Discover Nikkei

Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

March 18, 2011 - March 11, 2023

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.

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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.

2011 Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami, Japan communities community support earthquakes Japan JPquake2011

Stories from this series

Thumbnail for In Remembrance of the Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami: An Interview with The Hidden Japan’s Derek Yamashita—Part 2
In Remembrance of the Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami: An Interview with The Hidden Japan’s Derek Yamashita—Part 2

March 11, 2023 • Japanese American National Museum

Read Part 1 >>  GOING BEYOND DEREK’S TOHOKU WORK Your work at The Hidden Japan has expanded to include creating events in Japan and America that celebrate our cultures and help provide cross-cultural understanding. What drove you to that mission for your business? As a Japanese American growing up in the Japanese American (JA) community, I have been able to see that the Japanese culture we are able to see in LA is only a small window into Japan. Even …

Thumbnail for In Remembrance of the Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami: An Interview with The Hidden Japan’s Derek Yamashita — Part 1
In Remembrance of the Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami: An Interview with The Hidden Japan’s Derek Yamashita — Part 1

March 10, 2023 • Japanese American National Museum

Since 2011, March 11 has become a day of remembrance for the hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives that were changed forever by the devastating Great Tohoku Kanto earthquake. Many lives were lost due to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It caused numerous problems that affected the people and region in the weeks that followed, and continued for months and years to come. From the failure of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima to saltwater contamination of the soil to …

Thumbnail for Remembering: The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 10 Years Later
Remembering: The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 10 Years Later

March 11, 2021 • Norm Masaji Ibuki

This past Feb. 13th, there was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Fukushima. I froze. Cold sweat and a familiar sense of panic came raging back. Flashback: March 11, 2011.  I clearly recall waking up for school and getting an odd, frantic phone call from CBC radio asking for a comment about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. What the hell was going on? I wondered, annoyed by the early morning disruption. All morning at school, I was preoccupied by finding …

Thumbnail for Tenth Anniversary of Japan’s Tsunami Disaster – A Visual Story of Animal Rescue
Tenth Anniversary of Japan’s Tsunami Disaster – A Visual Story of Animal Rescue

March 5, 2021 • Lexie Boezeman Cataldo

We are fast approaching the tenth anniversary of the horrific earthquake and tsunami disaster that was unleased upon Japan on March 11, 2011. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan created a tsunami that flattened a 200-mile stretch (518 km) of coastline, and traveled in some areas as far as six miles inland. The tsunami then caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima. The fury of mother nature that killed over 18,000 people must …

Thumbnail for The Mexican Piñatas and Blankets Sent to Japan in Support of the Victims of the Great Earthquake of 2011
The Mexican Piñatas and Blankets Sent to Japan in Support of the Victims of the Great Earthquake of 2011

March 10, 2017 • Sergio Hernández Galindo

It was early in the morning of March 11, 2011, and Midori Suzuki was having trouble sleeping. That same day, the Japanese Mexican Association was to inaugurate an art exhibit called Flor de Maguey that she had organized with some of her fellow painters. After Midori was finally able to fall asleep, a friend called to tell her there had been a massive earthquake in Japan. Still not totally awake, she answered quickly: “Don’t worry! It’s probably just one of …

Thumbnail for In Minamisanriku, Surveying the Aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake
In Minamisanriku, Surveying the Aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake

Sept. 20, 2016 • Nancy Matsumoto

On my last day in Minamisanriku, a small group of us from World in Tohoku signed up for a tour of the town’s downtown coastal area, which was decimated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Until then we had been immersed in brainstorming ways to grow the organizations of a group of dedicated and inspiring social entrepreneurs. They were so positive, and so alive that it was hard to viscerally grasp the scope of the natural disaster …

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Authors in This Series

Gil Asakawa is a journalist, editor, author, and blogger who covers Japan, Japanese American and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) culture and social justice issues in blogs, articles, and social media. He is a nationally-known speaker, panelist, and expert on Japanese American and Asian American history and identity. He’s the author of Being Japanese American (Stone Bridge Press) and his next book, Tabemasho! Let’s Eat! (Stone Bridge Press), a history of Japanese food in America which will be published in 2022. His blog:

Updated January 2022

The Japanese Peruvian Association (Asociación Peruano Japonesa, APJ) is a nonprofit organization that brings together and represents Japanese citizens who live in Peru and their descendants, as well as their institutions.

