Inspired by a search for the meaning of life, a man who calls himself Candle June has embarked on a silent mission to light up lives through charity work on a large scale.
Japan is still trying to recover from the damage and losses caused by the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the country, and at times like these it’s hard to find the appropriate words to express sympathy for those who have been affected.
A task as simple as lighting a candle can be more heart-warming than a meticulously scripted speech and that is what Candle June chooses to do as his lifework, along with his deeds of kindness.
“Words can only express so much. What do you say to evacuees lining up to get food and water for survival? I had no words for them. So I chose to act rather than speak,” Candle June says.
Candle June, whose legal name is Jun Hirosue, is a Japanese candle artist and space decorator who launched the Love For Nippon (LFN) project immediately after the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
Through LFN, Candle June and his celebrity friends have participated in various activities such as distributing food, delivering relief supplies, making financial donations and conducting charity flea markets, in an effort to restore and reconstruct disaster-hit areas.
On March 11, 2011, the 42-year-old was driving back from the hospital where his wife and actress, Ryoko Hirosue, had given birth to a baby boy the night before when he felt the magnitude-9 quake.
“I picked up my phone right away and called friends. The next thing I knew, we were making drives along the coast to Fukushima and back delivering goods to evacuees,” he recalls.
Since that day, Candle June has shifted his activity base to Japan, whereas before he would fly to places such as Ground Zero in New York, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and other disaster-stricken countries while running his hobby-turned-business.
The quake and tsunami tragedy prompted him to curtail his business activities and give himself a pay cut.
It was around this time that he decided to spend the rest of his life serving society’s most downtrodden.
In addition to his company that does interior and exterior designs for rock festivals, art exhibitions and fashion shows, Candle June owns a small handmade candle shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.
Candles had always been a part of his life. As a child born to Catholic parents, he remembers attending Sunday schools and candlelight masses at a local church.
When he left his parents’ home after high school, he began pondering the meaning of life. He couldn’t come up with a particular reason to live, but didn’t have a good enough one to die, either. So he concluded he should discover and accomplish his mission on earth so that he could die in peace.
“I want to live, not just exist,” he says.
Today, he feels like he is walking on his destined path. While joking that he has enjoyed playing with fire since he was little, he says that through the sacred ritual of candle lighting he wants to see Japan, the only nation to have suffered atomic bombs and the first constitutionally pacifist nation, say no to terrorism and war.
“In this speedy, convenient world it’s a luxury to sit in silence and enjoy a candle-lit moment. It creates instant inner peace. I want people to know that anyone can find the time and place for peace, and a candle is a tool that can help make that,” he says.
On the 11th of every month, Candle June visits Fukushima to mingle with survivors in temporary dwellings and children at kindergartens, and to hold workshops and candlelight events. He goes to help, but has since realized that he is the one being helped in many ways.
Although he is not a disaster victim himself, he feels like these regular visits are an act of love that a “nobody” like himself can perform.
“It’s been five years but we should never forget what happened in Fukushima. We can’t let it pass, and we have to continue to let victims know they are in our thoughts and prayers,” he says.
“When I look around, Japan has so many issues to worry about, not just radiation levels in Fukushima. What bothers me is that people avoid vegetables grown in Fukushima but feel OK about eating food poisoned by preservatives and additives,” he says.
Candle June is an action-first type of guy, but he says it’s not essential to go out of your way to show support for disaster victims. Ideally, people should do what they’re good at to make a difference without having to turn their world upside down.
“If you’re a musician, you should perform to brighten the mood through music. If you’re a writer, you should use your pen to spread messages. Use your talent and do it your own way,” he says.
Although his long hair, full body tattoo and 20-centimeter deer-antler ear piercing may seem intimidating at first glance, Candle June is a humble man with a charitable heart, and his career speaks for itself.
As a devoted father of three his family comes first, but he has decided to work nonstop without a day off because there is so much to do and so little time.
In the time he has left, Candle June would like to see a world free of violence, even just for one day. He believes there has to be a better way to express our anger than war.
“We cannot remake the past, but it’s possible to learn from our mistakes and never repeat them,” he says. “We can apologize on behalf of our forefathers and turn enemies into friends. That we can do.”