Artists reach out to Japan

The earthquake, and resulting tsunami, that destroyed most of Japan’s north east coast line last Friday March 11th is a reminder of Mother Nature’s power.

Japan is a country that is close to my heart, being born in Canada to Japanese immigrant parents who left a Japan that was struggling post World war two, I have a connection to the culture of my parents. I am the first to admit that sometimes it is a struggle to maintain that connection to Japan living so far away, yet there is something so beautiful and fascinating about Japanese culture and the people that I don’t think you need to look too hard to appreciate it and feel connected. This is even more so evident with the recent outpouring of artists from around the world who have created art to encourage awareness and to generate funds for charity.

Immediately after the earthquake, many posters depicting variations of the red sun of the Japanese flag started appearing online. Some were cliché and some were clever. Here are a few of the ones that were more successful at incorporating the concept.

Posters by Dan Matutina (left) & James White (right)

Posters by Zac Neulieb (left) & Andrea Castelletti (right)

However, artistic support is not limited to poster design. These are just a few creative people I came across online that responded to Japan’s earthquake, and no doubt there will be many more in the coming days.

Graffiti Art by Japanese artist SUIKO

Sand Art by Sudarsan Pattnaik

Cake Art by Cakes for Japan

Encouraging Manga Art by Mangaka Inoue Takehiko

T-shirt Art by Adapt clothing company


Japan Earthquake Poster series by Linda Yuki Nakanishi

I, along with many of these artists, watched in horror of the scenes of destruction online and on television. My immediate instinct was to feel sad and worried, then a phone call to my mother reminded me of the strength of the Japanese people. My mother wasn’t hysterical (like I imagined she would be) she was calm and concerned, and her response to me asking “Isn’t this horrible!” was “What can you do? They just have to start rebuilding”. Japanese people have this amazing ability to handle situations like no other culture I have ever seen.  So this was my inspiration for creating my posters for charity. These are two of an eventual series of three.

The secondary beauty of having a work of art that supports a great cause is that you will have a visual reminder of the event long after the news media stops reporting about it. Let’s not forget about the people of Haiti and New Zealand who also suffered from an earthquake tragedy in the not so distant past.

You can help donate to the relief efforts in Japan by purchasing art for sale from some of the above mentioned artists, create your own design for charity, or donate to a non-profit organization that will send aid to the victims of the earthquake.

Threadless design challenge

Canadian Red Cross

Japanese Red Cross

American Red Cross

Global Giving

  • Great article Linda, really appreciate you sharing with us!

  • disaster no one wants it…
    but if that still happens, i hope we can all take a lesson…
    In my soul keep spirit my brother m/


  • Thank-you for this. I’m struck by James White’s fractured red sun. I offer a humble story with drawings. It burned inside me for a week before I released it….
    BEING The Change. –>

  • Thank you for writing this article.

    From such a horrible event, artist and graphic design artist are using their skills and ability to create in order to help elevate the interest and concerns for the people in Japan. By creating things that are captivating and beautiful, they are gathering attention to the cause. I hope their viewers, no matter how small, do their part to contribute to the support effort for Japan or any other nations in trouble.

  • Really great article, Linda! I guess it doesn’t really matter where you were born, it’s always important to know where you come from and what is the background of your family. It’s really sad what happened in Japan, but I admire all the artists that reached out a hand to help the people there.

  • Thank you to all of you for your comments! Since the time my article was posted there has been so many more works of Art in support of Japan seen online. It is reassuring to know that the design community cares.

  • Great article Linda, really appreciate you sharing with us!