Over the years, BCCJ members and others in the wider Anglo-Japanese community have come to anticipate with pleasure an annual event that, for many people, marks the start of the winter holiday season. The Christmas Cracker, held each December in the Ambassador’s Residence at the British Embassy Tokyo is a seasonal event that entertains in words and music, as well as gives participants a chance to enjoy such special treats as mulled wine and mince pies. It is also a fundraiser, with beneficiaries over the years having included Tokyo English Life Line, Room to Read, Refugees International Japan and Animal Refuge Kansai.
The beneficiary in 2011 was the Kids Earth Fund (KEF), specifically for their efforts in Tohoku, and the event on 9 December raised a record amount of almost ¥2.4mn. The extended Maynard family in Japan and the UK—Robin, Midori, William, Michelle, Michael, Jackie, Paul and Sophie Brand (formerly Maynard)—were significant contributors this year.
KEF was set up in 1988 by Harumi Torii to help children. Art has always been a fundamental part of the process and today there are activities all over the world in which art plays a major role. In Japan, the centre in Tohoku uses art as therapy for children orphaned, displaced or otherwise traumatised by the events of 11 March last year. The money raised at the recent occasion will be used at the centre, one immediate plan being to buy space heaters so that the children will be warm during the winter.
The original Christmas Cracker was a radio programme created in 1969 at short notice as a schedule filler by then-junior BBC producer Ian de Stains. When de Stains was fundraising in Japan in the 1980s, the then-ambassador, Sir John Whitehead, offered use of the embassy residence, and so began the tradition of having staged readings and music. The current ambassador, Sir David Warren, and his wife Lady Warren (Pamela), were regular participants during their previous time here and have generously supported the event during their current tenure.
The producers of the Christmas Cracker, Ian de Stains OBE and Hajime Mori of the Haiyuza Theatre Company, said they were thrilled that the KEF benefit had been such a success.