The Japanese trio of Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato and Momoko Ueda got together and set up a fundraising website to help their country recover from recent tragedies. We’ll let them speak for themselves in the below transcript.
Also see the logo, designed specially by these three players to represent their efforts. The trio is wearing buttons on their caps, and they are distributing them to other players as well. Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1, wore one today at her press conference.
AI MIYAZATO, MIKA MIYAZATO, MOMOKO UEDA
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to our first press conference at the 2011 Kia Classic. Thanks for joining us today. We have three very special guests with us. Directly to my left is Mika Miyazato. In the middle is Ai Miyazato, no relation, and to my far left is Momoko Ueda as well. So three LPGA Tour members from Japan. Obviously, they've had a very emotional last couple of weeks in regards to the tragedies that have occurred in Japan. This is their first tournament that they'll be playing on the LPGA Tour since that incident. They are, of course, doing all they can to support their fans and friends and family in Japan. I'd like to first start by asking Ai Miyazato to first explain a little bit in English. We're going to take English questions first about where you were when the incident happened, and your decision about getting together as a group to help raise funds and awareness for the victims?
AI MIYAZATO: I was in Japan the last couple of weeks because I had a tournament right after the HSBC. Right now, it happened and really sad. It feels like nothing I can do. But I just realized like we could be together and do something in America and try to get help as many as I can. I've also set up a charitable organization, a fundraising website. And together with the three of us, we'd like to get this spread out and as known as possible.
THE MODERATOR: Ai actually wrote a first-person article that will be in this week's edition of "Sports Illustrated" magazine. It's also currently online at Sports Illustrated Golf so you can see her words first person that she wrote, which was done over the weekend. There are three websites, a Japanese website that has been organized to raise funds. There is also a website that's available for supporters that can donate in UK Pounds, and there is also a U.S. website as well for those who would like to donate from the United States. At the back, there is the article by Ai that includes the U.K. URL. And there is also a second sheet that has the U.S. URL for those who would like to donate. So if you could ask Mika to perhaps talk a little bit about where she was when this happened and her feelings emotionally about the experience.
MIKA MIYAZATO: When the earthquake happened I was on a flight from Okinawa to Osaka, and I realized what had happened after I landed. But really didn't know what exactly happened. But after watching TV the following day, I had seen that Sendai, the City of Sendai and was hit very hard with the disaster. Because us three players play in the U.S., after the disaster, I began to think about what we can do together to help the victims in Japan. That's why we are sitting up in front of everyone right now to discuss about our project, and I hope that this project can help as many people in Sendai as possible.
THE MODERATOR: Momoko, do you want to explain to us where you were during the earthquake and what you've been doing since before this first tournament?
MOMOKO UEDA: I was in Tokyo on the freeway when the earthquake happened, so I actually literally felt the ground shake, especially when I was close to the city of Sendai as well. I visited Sendai many times before. But what has been happening in Tokyo, not just in Sendai, is really sad. But after my fellow players here, after I thought about what I could do to help out, I decided to get together with these Japanese players as well as maybe reach out to my fellow LPGA players and maybe some of the people overseas, not just in Japan, to get this out to as many people as possible would perhaps help bring back Japan. So that was my mindset in starting this project.
Q. Can anyone that wants to talk about the process of if anyone knew if family members or friends were okay and what that process was like having to go through that?
AI MIYAZATO: My whole family lives in Okinawa which is way down south from Tokyo, so all families and my relations are safe. But I went to high school in Sendai City, so I know many people over there. But I got the contact after like four days or so. I heard everyone's safe. Some of my friends lost their houses and they stick together in a gymnasium. But everyone's safe. At least that makes me feel relief.
Q. Can each of you speak to whether it's hard to concentrate on golf being so far away? Do you wish you were home? Did you think about going home? How do you keep your attention focused on your job these weeks?
MIKA MIYAZATO: It's certainly difficult right now, but I feel that it is one of my responsibilities as a professional golfer to go out and play. Hopefully be able to provide hope and courage to the Japanese people.
MOMOKO UEDA: I've heard that people in Japan are doing their best to cope with this disaster. So what I can do is do the same, which is to do the best I can.
AI MIYAZATO: I've never had this situation before, so it could be difficult to have good concentration during the tournament. But all I can do is just stay in the present and do something like playing really good. And like Mika said, hopefully, get back good news to Japan. Like what Mika said, maybe one of my responsibilities is to provide hope and courage to the Japanese people. But at the same time just be able to deal with the day-to-day tasks as they appear.
Q. How has the support been from your fellow players on Tour so far? Have any come up to you and talked to you about what has happened?
AI MIYAZATO: Thankfully almost all the caddies and players have given their concerns and have come up and talked to me. So I'm very thankful for that.
THE MODERATOR: They're wearing a logo that they've developed. So maybe if one of you want to explain what it means and explain how you came about coming up with that?
AI MIYAZATO: This logo in Japanese means make Makeruna Nippon, which means Never Give Up in Japanese. The three of us designed the logo. We hope to be able to distribute this to other fellow LPGA players.
THE MODERATOR: There actually is a player meeting this evening, so the plan is to distribute this to the players. As many of you know, last week we had a tournament in which several of the players -- more than a dozen -- decided that if they'd finish in the Top 10 that they'd donate their charity winnings to Japan relief funds. And several players have, in fact, done that. So certainly that was a lot based on their love and affection that they share with these three players in particular within the LPGA family.
