, when six bands from the country will be playing at Elysium. More on that later. In the meantime, if you’d like to join the SXSW donors or find out more information about relief efforts, visit sxswcares.org.

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