Graffiti Artist Cheers Up Tohoku Residents with His Art

February 24, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. optimism (n.) – hopefulness; the thought that everything will turn out well
Example:   Despite failing the first project, he had optimism he will be successful.

2. household (n.) – a group of persons living together in one house
Example: My parents and I are the only members of our household.

3. adventurous (adj.) – having or showing a quality that is exciting and not common
Example:  The building’s triangular shape is a very adventurous design.

4. uplift (v.) – to fill with high or hopeful emotions
Example: The music was able to uplift his mood.

5. devastating (adj.) –  shocking or upsetting
Example:   She received devastating news that her brother had died.

Read the text below.

Hamilton Yokota, a Japanese-Brazilian graffiti artist, brought optimism to the residents of disaster-stricken Tohoku by painting the bare walls of their temporary homes. 

Responding to an invitation from the The Japan Foundation, the internationally recognized artist went to the Kasei Temporary Housing Complex (Kasetsu Kaisei Danchi) in Ishinomaki to share his talent. According to Yokota, the houses looked too emotionally cold, so he wanted to paint the walls with colorful and warm pictures.

Within nine days, he was able to create 15 wall paintings on the housing units shared by 200 households. Yokota drew flowers as requested by some residents, but mostly used fish as the theme for his artwork.

Kikuo Akiyama, a retired fisherman and one of the residents, was really cheered up by Yokota’s unique art.  Akiyama had been helping the community as volunteer coordinator, to relieve the sadness brought by the March 11 disaster and the death of his mother, who died of cancer. He said that he felt brightened up by the adventurous art.

Similarly, the paintings uplifted Hanayo Endo’s spirit. Hanayo’s husband, Mitsuo Endo, died after not receiving proper dialysis procedures because of the lack of hospital services in the days following the earthquake and tsunami. She has to keep living for her husband, she said tearfully. After seeing Yokota’s art on her house, she felt more encouraged.

Many other residents responded positively to Yokota’s work. But even though Yokota was able to give them some emotional comfort, the residents still face hardships that come with living in the temporary homes.

Hanayo’s son-in-law, Masami Endo, said rebuilding their homes will take a long time. Around 22,000 houses were destroyed in Ishinomaki. By 2014, only 3,000 disaster-proof house units will be built, which is just not enough, he stressed. The Miyagi prefectural government is currently trying to find ways to increase the number.

As the residents struggle through the devastating effects of the disaster, Yokota’s art can at least provide some hope to their situation. Yokota said that the residents inspired him even more as a graffiti artist, and that they were very kind to him during his stay. They invited him to come visit again, which he plans to do within the year.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think art can really uplift someone’s spirit? Why or why not?
·         What things make you happy whenever you are depressed?

Discussion B

·         How is the government in your country helping the victims of the disaster? Do you think enough help is being given to them?
·         In your own way, how can you extend your help to those affected by disasters?


February 24, 2012