Q. Can you speak to what it means to be sitting here with each other and how much support does that give you guys? And if you can talk about who it was that actually started the idea? Did you call or email or text the other ones and just say who started it?
AI MIYAZATO: We're up here just the three of us, but we feel that it doesn't need to be three. The more the better I think to spread this project. In Japan, all three of us have been pretty successful, so maybe we could use that as an advantage to get this out as well.
Q. Who was the one that first started it?
AI MIYAZATO: To start this logo I came up with it, and I started contacting the two players.
Q. Talk about the idea of bonding together. What it means to you guys to be able to start this with the logo and everything and the fundraiser?
MOMOKO UEDA: I personally feel that it's a concern in Japan as a whole, as a country. I think all three of us had an idea of what they wanted to do to help. But the reason why all three of us got together is because by doing it together, we could have a bigger influence.
Q. Could each of you talk about how you got news for the last couple of weeks? Were you on the internet a lot? Did you watch American TV or could you get Japanese TV? How did you keep up with what was happening?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, I kept checking on the internet. On the internet, I could watch Japanese TV as well, like NHK Broadcasting or something like that. But it just showed up about the tsunami and about the nuclear plant. So I'm following almost every single day.
Q. Was the news the same from Japan as we were getting in the United States or did you learn different things?
AI MIYAZATO: Honestly, I haven't seen any news in the States. So I don't know what the difference is, but I think it's mostly the same thing.
THE MODERATOR: They only recently came in. Ai came in two or three days ago, and Momoko and Mika. So they've only been here the last few days ahead of this tournament.
Q. From the website, how do people know how the funds are going to be distributed? What mechanism do you have in place for doing this? I see the website address, but is there an organization behind this that will channel these funds? Do people that contribute to it know what some of your priority areas are for distributing this aid?
AI MIYAZATO: About the organization, there are many organizations that people can donate to, but us three talked together and decided on one because that is an NPO based in Japan. In terms of how the funds will be distributed, that's what the management side would be, the operations side of the site will be doing for the players. So if you have further questions about that, I would rather have you talk to us, and we can answer any of the questions for you if you like.
Q. I was just trying to understand if there were specific areas that were going to be donated to? Or like you say, several NPO or one particular NPO, and is there an organization in place? Because this is one thing we've seen in lots of situations that aid sometimes gets diverted to other areas.
AI MIYAZATO: The NPO that they have designated is called Civic Force, and it should be on the website as you can see. It's based in Japan. For certain that the funds that we've accumulated will go to that organization and will help relieve the damage that's caused by the disaster.
Q. I'm putting you on the spot here. But have any of you made personal donations or are you going to make personal donations, be it money, food, whatever?
AI MIYAZATO: When we set up the website, the three of us provided funds to start the website. So the donations, I guess per se, is in there. However, personally, we haven't yet been able to do so. But we think that this project is a long-term project, so we do have a vision of wanting to provide funds as well as food and clothes and other things personally in the near future.
MIKA MIYAZATO: I have provided funds for the website that we've created for the three of us, but I've also donated personally. But I think the site that we've created with the three of us has more of an influence, so I'd like to put more efforts into that at the moment.
Q. Could each of you speak to the emotions of watching this on TV and just some of the pictures or things that you've seen of the devastation? Can you describe your emotions when you see that?
MOMOKO UEDA: The initial emotion was speechless, and it's still the same right now. I've seen someone being rescued after nine days at the site as well as other stories, but I feel sadness. Feeling sad just can't move us forward in the right direction. So with golf, hopefully, I can provide smiles to as many people as possible. So right now sadness is behind me.
MIKA MIYAZATO: I saw from TV the disaster. It was obviously difficult and speechless. But people in Japan are probably feeling even tougher emotions. I didn't even know if coming to the U.S. was the right decision. But I feel that I want people to get back to their normal lives and live their normal lives as soon as possible. Thank you.
The tragedy in Japan has inspired me to play better and help others
By Ai Miyazato
Published: March 22, 2011, Sports Illustrated, Read more >>
Ai Miyazato and other Japanese players have created a website to raise funds.
On March 11, I was flying into Tokyo from Okinawa when the earthquake hit. By the time I landed, transportation by car was completely stopped, but I still didn’t know the situation. Finally, a friend called and told me what had happened, and I began to feel fear. I went to high school in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, where some of the worst damage occurred, and I know many people from there, some who took care of me. I immediately thought of them, and fortunately, they were safe. I was relieved to hear that.
In the aftermath, I feel that Japanese people like me, who didn’t suffer any damage, can’t let emotions take over but must instead focus on day-to-day tasks -- whether we’re going to work or helping with the rescue. I’m glad that I was in Japan when the disaster struck. I would have felt differently had I seen everything unfold from the U.S.
I believe people have the ability to visualize things and then make them happen. Japan is not a big nation, but we have faced many disasters and obstacles and have overcome each one by working together.
I received many notes and calls of concern from my friends overseas. And each time I answered, “It’s very difficult, but we are working hard and in unison, so it is O.K.” People are conserving energy and water as well as giving encouraging messages. These are all good influences on me and make me want to contribute. Read more >>