In writing Kibō I wanted to console and assist those survivors who were struggling to rebuild their lives and livelihoods after the March 11, 2011 disaster. And, I wanted Kibō to be a way for the global community to share and support the aspirations and resolve of the people of the Tohoku. Both my publisher, Ten Speed Press, and I have pledged to donate half of our respective proceeds to support the work of Japanese non-profit organizations in the Tohoku region. We have designated our contributions be used to Sponsor Fellows for Tohoku and Japan’s Recovery. This project, launched and managed by Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities (ETIC) has a dual goal: creating jobs in the area devastated by the disaster and developing a new generation of business leaders in Japan. On this page, Moving Forward, I introduce you to one of many Fellows helping to jump-start small businesses in the Tohoku.

Tako means octopus and is usually written with either the calligraphy you see below, top, or in katakana, a syllabary similar to our italics, below at bottom.



Different calligraphy, below, have been substituted for the sounds "ta" and "ko" changing the meaning from from "octopus" to "plentiful prosperity." Indeed, that is the goal for this lunch-box catering business!

pronounced TA the calligraphy means "plentiful"

pronounced KO the calligraphy means "prosperity"

Ms. Murai, above, is a fine example of the creative energy embodied in the Tohoku Fellows project. With a background in business development and online sales promotion and marketing, she is helping to re-vitalize the community of Minami Sanriku (Miyagi Prefecture).

Physically destroyed and traumatized by the tsunami in March 2011, the district had been famous for its octopus fishing. Ms. Murai took an existing  souvenir-charm, Tako-kun (Mr. Octopus, above), and helped make the character into a symbol of recovery efforts in the area. In addition to the usual souvenir key chains and trinkets, Tako-kun is featured in an obentō (boxed lunch, pictured to the left).

The tako takikomi gohan, a pilaf of tender-stewed octopus and root vegetables is accompanied by assorted tidbits that change with the seasons. The boxed lunch is called TAKO TAKO BENTŌ, a clever play on words: octopus becomes prosperity galore!

For more information about the Fellows Project, and an opportunity for you to make a contribution, please visit my KIBŌ page at GlobalGiving