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Last updated:
10 September 2010

Voice Library in Japanese Newsletter
from President Naomi Yoshida

No. 72
June 1, 2010

The rhododendrons are in full bloom, the irises smile, and I saw some poppies showing off their beautiful flowers by the river. Although our May was cold, nature still keeps track of the time, doesn't it? The hummingbirds that come by the hanging flower baskets on the porch and the lovely scent of the young leaves of the Japanese pepper plant in our yard bring the beginning of the best season here.

With the coming of a new and happy season, I would like to introduce some new members. The call from New York, in response to the TVJapan program, has connected us with someone there who will join us as a volunteer. A call from Atlanta has landed us a place for our CDs to be gifted. It is a great pleasure that our CDs are traveling to far away places and that they are finding places to help and comfort even more people.

We are also joined by three more new members in the Seattle area who will lend us their expertise in various areas of our activity.

I would like to work our best again this month to bring our voices to those who need them. I am every grateful for all of your work!

No. 71
May 1, 2010

It is May, but cold weather continues to chill.

We received emails of thanks from both Yoshiko Watkins, representative of the Japanese Culture Club in Dublin, Ireland, and Ms. Ando of the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane, WA for the CDs that we sent them. My appreciation goes out to everyone who was and is involved in the production of our CDs.

The thought of someone somewhere far away in another country, or even just on the other side of the state of Washington, listening to our CD and our work comforting that someone warms my heart.

On April 24th, our organization's activities were publicized on TVJapan, the Japanese television network out of New York. Before the program aired, I was quite anxious whether our motives and activities would be properly portrayed, despite the fact that we had exchanged endless correspondences with the network regarding the details of the program. Of course, once the program began, I realized I had nothing to worry about as, after all, they are pros and the program was put together very nicely. Later that same day, I received phone calls from New York and from Atlanta, in addition to a request for CD rentals from an elderly resident of Renton, and I was awestruck by the power of the media. The call from New York was someone who wanted to take part in our activities, and I am hopeful that this will continue as a stepping stone to our work reaching places such as New York and Washington D.C. on the east coast.

I greatly appreciate all of your work and look forward to more excitement!

No. 70
April 1, 2010

Chilly days continue into April, the month of sunshine. The cherry blossoms that were in full bloom with the surprisingly early onset of spring are now losing their white petals to the grass with the strong winds of yesterday and today.

Thanks to all of your help, we have sent our audiobooks out to the Japanese Culture Club in Dublin, Ireland, and the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane, WA.

All of the materials for the television program on TV Japan that will feature our activities have been collected and all we do is wait to see - on the last Saturday of this month - what sort of program the television station puts together for us.

I pray that, through this television program, we are able to reach more people that need and want our services, and that those who would like to join in our cause are able to find us as well.

As was announced at our meeting, we have yet another new member! She will mainly participate in the reading visits on weekdays.

No. 69
March 1, 2010

February has swiftly passed, March has begun and brought spring with it. This mild weather is quite nice, isn't it?

Flowers are beginning to bloom with the nice weather, and the daphne flowers next to my front door bring cheer to those walking by with their lovely fragrance. I find myself wishing that I could somehow deliver this beautiful scent to our clients in the nursing homes.

Thanks to an email sent by one of our members, it looks like TV Japan will be featuring our activities on a program. The time and date it will air is still unknown, but having already experienced the power of the media in the past, I look forward to some sort of response after it airs.

Here in the United States, Japanese people are a minority. What can be done to continue our volunteer work that is geared specifically toward Japanese people without rest? It is a big goal. I do hope that all of you will lend a hand and that we are able to move forward little by little.

I feel like the simple "thank you" that we get from our clients - like P, Y, L, S, and little R - give us the strength to continue moving forward. Let's work hard this month for the smiles that are waiting for us at all of our visiting locations.

Thank you.

No. 68
February 1, 2010

It is Kisaragi, the second month of the year. Usually, this is the coldest time of year, but the days have been very mild. On the other hand, a friend emailed me from Tokyo, saying that they were getting their first sprinkling of snow there.

