In a modern-day version of a Japanese folk story, a CD has been traded up for more valuable items leading to a fishing boat, which will be donated to a needy new owner in the tsunami-ravaged northeast coastal area.
The idea behind the series of successful trades came from Asami, lead vocalist for rock trio Nana Carat.
Because Nana Carat is still relatively unknown and doesn't have the cash to buy and donate a fishing boat, Asami felt frustrated, even as the group participated in events to support rebuilding efforts after last year's Great East Japan Earthquake.
In late February, she came up with an idea that she described as, "Like the legend 'Warashibe choja' (Straw millionaire), if we could exchange our CD for items that become increasingly more valuable, we might be able to donate a fishing boat to a port that was struck by the quake and tsunami."
"Warashibe choja" is a folk tale believed to have been written in the Heian Period (794-1185) in which a poor peasant becomes wealthy after trading up from a single piece of straw.
Asami began introducing her idea in daily broadcasts she made over the Internet. The start to the trading was the band's first single "Yume no kakera" (Fragments of a dream), which originally sold for 1,000 yen ($12.60). The group made 1,000 copies of it in 2009, and while all copies were sold out, there was no response to her idea from the hundred or so listeners that likely heard about it over the Internet.
Asami felt the lyrics to the song were perfect for her latest brainchild: "Let's join together the fragments of the dream I saw with you and make it into one" and "It's all right if we take a roundabout way because we will approach it step by step."
After about 10 days passed with no response, Asami began having doubts about whether her efforts would go anywhere.
At that time, a man living in Tokyo offered to trade a used computer worth about 60,000 yen for the CD. The band exchanged the CD for the computer at a subsequent concert.
In late March, the idea was pushed along by a female acquaintance of the band's guitar player, Tetsuya. The woman, living in Aichi Prefecture, said she was willing to trade a one-karat diamond pendant worth about 200,000 yen for the computer.
While that was a major step forward, it still appeared a long way from a fishing boat since even one in used condition could cost anywhere from several hundreds of thousands of yen to several millions of yen.
Rather than simply sit around and wait, group members began searching the Internet for someone who might be willing to trade a boat. That search led to information about a former fisherman on Izu-Oshima island who had a fishing boat he no longer used.
In April, the three band members went to Izu-Oshima and exchanged the diamond pendant for a 4.7-ton boat that was about 14 meters long. While the boat was 28 years old, it was still in operating condition.
"We want to become major stars so that we are able to make a donation by ourselves," Asami said. "But since we are relatively unknown now, we have to make do with good ideas. We hope someone will accept the fishing boat that has accumulated the good wishes of many people."
The band is now seeking a recipient for the boat through its website (www.nanakara.com).
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