September 2013

Welcome to Switzerland, Mrs.Oikawa and Mrs.Kanno!


Tohoku Grandmas on their business meeting at Modissa Zürich

Tohoku Grandmas stay in Zürich started with a business meeting at Modissa in Zürich. Modissa is a traditional department store specialized for women’s wear and knit, located at the main shopping street of Zürich called Bahnhofstrasse. Mr.Jan Pierre Kuhn was interested to see the products of designed my me and hand made by the Tohoku Grandmas of Rikuzentakata. Mrs.Oikawa and Mrs.Kanno did present the tote-bagsa and Kinchaku pouches in a very touching and charming way. Well done and congratulations! We are sure that soon their products will be show cased at Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich!


The first trip to Bernina International at Steckborn, who did invite the grandmas to Switzerland


Mrs.Oikawa and Mrs.Kanno did enjoy being introduced to the process of manufacturing Bernina sewing machines in Steckborn. In front of Bodensee, a lake facing three countries; Switzerland, Germany and Austria. After a boat trip they did visit Stein am Rhein, the most impressive waterfall of Europe.


Kimono Sweing and Furoshiki Performence in BERNINA Zurich with Tohoku Grandmas

We were overwhelmed by so many guests joining the evening with the grandmas. Mrs. Oikawa is a professional Kimono tailor since 20 years and until the earthquake she hand stitched approximately 260 Kimono per year. There was no day which she did spend without holding a needle. Since 3.11 she stopped making Kimonos. For that evening she did find the motivation to start again and did complete a Yukata in front of the audience. It was a very touching moment for all of us and we enjoyed it a lot to share this special moment with her. Mrs.Kanno did present how to wrap a gift with Furoshiki and the guests did like it a lot. It shows the spirit of Kimono and it is very ecological way to warp a gift. It was the premiere of my new design, a needle cushion made with ceramics and Japanese print.We did sell a lot of them and received more orders. We would like to thank Bernina Zürich for making this event possible!


Kimono Sweing and Furoshiki Performence in Museum Bellerive Zurich with Tohoku Grandmas

Museum Bellerive is located right next to the lake of Zürich and is one of the most beautiful museums of Switzerland. At the occasion of an exhibition “The Empire of Folds – Fashion and Textile Art from Japan” we had the great opportunity to present Tohoku Grandmas performances again. At this day the museum was completely full by visitors wanting to meet the grandmas and learn about their textile skills. It was a tremendous success which non of us did expect in such scale. Many thanks to Mrs. Jacqueline Greenspan and Ms. Sonja Gutknecht for making this event possible!


Farewell party at my parent’s home

July 2013

The Tohoku Grandmas are coming to Switzerland

In Summer 2013 I visited the Grandmas to prepare their trip to Switzerland. Their debuting product which I did design few month ago is ready to be presented in Zürich. I was very happy to see how enthusiastic and motivated the grandmas are. I had a chance to visit Mrs.Oikawa at her parents home, where she did start to cut her very fist Kimono for the first time after 3.11. It was a very special and personal moment for me to see her getting back to her profession of a Kimono tailor. Mrs.Kanno did show us her house which she and her husband did build one month ago. She said she was lucky to be the first of the grandmas to build her own house after tsunami, because they did own a property on the hill side of Rikuzentakata. See you again in Zürich!

October 2012

I was determined to assist the students by spending my time and by visiting with them. During my visits, I shared my experiences as a
fashion designer and taught them fashion and sewing skills as a means of finding the joy of creating something new after a period of great loss.

March 2012

When I visited Takata High School for the second time six months later, the school was closed due to a flu epidemic. Mr. Kudo, the director of the school, and Ms. Yamaguchi, the home economics teacher, welcomed me into the empty school building.

I said to myself: “How lifeless a school can be, when the students are missing…”
Since my previous visit in October 2011, and together with Mrs.Yamaguchi, I had developed and worked on the Takata High School Fashion and Sewing Project. It is about showing the students the joy of being creative during such a difficult time. Because the students were absent, I gave the fabrics, materials and samples for textile accessories to Mrs.Yamaguchi, and discussed how the workshops could work.
When I entered the director’s room, I saw that he had put portraits of each student who had lost their life in the tsunami in black frames and hung them on the wall.
“When I am tired and on the limit, they tell me not to give up”, he said, while telling me stories about the students on the wall. It was like I had met them personally.
In the evening I met Mr.Tamura, a member of the Board of Education in the Iwate prefecture. Soon after March 11, it was he who had advised me to donate the sewing machines to Takata High School.
He said: “The citizens of the affected areas are facing a much more difficult time now. The attention and support of the public and the media has unfortunately reduced very much, and this loss is extremely perceptible.”
My long coach journey back to the station was filled with sadness.
I looked at the landscape and the citizens, and thought: “Nothing has changed. How hopeless the citizens of Rikutezentakata must feel, if the rebuilding is taking such a long time.”
Then, right away, I started to plan my next journey to Rikuzentakata.

October 2011

In October 2011 I visited Rikuzentakta for the first time. What was awaiting me there was beyond my imagination.
I thought I was prepared to face the reality of the situation there, because my mother and sister had shared reports with me of their visit for voluntary work soon after March 2011. But when I arrived, I was so shocked. The entire city had been completely destroyed, and an overwhelming and depressing emptiness ruled.
I felt extremely powerless and asked myself:
“Is there anything I can do at all?”
During this visit, I donated five sewing machines to Takata High School, which had been completely damaged by the tsunami and forced to move into a temporary location in a former agricultural school further up the country. This donation was made possible by a wonderful partnership with Bernina International, who generously sponsored the project.
My aims were to show the students the pleasure of being creative during such a difficult time, to encourage them not to give up, and to demonstrate that it is possible to make one’s passion a profession.
At Takata Senior High School, the director, Mr.Kudo, the vice-director, Mr.Funakoshi, and the home economics teacher, Mrs.Yamaguchi, welcomed me warmly.
That day Mr.Kudo said something I have never forgotten:
“Financial and material donations are certainly important. What is much more important is that you don’t forget about the children. Please come and visit us again.”
These words convinced me to visit Rikuzentakata as much as possible and to continue with my commitment.