A 32-year-old man from Greater Taichung is traveling around Japan with his camera to collect enough smiles to put one on the faces of all the victims of the country’s March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.
Standing next to a sign with the national flags of Japan and Taiwan and reading: “I come from Taiwan and am trying to collect your smiles,” Terry Chung (鍾一健), drew a crowd at Tokyo’s Harajuku Station as he played his ukulele to induce smiles from passers-by on Saturday.
Chung said that for his first smile-collecting campaign, he had toured Australia playing the ukulele on the streets, capturing 1,000 smiles for a friend who was suffering from cancer.
Amazed by the power of smiles, Chung later hitchhiked his way across New Zealand to do the same for its capital, Chistchurch, after a massive earthquake devastated the city in February 2011.
With that mission in mind, Chung left for Japan on April 10 to gather 1,000 smiles by hitchhiking across the nation for three months.
However, Chung’s campaign has not gone as smoothly as he had expected. He has been dispirited by the difficulty of finding people willing to smile for the camera and suitable places for his performances.
“I had anticipated a certain amount of frustration before I took the trip, but the setbacks I have encountered are far greater than I had expected,” Chung said.
Despite the bumps in the road, Chung said some of his encounters in Japan had lifted his spirits, spurring him to continue to achieve what he came to the country to do.
Citing as an example a Japanese man he encountered while trying to get a ride, Chung said that though they were unable to communicate with each other, the man still drove him two hours to his destination.
A group of students Chung met in earthquake-stricken Miyagi Prefecture also impressed him.
“When I saw these students holding events and tutoring children in the area, I asked them what had brought them there. They replied that they were simply ‘Doing what we can do to help out the earthquake victims,’” Chung said.
Chung said his photograph subjects included a Taiwanese woman who lives in Japan who had volunteered to help with earthquake relief efforts and was so moved by his campaign that she cried after “donating” her smile to him.