The earthquake that rocked Japan on March 11 and triggered a massive tsunami has been devastating for the people residing in the cities just north of the nation’s capital, Tokyo. Understandably, many overseas Japanese have been trying to contact their family members in Japan.
Osamu Usami, a resident of Frederick County, Md., managed to communicate with his younger brother through email and Facebook and helped him evacuate from Koriyama City to Tokyo.
Koriyama City is only 50 kilometers from the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. On the morning of March 14, Mr. Usami assisted his younger brother to embark on a long drive from Fukushima Prefecture to Tokyo. The drive takes only about four hours on normal days but due to traffic jams and lack of gas stations along the way, it took him more than 10 hours. When his brother arrived at Utsunomiya City in the Tochigi Prefecture in the evening around 5:00 p.m., Mr. Usami had already made the hotel reservation by calling the hotel from Frederick, Md.
While his brother rested for the night, Usami headed to work at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick after being awake all night. The next morning Usami’s brother took the Shinkansen (bullet train) and arrived at his destination safely at 11:00 a.m. Usami smiled when he heard that his brother had arrived safely at Nagoya. He said that as a family, they would pull together through this difficult time.
Usami’s wife Miki said they met and married in Sendai. They lived there for 15 years before coming to the States three years ago. A friend of hers, a middle school teacher, is still missing and hasn't been heard from since the tsunami. She could not locate this friend or his parents. Mrs. Usami said, “It had been 10 days after the tsunami, and I worry very much whether they are alive.”
Life is also very difficult for those who survived. Her friend stood in line for three hours only to obtain two bottles of milk. They do not have enough food and water and cannot take baths regularly. Mrs. Usami feels heartache every time she thinks of the difficulties her friends are having now in Japan. Her two sons attending Whittier Elementary School also participate in the discussion about the earthquake. Fortunately, the children are not constantly thinking about the incident.
Mrs. Usami is worried about Japan’s recovery from this disaster, especially the recovery of the people’s emotions. She sees this as a long-term work. “My heart is in great pain every time these thoughts cross my mind,” she said.
Local Japanese Teacher and Her Students Aid Japanese Relief Efforts
Ms. Ayako Shiga, a high school Japanese language teacher at Boonsboro High School in Boonsboro, Md., and her students from the Japanese National Honor Society had planned to make a trip to Japan this summer. They were planning to purchase their airplane tickets on March 11—the same day as it turns out that the earthquake struck Japan. In light of the catastrophe, they have cancelled their trip and decided to donate their trip money to relief efforts in Japan.
Lana McDowell, an 11th grader, said her mom ran to her room on the morning of March 11 and told her about the Japan earthquake. Her teacher kept her updated on the latest news from Japan as well. The students knew their trip would be cancelled but they hoped to do something for the people in Japan. “I wish they are safe,” said Lana. The students have planned to raise relief funds by making a thousand origami cranes.
“I hope that when I visit Japan in the future, I know that this is a country that I had once helped,” Lana said.
Ms. Shiga explained that “one thousand cranes” is a symbol of peace and hope. The cranes will be mailed to Japan. The students have also planned other activities and fundraisers for the relief efforts for Japan.
Ms. Shiga and her students had a table at Green Brier Elementary School multicultural event on March 24. Their booth was very popular. Dressed in her Kimono, Ms. Shiga helped raise money by selling a variety of colorful origami cranes.
Shelley McRorie, a 12th grader, studied Japanese during her 10th and 11th grades. When she learned about the earthquake in Japan, she was very worried for Ms. Shiga. She could only imagine what Ms. Shiga was feeling and going through. She worries for Ms. Shiga’s parents, who are still in Japan. She hopes Japan would recover soon and is doing her best to help through fundraising activities.
Translated by Catherine Tsai