We were blessed to have Ms. Run Sasaki, a specialist in vocal works, give an instructional class on reading aloud for our members. Ms. Sasaki worked for many years in Tokyo as a voice actor and is now based out of the US. She felt a great connection and understanding with what we do and, though her schedule is packed full, was able to find some time to give reading classes to our members. Starting with preparing our bodies for vocalization by stretching and moving, time flew through individual lessons; we all realized the importance of reading techniques and the fact that, with the proper instruction, our reading will change. These classes will be conducted in every month that there is a fifth Sunday. For those of you who were not able to join us this time, we hope to see you at the next one!

Recently, we received an email from Dublin, Ireland. It was a request for our CDs from someone that had learned of our organization through our website, which made me think how small our world is now that information is so readily available. After a few emails back and forth, I came to understand the difficulties mothers with small children face when trying to immerse their children in the Japanese language, in a place such as Dublin, where Japanese people are few and far between.

Though the aim of our organization is not education, we have happily decided to help, since we still come from the same desire to protect and maintain the Japanese language. In the same manner as Voice Library back when we began, their group Japanese Culture Club meets once a week in a room, rented after much work, at the community center and is led by Mrs. Yoshiko Watkins. We will start by sending them CDs geared toward children.

As we are just beginning recording instruction, I would like to move toward also making audiobooks that children will enjoy.

It seems our thoughts and wishes are slowly taking steps toward spreading in the world. Thank you for your hard work and support, as always.

No. 67
January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

2010 is upon us. What will the next twelve months bring us? Nobody knows, but I hope with all of my heart that it will be a good year. I hope that all of you enjoyed your New Year's Day, with family or with friends.

With the arrival of April this year, Voice Library in Japanese will celebrate its sixth year. When I look back now on the five years and eight months of constantly taking steps forward, I am filled with great appreciation for the connection between people - from one person to the next - that is the reason we were able to continue our volunteer efforts to this day.

I have always felt a camaraderie toward volunteer work within the members of this organization. I am also extremely grateful that we constantly have new inquiries from those full of passion for volunteer work who want to join us. In addition to the gratitude for the strong fellowship between members, I can not express in words the appreciation we have for our supporters who willingly respond to our requests for support.

In 2010, we would like to put forth our best efforts, in each members' various the various venues, with all of your warmth and support backing us up. We have yet another request from a nursing home in Seattle for reading visits. I look forward to shining a light on the hearts of those who wish to hear the Japanese language with all of you.

No. 66
December 1, 2009

It is December. Also known as Shiwasu in Japanese, it is a month in which even teachers are running around busy as can be. (The letters used in the term Shiwasu are literally, "teacher" and "run.") A month of busy schedules and lots to do. We are down to 30 days in this year, and 2009 is coming to a close. What was the year like for all of you?

For Voice Library, various new ventures have begun, and aside from the difficulty of beginning such things, these new ventures will challenge our attitude in working toward them.

Our days were spent on tasks such as figuring out how to work with listeners who, due to stroke or simply old age, had become unable to speak English and could only speak in their native Japanese, and with a young patient battling an illness.

As we continue to feel our way through our new ventures, I hope that we are able to bring some sort of joy and happiness to our listeners.

There are 30 days left in 2009 - I hope all of you will help bring it to a beautiful close.

No. 65
November 3, 2009

Halloween has past and we're already in November, with two months left in this year... How fast time flies!

We have been visiting a new family home since last month. The home of 7-year-old L. L is an adorable boy in first-grade, still with the innocence of a child, battling an illness. At the age where all he wants is to run about outside, the place he must go is not to school but to a hospital... Having raised two sons myself, how my heart ached with sadness for him when we first met. At the time L's mother called to request reading visits at home, she also brought up the idea of visiting and reading to him at the hospital while L is there for extended periods of time for treatment, and it hit me.

Such a request shows how difficult long stays in hospitals for treatment are for children, how hard it is on them to be there. Until L, all of our clients have been adults; and with the addition of L to our listeners, a new challenge begins for us. My hope is that our reading visits will add even just a little bit of fun, add some energy, to his every day. I hope that you can all help me in this endeavor.

With this surprise opportunity, yet another dream has hatched... To one day, in the distant future, create a system in which Voice Library readers are always on hand at children's hospitals in the Seattle area to read to these little patients...

