It’s late November and Japan is in full holiday-season mode. That means orders are starting to go out for Christmas Eve dinners of fried chicken and strawberry shortcakes, and preparations are also starting on traditional osechi ryōri dishes for New Year’s Eve.
It’s not as much of a feast for a sizeable portion of Tokyo, however. An aging society and increase in part-time employment have left some worrying about preparations for weekly meals, not to mention those during the holidays. Food banks such as Second Harvest Japan have therefore played a significant role in helping those who need extra support and, luckily, there’s a way that all of us can support them.
Mike de Jong, a university lecturer and guitarist from Canada, will be teaming up with Second Harvest to host a fundraising event on Dec. 3 at What the Dickens, a pub in Tokyo’s Ebisu area. His band, Instant Karma, will be there performing covers of pop classics like R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” as well as a few original songs.
“I wanted to do a gig for a charity,” de Jong tells The Japan Times at a cafe in Tokyo’s busy Shinjuku Ward. So he reached out to Second Harvest Japan CEO Charles McJilton last year to organize an event. “But that was more of a bōnenkai, an end-of-year party to thank volunteers. We raised money back then too, but this year we really want to focus on fundraising for those who need it.”
Last year’s intake was in the hundreds of thousands of yen and all donations go to supporting Second Harvest Japan’s activities. Demand around the holidays is particularly high during the holiday season, according to de Jong.
“Living in Tokyo, we don’t really understand the struggle that some people are going through,” he says. “I’m not religious, but the holidays for me is a time of year when I want to give back to the community, and what’s more key to the holidays than having food on the table?”
Playing alongside de Jong will be Jun Kitamoto, a bilingual drummer with a degree in music, and Tsugoto Yasui, a bassist who de Jong calls a “cool, funky Japanese guy who adds a real energy to the band.” Vocalist Andrew Holtby rounds out the quartet.
“We hope to make this an annual charity event,” de Jong says. “I understand it’s on a Monday and it may be hard for some people to come out — I have to get up at 6 a.m. the next day myself — but if people can stop by for a short time to enjoy some music and make a donation, then that would be great.”
Second Harvest Japan Food Bank Benefit takes place at What the Dickens in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 3 (7-11 p.m.). Admission is free but donations are encouraged. For more information, visit www.2hj.org or www.whatthedickens.jp.