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Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

The Great Tohoku Disaster - Part 6

Read Part 5 >>

This is a recreation of my personal experiences from the e-mails that I sent to friends in Canada and Japan, TV news reports in Canada, the U.S., and Japan, and from what my wife Akiko told me.

Thursday, March 17

Hi Marnie, Got the following from my friend’s sister in Vancouver:

Hello everyone:
Tomo called about 1/2 hour ago. Foreign Affairs finally came through and called them—they have reserved 3 seats on an Aussie bus and they are making their way to Osaka—and from there—somehow—to an airport to buy tickets to get home to Vancouver. Earlier today, before Foreign Affairs called, they were resigned to staying as the trip to Tokyo by regular transport is 4 to 5 days. The nuclear reactor situation is increasingly alarming and in Sendai they are very close to the not safe zone (whatever that is) Thank you to Neal Hall and staff at the Vancouver Sun for giving our government a swift kick to get moving—this proves the power of the media.

I gave Tomo a list of stuff to take because they are shakey and in shock—radio with batteries, laptop, charged cellphones, water (they have no food) and warm clothing.

Stay tuned...I will give updates when I can. They have a lot of healing to do.

Best to everyone,

Thank goodness for the Aussies!
Will be in touch, Norm


Hi Marnie, here is the latest update from Senji’s friend in Tokyo:

Dear Norm, I contacted Senji again tonight by the phone and he and his family (mother, wife and daughter) are OK. But due to the lack of the lifeline (no gas, no water), they are now living the house of the elemental school. although we, Japan, has a terrible situation, we do our best for our future. Regards, Matsuda

All the best, Norm


Paul M is a friend of mine who I met in Sendai and now lives in Calgary, Alberta:

yeah, I really can’t fathom why canada isn’t doing more. we have a reputation of saving canuck citizens from any and all trouble—to the point of idiocy at times—so many examples of people in the mountains getting themselves into trouble on their own accord and then expecting an airlift out, etc... It does sound like Tomo has got his ticket to ride. Poor guy. Just bought his house and was buckling in for the long haul and now he is coming back with probably not much more than his backpack. I think other countries are telling their citizens to get the hell out. It seems like the yanks/brits have not only more knowledge but perhaps more concern about the dangers the radiation leak poses. the J’s have some weird mindset about we will overcome. there is nothing to overcome around the breach. you just have to leave while you can. if it turns out okay you can always go back. not evacuting and thinking it will be okay is just plain stupidity. Paul


Hi Dudes,

We came down to Tokyo on an Australian bus. Maybe heading for Nagoya tomorrow. Then Vancouver…most maybe.

More later…Tomo


Friday, March 18

Tak M is a Canadian Nisei friend who was repatriated to Japan with his family after World War Two. He now resides in Osaka.

Hi Norm:

Thank you for your two messages plus the Irish humor. Yes, right now, we all need some humor to keep us sane.

Unfortunately, as you pointed out, not only the Canadian government, but the Japanese government seemed to move at a snail’s pace. I think one reason is that there was lack of experience in crisis management and the only way to get some is to be involved in a crisis which we all want to avoid. But inexperience alone wasn’t the culprit. I get that feeling that there was incompetence as well.

It is frustrating to say the least, watching TV and seeing a situation where a ship laden with aid goods arrives at a port and unloads, but there are no trucks to take the goods where needed. Main cross country highways are in operation, but some areas beyond that point are inaccessable and deliveries are impossible. At some places, they have mountains of food, clothing, everything that is needed, only to run into a situation where there is no gas to run the trucks. Chaos would be putting it mildly. Helplessly, I have to watch and hope for the best.

I was saddened to hear about Akiko-san’s family friends missing. I wish for a miracle.

Thank you for your concern. All the guys you know in the Kansai are well. We are starting to see supermarkets and other store shelves empty of food and other essentials. There is talk of unnecessary hoarding and panic buying. Partly of course due to people buying things to send to friends and relatives in the stricken areas.

I hope when I next hear from you, your friend, Tomo will have made it back to Vancouver.

Again thank you.


Part 7 >>

© 2011 Norm Ibuki

Canada disaster earthquake Japan JPquake2011 sendai

About this series

In Japanese, kizuna means strong emotional bonds.

This series shares stories about Nikkei individual and/or community reaction and perspectives on the Great Tohoku Kanto earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the resulting tsunami and other impacts—either about supporting relief efforts or how what has happened has affected them and their feeling of connection to Japan.

If you would like to share your reactions, please see the “Submit an Article” page for general submission guidelines. We welcome submissions in English, Japanese, Spanish, and/or Portuguese, and are seeking diverse stories from around the world.

We hope that these stories bring some comfort to those affected in Japan and around the world, and that this will become like a time capsule of responses and perspectives from our global Nima-kai community for the future.

* * *

There are many organizations and relief funds established around the world providing support for Japan. Follow us on Twitter @discovernikkei for info on Nikkei relief efforts, or check the Events section. If you’re posting a Japan relief fundraising event, please add the tag “JPquake2011” to make it appear on the list of earthquake relief events.