At the regular meeting on the 21st, we will send out mailings with information regarding our activities and to raise funds and support for next year, after which, we will have a social to celebrate our success at Aki Matsuri.

The turning leaves are beautiful this year. Please enjoy the few autumn days we have left. Take care!

No. 64
October 2, 2009

The fall colors have deepened and bright yellow leaves float about, blown around by the wind.

I must thank everybody and their great cooperation at Aki Matsuri on September 12 and 13. As I mentioned in our meeting report, I am very happy that our booth is bringing results in people finding us.

I recently went to San Francisco to celebrate a friend's release from a one-month hospital stay; he'd been hospitalized after suffering a stroke. My friend, a distinguished and charming 87-year-old gentleman, was born and raised in Japan, but had spent most of his adult life as a businessman in the States speaking English.

I was relieved to see that he seemed much better than I'd imagined he would be, but it seemed that he was having a difficult time expressing himself with words. I could tell that he got so frustrated that he would just give up on speaking at all, and could see the difficulties of rehabilitation after suffering a stroke... It is exceedingly trying for both the patient and their family... Apparently, after the stroke, he could not find his English words at all and was left with just his Japanese.

I had heard that when one suffers a stroke, only one's first language remains, and I was seeing it in real life. At the hospital that he was at, they found a translator for this Japanese patient who could now only speak Japanese. However, this translator's first language was not Japanese, and combined with the fact that it took him a very long time to form words, the hospital determined that he was very close to the end, so his release by the hospital was a sort of "spend his last days at home" type release and the hospital had made arrangements to make his home a hospice.

When I saw him, although he did indeed have some amount of awkwardness with words, he could walk around with a walker, had an appetite, read the monthly Japanese magazine "Bungeishunju," had great understanding of things... And did not seem at all like a person that needed to be in a hospice.

It was a time at which I thought of the difficulty of the situation when one, no matter what your nationality, who lives in another country and whose first language is a different language falls ill. And when such situations arise, isn't that when services such as ours are needed?

On my flight back from San Francisco, I visualized each and every one of our clients' faces and thought about whether we were doing enough for their satisfaction.

My friend's wife had read about our organization's activities in the local newspaper. I was able to experience the fruits of one of the VLJ members appealing to the media in SF on this trip. She mentioned that she wished there was an organization like Voice Library in San Francisco... So I promised her that we would at least send her 3 CDs.

I believe that, no matter how small the act, it is important to continue with our volunteer activities. I thank you for all of your help and support.

No. 63
September 1, 2009

The hot and short summer has gone. How was everyone’s summer? The color of the sky and the air both tell of the coming fall.

September 12 (Saturday) and 13 (Sunday) are Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival). Almost all of our preparations, such as items being submitted and promotional material to be passed out to those who stop by our booth, are ready.

I hope that we make many new connections at Aki Matsuri, where the attendees seem to be increasing everywhere, and that we are able to find more people that are looking for the services that we offer.

We have three new members. I am grateful for the fact that we are able to move forward, at our own pace but never stalling, with those that have the same goals and desire to help. I hope that everyone will take each reading visit experience to heart and do their best. I greatly appreciate everybody’s support and cooperation!

No. 62
August 1, 2009

The record-breaking heat continues in Seattle, where summer is supposed to be cool.  It rose to an unbelievable 103 degrees Fahrenheit on July 29th.  In New York or Tokyo perhaps, but I never dreamed I'd encounter such heat here.

I hope you are all staying healthy. Please take care of yourselves; we must always keep in our hearts the fact that we have many people who look forward to our visits.

In July, we happily welcomed two more into our group.  It is of the utmost joy to find others that understand and sympathize with our mission, and want to join us in our volunteer efforts.  At the same time, we received a request from someone who saw the Voice Library website and was interested in having us make visits to see Japanese residents living at a home in Kenmore, north of Seattle.  In contrast to Nikkei Manor or Keiro Home, which are assisted living homes geared toward Nikkei residents with many services provided in Japanese, the number of Japanese residents at most assisted living homes is one or two.  And this request had been made by an employee at such a home, hoping to help cope with loneliness and ageing through hearing the familiar sounds of their first language.  We have accepted the request and will begin with visiting the home twice a month!  It looks like we will be adding another place on our reading schedules.

