MORE than 1,000 people gathered at Oxford Town Hall to offer a helping hand to victims of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Visitors paid to taste Japanese food and to try their hand at traditional arts and crafts at yesterday’s event.

They also gave donations at the fundraiser, which featured martial arts displays, musical performances and calligraphy demonstrations.

Oxford-based Helping Hands for Japan hopes it has7 raised at least £5,000 for the Japanese Red Cross.

Among the visitors was Sendai Seiyo Gakuin College lecturer Dominic Jones, 41, who fled the city after the March 11 earthquake.

He said: “I came to the Town Hall with my family to give an eyewitness account of what we saw and to tell people about our experiences.

“We are staying with my sister in Headington and we won’t be able to go back to Japan until the situation with the Fukushima nuclear plant is sorted out.”

Mr Jones, who was with his wife Eri, 44, and children Lawrence, seven, and Michelle, two, said: “What has happened to people in Japan is unprecedented – 900,000 households have been left without water.

“It was snowing when we left and some people had no heating.

“We aren’t asking people to feel sorry for us, we want to remind others that so many people in Japan still need help.”

James Long, 24, who works for Kidlington-based tour company Into Japan, played the Japanese flute to help raise funds.

He said: “When disaster struck, I offered to be a translator for the rescue teams but embassy staff said it would be too risky.”

Colleague Maco Bryan, 36, from Kidlington, added: “My friends’ parents live in Fukushima, the earthquake area, and it is heartbreaking to see the victims on television.”

Pierre-Jean Alet, 28, who works for Sharp Laboratories at Oxford Science Park, said: “I have got lots of Japanese colleagues and everyone is very concerned.”

Akemi Kauffmann, who gave calligraphy demonstrations, added: “It has been very busy and I hope we raise lots of money for the people of Japan.”

David Lee, a trustee for the Helping Hands for Japan organisation, said: “My wife Yuri is Japanese and I was living in Kyoto when the earthquake struck Kobe in the 1990s, so I know how long it takes for people to get back to normal.

“The response from the public here, however, has been magnificent.”

Another fundraising event takes place at the Marlborough School, Woodstock, on April 9 and 10.