japan

Japan was struck by the most powerful earthquake in its recorded history on March 11, triggering a tsunami that devastated its northeastern coastal region. The death toll is estimated to be over 10,000, with over 14,000 people still missing and as many as 19,000 living in shelters.

Viewers around the world watched in shock as broadcast news stations aired video footage of the quake and subsequent tsunami, which Japanese international student Mao Yamada describes as “what looked like part of a movie.”

Most of Yamada’s family and friends live near Tokyo and she has confirmed with them that they are all safe. In spite of this, she says the images in her mind of her homeland being overpowered by such a powerful natural disaster left her with an uneasy feeling.

“I had a hard time falling asleep during spring break because aftershocks were continuously hitting Japan, so I was worried about my family so much,” Yamada said.

Yamada explains that not everyone was fortunate enough to escape the wrath of the disaster.

“One of my friends is from Sendai and her family lived there,” said Yamada. “The girl was in Tokyo, and I heard that she still hasn’t made contact with her parents. She actually drove to Sendai to find her family, but I don’t think she found them.”

Sherrie Voss Matthews, media and marketing coordinator for the Office of International Programs (OIP), confirmed that UTSA had two students studying in southern Japan who have returned to the U.S.

OIP has also reached out to more than 20 students from Japan and sent them information on available counseling services.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with those who are affected by the events in Japan,” Matthews said.

“Having had the opportunity to call Hiroshima my home for three years, I saw first-hand how this city, once demolished by the atomic bomb, has rebuilt itself and how its people are full of life,” Japanese instructor Keri Toma said. “I am sure that eastern Japan will follow suit.”

Toma says the “gambari” or “do your best; keep fighting” spirit is a large part of the Japanese culture, and she has no doubt that the resilience of the Japanese will give them the strength and courage to rebuild and restore their country and people.

Aside from widespread structural devastation, flooding and impaired telecommunication and electricity systems, Japan is now battling a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and threats of radiation contamination in surrounding areas.

Several explosions have been reported at the plant since the earthquake and tsunami struck the area. Plant workers continue their efforts to cool reactors in hopes of controlling radiation levels.

“Japan now faces many challenges, including the environmental threat and health issues stemming from the possible meltdown of the nuclear plants,” said Mimi Yu, associate director of the UTSA East Asia Institute.

“We will undoubtedly observe the regional business impact around the Sendai area as well as domestic and international business impacts related to Japan in the years to come.”

The events that transpired in Japan have evoked significant support from nations around the globe. Yamada explains that seeing people come to Japan’s aid in this time of vulnerability is humbling.

“I feel like we have to work together to make sure everything works out now,” Yamada said.

“Also I’m very thankful to people all over the world. So many people support Japan now, and many Japanese people are moved about it. I think this was a good chance for Japanese people to notice how many people are caring about us.”

The Office of International Programs encourages those interested in donating to the Red Cross to visit the organization’s website or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami.

UTSA’s Japanese Club is holding a fund-raiser to benefit Japan earthquake/tsunami relief efforts. To date, they have raised over $2,500. They will be accepting donations on March 29 and March 30. The downtown campus events will be in the FS breezeway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The main campus events will be on the side of the McKinney Humanities Building (previously HSS) facing the JPL from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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