• Kyodo


Soccer fans in Chiba Prefecture have raised more than ¥2.5 million in donations to send four children from Tohoku’s Oshika Peninsula to watch the Japan play in the World Cup in Brazil.

The supporters launched the fundraising drive in April as a treat for some of the young survivors of the March 11 disasters.

The money they raised has made it possible for all four applicants from Oshika Junior High School in the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, to travel to South American country to watch the matches.

The campaign was led by Chonmage Tai, a group of volunteers that provides support for victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Its leader is Hirokazu Tsunoda, 51, a shoe store owner from Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.

Since his first visit to the Tohoku area to deliver shoes to tsunami victims, the longtime soccer fan has held numerous fundraising events. He has also organized a soccer bus tour for children from the disaster area.

The leader of Chonmage Tai (which translates roughly as an army of people wearing a topknot, like samurai warriors) has visited the Oshika Peninsula more than 20 times.

“I want to see Keisuke Honda’s no-spin shot,” said 14-year-old Ren Furuuchi, one of the four youngsters going to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The children will be there to watch Japan’s first match in Group C, against Cote d’Ivoire, on Sunday. During the game they will be holding a banner to thank supporters for donations, and for helping organize the trip.

Tsunoda said, however, that he wants the trip to be about more than soccer. He said that an exchange program will be included, in which the Tohoku kids will meet children studying at local Japanese schools during their stay in Brazil.