Making kids smile in quake devastated Japan

posted in: Itchee Links | 0
Share

Gaetano “Guy” Totaro is on a mission—to make children smile. In fact, as a professional clown and performer, his slogan is, “Changing the world…one smile at a time”. But his latest project might just well be his toughest yet. Guy, a long-time Tokyo resident, is travelling north to Japan’s Tohoku region to entertain children whose lives have been affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Guy took time out to chat to Itchee Feet before he left.

 

 

1. Tell me a little about your history with Japan.

I was first brought to Japan to perform my Clown show at an amusement park in Tokyo in 1993. I really connected with the family audiences and have enjoyed a career here ever since. I’m also an actor and narrator on TV, radio and the web as well as a director and creative consultant.

2. How did the earthquake affect your family? Give us a little insight into the actual quake and the aftermath.

The immediate impact of the earthquake on my family was a kind of surreal shock. It was a frightening event, but the actual damage was minimal. Tokyo was relatively unaffected so the massive devastation in the Tohoku region seemed like it was happening on another planet. The ongoing aftershocks perpetuated the fear and made it hard to think of anything but immediate survival. We soon realized that all the nuclear fuss was really media induced, but it affirmed our commitment to green living. We bonded as a family because the delicacy of life was made very clear to us, and it proved to be very educational. It reminded us of how lucky we are to have each other and to appreciate the things we have.

3. You have an interesting project coming up, to help the quake victims. Tell us about it.

As I type this on my phone I am heading up to do Clown shows at shelters and schools up north affected by the disaster. I’ve partnered with one of the charities I’ve worked with over the years called the Tyler Foundation. When I return from independent this trip I will be working full time as their “Smile Ambassador”. Together we will focus on children’s mental and emotional health issues in the disaster zone. Laughter IS the best medicine and it’s a big part of what the kids need to do to get through this exceptional difficult experience.

4. The quake has also devastated tourism. You’re raising a son in Japan. What would you say to families who are considering a trip to Japan at the moment?

COME and spend money here! The recovery depends on commerce. It is safe and the vast majority of the popular tourist areas were not even damaged.

5. Tell us about your favorite kid-friendly place in Tokyo.

My 5 year old’s favorite park is Niko Niko Park = Smile Park. It’s full of awesome playground type activities and it’s very clean and safe.

Another fantastic public space in a trendy party of town is Kodomo no Shiro = Children’s Castle. There are all kinds of supervised creative activities from crafts to music. The roof top playground is really cool too!

(Itchee Feet note: I LOVE Kodomo no Shiro! Spent a lot of time there with my own kids.)

Thanks to Guy for taking time out from him incredibly busy schedule to chat to us about his trip. Hopefully we’ll here about how it went later. In the meantime, read more about Japan’s Tyler Foundation and Guy’s involvement in it here.

Follow the trip via Guy’s blog.

And if you’re living in Tokyo and looking for a truly talented entertainer for children’s birthday parties, look no further than here.

And finally, Japan is a truly wonderful family destination. The country is an exhilarating mix of technology, history, culture, and breathtaking beauty. The people are warm and welcoming. Right now, Japan needs the tourist dollar… or yen.

Itchee Feet will be visiting in July.