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How to donate to the Japan disaster relief effort — and make it count

Donate to JapanIt has now been almost two months since the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, and the country is still feeling its effects — frequent (and quite strong) aftershocks, a serious (though by no means dire) situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, a continuously mounting death toll, and incalculable losses in property and business, to name a few. Help is still very much needed. But before you go off and donate, you might want to carefully consider exactly who you’re donating to. We here at Otaku no Podcast have put together this list of pointers that will hopefully help you do just that. We will continue to update this post as we become aware of new donation methods, so come back often!

  • First and foremost, be very wary of any e-mails that you receive soliciting donations. Unfortunately, trying times such as these tend to bring out the best in us — but also the worst in us. The Internet is rife with con artists and tricksters trying to make a quick buck off your charity. “Phishing” emails attempting to solicit funds are quite common. They are carefully crafted to look exactly like an e-mail that, say, the Red Cross or some other legitimate organization would send you. Be VERY wary of any e-mails you may receive soliciting a donation. In particular, do NOT click on any links contained in these e-mails; instead, go to your web browser and manually type in the business’s URL (e.g. www.redcross.org) into the address bar.
  • It may seem obvious, but donations made to the Japanese Red Cross go directly to Japan. (Yeah, I know, big duh.) Conversely, donating to your local country’s Red Cross organization may not be the quickest or most efficient way of getting your money to where it’s needed the most. In fact, many Red Cross organizations worldwide are being criticized for delays in sending disaster relief funds. The “send a text message to donate” services that all cell phone providers have set up are convenient, but unfortunately the carriers are also being criticized for delaying donation payouts. Also many Red Cross chapters take a rather hefty cut of donations for “administrative fees.” Fortunately, Google has set up a webpage that will let you donate directly to the Japanese Red Cross. They also have donations links for other worthy organizations, as well as other useful information on the disaster.
  • This tragedy has really shown us that, contrary to popular stereotypes, the anime community is full of really decent, caring folks. There has been a tremendous groundswell of support coming from the anime community, both from fans as well as staff, voice actors/actresses, merchandisers, etc. If you’re heading to an anime convention, odds are that there will be somebody, either in the dealer’s room, or at registration, etc., taking donations. Or that they will have some other sort of fundraising event. (For example, Anime Expo recently announced that all proceeds from its yearly charity auction will go directly to the Japanese Red Cross.) Grassroots and/or local events such as the recently-held We Heart Japan are popping up left and right. Definitely keep an eye on anime news sites such as ANN and Anime-Cons as well as any other place where anime fans tend to congregate online (forums, comic/game shops, anime clubs, etc.) for announcements of these. Twitter is also a great place to look. (We will retweet any legitimate donation links, charity event announcements, etc. that we come across, so be sure and check the Otaku no Podcast twitter feed.) As with other donation methods, however, you should check to ensure that the funds will reach Japan in the most efficient manner possible (e.g. make sure that any event that you attend/donate to/etc. are sending their funds directly to the Japanese Red Cross, etc.).
  • Companies such as J-List (and its work-safe sibling J-Box) are donating part of their proceeds to relief organizations. (So you can get the warm fuzzies of helping out with the relief effort while still getting the latest cool anime goods. Epic win!)
  • If you’re a fan of (Western) pop music and have an iTunes account, “Songs for Japan” is a collaborative effort between many top pop artists, with all proceeds going to the Japanese Red Cross. This mega-collection features some of the hottest songs from today’s top artists, including Katy Perry, Madonna, Lady Gaga, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Eminen, and more. With 38 songs in all, and costing only $9.99, this is one epic collection.
  • The disaster has had a tremendous effect on the Japanese tourism industry. Traditional tourist destinations such as Asakusa are experiencing a drastic slump in tourism. Now might be a good time to take that Japan trip you’ve always dreamed of. (And before you ask, there is absolutely no danger whatsoever of radiation.) Not only would they appreciate the income from your visit, but I’m sure they would love to see a friendly face as well. It’s not as hard or as expensive as you may think. There are many tour companies out there that have pretty decent tour packages.

Graphic courtesy of J-List, used with permission. Arigatou gozaimasu!

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