Help Save Japan at SXSW: UEI Helps Aide Quake Survivors

March 13, 2011

Update: New Photos from Help Save Japan at SXSW

The Help Save Japan at SXSW fundraiser proved an astounding success, with attendees generously sharing both monetary donations and emotional support. All money raised will be given to the Red Cross to help rebuild Japan.

Here’s a quick peak at some of the lighter moments from the donation table.

Hidemi and Kang-san in their traditional (?) Japanese garb. For mysterious reasons, these two lovely ladies earned far more donations than the men did:

Japan Nite tour producer Audrey Kimura, whose tireless efforts made the fundraiser a reality:

Dr. Serkan Toto of TechCrunch, who generously donated about $200 in cash despite a sudden ear infection:

Mr. Iguchi and Mr. Shimizu, showing their Japanese pride:

Our sincere thanks to everyone who contributed. We will be forever grateful to the love and support you have shown to Japan.


Original Post:

Greetings, readers. Today the UEI team finds itself in Austin, TX, preparing to exhibit at the SXSW Trade Show. In light of the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, however, we are refocusing our efforts to help encourage donations for quake victims.

Here is a translation of CEO Ryo Shimizu’s blog post. The original can be found here:

wise9, UEI, and Tonchidot Team Up to Gather Quake Relief Donations from Overseas

How is everyone?

As I wrote yesterday, I am currently at America’s largest music/film/interactive entertainment event, South by Southwest (SXSW).

This event saw the debut of such recent hit services as Twitter and Foursquare, and is a focal point for internet services around the world.

I had planned to use this event as an opportunity to introduce a two-screened Android tablet application, FOLIO, jointly developed with NEC.

However, as you all know Japan has just experienced an earthquake of unprecedented proportions.

At the request of famed Sekai Camera creator and Tonchidot Corporation president Mr. Iguchi (@iguchiJP), SXSW’s Japanese guest gathered for a morning meeting.

With the full cooperation of the SXSW management, Tonchidot and UEI agreed to solicit relief donations at their booths, with a special booth and TV also prepared separately in SXSW to encourage contributions on a large scale.

That evening a party had been in the works to promote Tonchidot’s latest service, domo, and Mr. Iguchi proposed that we use it as an opportunity to launch our donation activities.

“Alright, let’s go buy a printer and start making posters and stickers!”

We wanted to show words of support from the American community…but in Japanese…so we enlisted UEI’s first American employee Eric to write the above message on iShodo.

Talented artist Hidemi then turned this into a poster.

Two hours passed.

We stopped by an electronics store, picked up CANNON’s smallest available printer, the iP100, and made some posters. And stickers.

We posted this message outside the event site.

Help Save Japan Text “RedCross” to 90999

This got considerable attention.

Many people texted the Red Cross on the spot.

To our surprise, there were other Americans at SXSW soliciting relief donations.

We decided to join forces.

Here’s a pic of the event site.

The plan was to sell Tonchidot’s latest service, but we projected recorded broadcasts from NHK and a slideshow of quake illustrations I made on the wall instead. The mood was dampened a bit.

Mr. Iguchi got up on stage to encourage charity donations.

Say what you want about him when he released Sekai Camera, but he was really terrific here. Not many people can do what he did under such circumstances.

We prepared a donation box for people who felt more comfortably giving directly than over the phone.

Mr. Iguchi and I plan to donate the collected money to the Red Cross.

However, we did not receive many donations simply by setting the box there.

Mr. Iguchi also enthusiastically encouraged listeners.

I have to do something as well.

Make no mistake: in truth, I have had a rather bad image of charities and donations. I like the idea of giving but not donations collected in the street.

I planned right from the start to deliver my work money, earned while soliciting donations, to charity.

That was of course my plan. To give the money I earned and saved in Japan.

But that by itself is worth little.

My loved ones are in peril, while I can do nothing in this faraway country, I realized. Soliciting donations is all that I can do.

I considered various plans, like giving our proceeds from AppStore apps and our GREE game “Elysium in the Sky,” but either one would require a 30% handling fee, and it would be better for GREE to use its own donation system.

That’s why, however feeble my efforts may be, no matter how strange or dubious I may look, I saw no choice but to encourage donations from Americans and those who escaped harm.

Happily, the event is drawing many people to Austin.

We can surely do something.

No matter how actively Americans donate, to them this is just another disaster in a foreign country.

To protect our countrymen, we have a duty to send a message.

Even a single dollar will suffice. All I can do is gather together money at the moment.

We also made a Facebook page.

In just a few hours it got 100 fans.

But right before our eyes, people ignored Mr. Iguchi, drinking and enjoying themselves. This is to be expected. They came to enjoy themselves. They had no plans to get involved in a charity event.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

No matter how clumsily, let’s solicit some donations.

And then everywhere, everywhere around the room, we went around telling people “Help Japan.”

People contributed enthusiastically.

Suddenly I came across my old Austin friend, Conrad.

“Ryo, you alright?”


“I saw your Facebook page. I’m encouraging my friends to donate too. You can donate by texting this?”


“Hey, and here’s a donation box. I gave 20 dollars.”

“Thank you so much, Conrad!”

Other people also encouraged our contributions.

“I’m gonna take a photo of this donation box and post it to Twitter. Maybe some other people will pitch in.”

“Great idea. I’ll post it on Facebook.”

Everyone photographed the box.

Though perhaps not the best environment to begin with, people got into the movement.

This is the beginning of something.

Tomorrow we will get a special donation space at SXSW.

I hinted at this earlier, but I didn’t think much of Mr. Iguchi when Sekai Camera came out.

When the iPhone came out, a world as pictured in the concept video was impossible.

I openly mocked the concept.

I had only studied AR for a year at University of Tokyo Graduate School, and was proud of learning about Japanese Virtual and Augmented Reality from the expert.

In my pride I considered Sekai Camera to be amateurish and out of date.

In truth, the same concept had been presented 10 years previously by Sharp and Sony CSL.

I had avoided Mr. Iguchi, and even declined appeared together at Nikkei BP event.

Sekai Camera has vastly improved. But I still harbored ill feelings. Mr. Iguchi, for his part, did not seem to reciprocate them at all.

In the face of this crisis Mr. Iguchi has shown himself to be a magnificent man who I humble show my respect to.

In the face of Japan’s greatest crisis, we must momentarily forget our jobs and hobbies, opinions and prejudices, and join our brothers to restore our great country.

I humbly thank him for his support and love.

3 Responses to “Help Save Japan at SXSW: UEI Helps Aide Quake Survivors”

  1. Luda Lewis Says:

    Really like your sticker and the thought you put into it.

  2. Hi, Eric-san,

    Thank you for writing がんばれ character.
    I really really like them!
    Great report and nice pictures!

    SXSW Asia

  3. Cmac Says:

    I am a Canadian, living in a small city in the middle of the praries. I am not even really sure how I found your web page, but I wanted to tell you people do care. We care. I care. I donated once already and yes I will be doing it again. I remember what Japan did for our neighbours to the south after Hurricane Katrina. I am glad you were able to raise money at SXSW. But I guess I hope my donation is proof that in my small corner of the world I don’t see the images on the news, hear the stories on twitter and think its just another disaster in some other forgein country. I saw a woman standing in a rubble filled field that used to be her home. I saw an elderly woman on a blanket in a gym, scared and sad and in pain. I can say firmly that their pain has not been homogonized in mine, my friends and families mind. We hear you. We see you and we so desperatly want for things to get better soon.

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