September 12 and 13 bring the annual Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival).  We will be making preparations for Aki Matsuri starting at 1pm on August 22nd; it would be wonderful to get as many of you to help as possible.

No. 61
July 1, 2009

We have been blessed with continuously sunny skies lately.  The most exquisite season here has begun; Seattle - surrounded by mountains, lakes, and the ocean - welcomes the refreshingly cool and fantastic season.

I gather that all of you are also spending your days quite busy with family vacations and visitors from Japan.  As I look at the busy schedule on my calendar, I see the faces of all those that look forward to our reading visits.  And I wonder how I might be able to bring the refreshing air, the freshness of the plants to those that can not move freely from their beds and rooms on their own.

When I stayed at a place facing the Sea of Japan in Yamagata Prefecture this June, I had the opportunity to walk along the beautiful white sand beach early in the morning.  There were small shells left all along the beach where the waves had been.  There were some that were small and pink, which I couldn't help but pick up.  I wanted to take it back to the nursing home and show our clients, "Look, this is a shell from a beach in Japan, on the Sea of Japan."  I have no idea what sort of reaction I will get.  I'm sure some of them do not know what the ocean and beaches in Japan are like.  However, I brought some shells back in my bag with the hopes that I may be able to share some of the outdoors at my next visit.

We have gotten a new request from a place in Kenmore for reading visits.  Although it will still take some time before we are actually able to visit for readings, due to paperwork and procedures, we have accepted and look forward to another place to visit.

We will, once again, participate in the annual Aki Matsuri festivities on September 12 and 13, and will be working on preparations for that this summer.  Please make sure to make a note in your calendars.

Thank you for your continuing hard work!

No. 59
May 1, 2009

It is the season of new leaves. In Japan, many people are going abroad for the "Golden Week" holiday... And on the television, travelers at the airport are wearing masks. The issue at the center of the world's attention is swine flu, and the increasing number of infected people is disconcerting. Those that look forward to our reading visits are mostly seniors and those with health issues, so we should take care to keep anything from happening to them.

Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) went well. I greatly appreciate everybody's cooperation. Perhaps due to the fact that our booth this year was not in the Center House but in Fisher Pavilion, it felt like there were more people out than in the past. The fruits of our booth are yet unknown, but I believe that the goal to let as many people know about the existence of our volunteer group was met.

We will try our best to get going on the CD production that has been delayed. Thank you for any and all of your help.

No. 58
April 1, 2009

The winter cold should end by the first day of spring, or so they say... But we are still cold in the first days of April. However, one can still see spring in the various birds and cherry blossom buds in the yard. And the sunshine on sunny days make us happy.

On such a sunny day, I mentioned, "Today is such a beautiful day out!" to my listeners on a reading visit and their reply of, "We are contained inside allllll day, so the weather doesn't really matter," reminded me of how blessed I am to be able to go anywhere on my own.

Since then, I have tried to include at least one story that gives a sense of the season, so that our listeners are at least able to experience the seasons through the stories. I always hope that the thoughts we put into our reading, as the readers, can be felt by our listeners.

From April 17th through the 19th, we will be participating in Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) at Seattle Center, so we can reach out to even more people in the community.

We received a phone call the other day from Ms. Chieko Wealand of San Francisco's Western Addition Branch Library thanking us for the CDs that arrived there safely.

Let's work together to bring happiness to as many people and places as we can!

No. 57
March 1, 2009

It is already March and spring is coming. Nature is very honest - the sunshine, the blue of the sky both feel like spring - and it is very exciting to venture outside to go to our reading visits.

So I can begin the visits with something that has to do with the season, I am always looking out for stories that are very clear and concise, with a storyline that is not too long and is intriguing... This is a rather difficult task!

However, nothing can be exchanged for our listeners' joyous reaction. When I feel that connection between reader and listener, I am always very glad to be doing this, and am thankful for the continued desire to have a sensibility for words.

Two more people joined our group at the end of February. The addition of more people to join hands with in our volunteer efforts is a precious thing that can not be exchanged with anything else.

April will bring our yearly participation in the annual Sakura Matsuri at Seattle Center. As we have done every year, we will have a booth so we can reach out to even more people about our organization. The dates are April 17th through 19th, so please mark your calendars!



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