Updated May 2009

Frank Buckley is co-anchor of KTLA's Emmy Award-winning signature broadcast, the KTLA Morning News. Buckley joined KTLA/CW in June 2005 from CNN where he had been a Los Angeles-based national correspondent.

Within weeks of Buckley's arrival at KTLA, he traveled to Iran to cover the presidential election. In addition to his duties as anchor of the KTLA Morning News, Buckley also writes the Buckley Blog at KTLA.COM.

Updated March 2011

Lexie Boezeman Cataldo is presently living in Thousand Oaks, California as a photographer. Lexie spent over 25 years in Asia, 18 years of which was in Japan. Her passion for animals and nature has her volunteering in animal rescue and photographing animals to help them find their forever homes. She is the proud mother of two beautiful girls and three demanding cats.

Updated March 2021

Keiko Fukuda was born in Oita, Japan. After graduating from International Christian University, she worked for a publishing company. Fukuda moved to the United States in 1992 where she became the chief editor of a Japanese community magazine. In 2003, Fukuda started working as a freelance writer. She currently writes articles for both Japanese and U.S. magazines with a focus on interviews. Fukuda is the co-author of Nihon ni umarete (“Born in Japan”) published by Hankyu Communications. Website: 

Updated July 2020

Kristin Hanaoka is a fourth generation Japanese American from the Chicago suburbs. She graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in Elementary Education. She is currently teaching English in Japan with the Japan Teaching and Exchange Program as an Assistant Language Teacher in Takahagi, Ibaraki-ken, located directly south of Fukushima-ken on the northeast coast of Japan. Kristin has been in Japan since July 2009 and teaches at several high schools in the northern Ibaraki area.

Updated Apirl 2011

Born in Los Angeles, incarcerated at Amache, educated in Boston and Utah, Lily currently lives in Salt Lake City with husband John. She taught school for 13 years and had a stained glass business for more than three decades from which she is semi-retired. She is a watercolor artist and has written a creative autobiography “Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth Behind a World War II Fence,” which will be published by the University of Utah Press in the spring of 2014.

Updated August 2012

Sergio Hernández Galindo is a graduate of Colegio de México, where he majored in Japanese studies. He has published numerous articles and books about Japanese emigration to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

His most recent book, Los que vinieron de Nagano. Una migración japonesa a México (Those who came from Nagano: A Japanese migration to Mexico, 2015) tells the stories of emigrants from that prefecture before and after the war. In his well-known book, La guerra contra los japoneses en México. Kiso Tsuru y Masao Imuro, migrantes vigilados (The war against Japanese people in Mexico: Kiso Tsuro and Masao Imuro, migrants under surveillance), he explained the consequences of conflict between the United States and Japan for the Japanese community decades before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

He has taught classes and led conferences on this topic at universities in Italy, Chile, Peru, and Argentina as well as Japan, where he was part of the group of foreign specialists in the Kanagawa Prefecture and a fellow of the Japan Foundation, affiliated with Yokohama National University. He is currently a professor and researcher with the Historical Studies Unit of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Updated April 2016

Duality is a theme that Jay constantly explores with his art. Being a bilingual Japanese American, there is a duality in thoughts, words and translation. He also receives a lot of his artistic inspiration from the Japanese culture itself, and how that differs from his American life. His art is a mix of abstract watercolor and hyper detailed robot technology, constantly questioning the balance between man vs nature, old vs new.

Jay was born and raised in the Bay Area, California. He spent a couple years studying art in Napa County, then moved down to Southern California and graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 2006. He then worked as a professional artist and designer in Los Angeles for a few years, before moving overseas to Tokyo in the spring of 2010.

Updated March 2011

Writer Norm Masaji Ibuki lives in Oakville, Ontario. He has written extensively about the Canadian Nikkei community since the early 1990s. He wrote a monthly series of articles (1995-2004) for the Nikkei Voice newspaper (Toronto) which chronicled his experiences while in Sendai, Japan. Norm now teaches elementary school and continues to write for various publications. 

Updated August 2014

Representative director of Immigration Information Organization Co., Ltd. Editor-in-chief of Immigrants, a multicultural information magazine published by the company. Joined the Mainichi Shimbun in 1974. Served as a reporter in the city affairs department at the Osaka headquarters, a reporter in the political department, editorial writer, etc. Retired in March 2007 as deputy editorial director. Served as an advisor to Wakayama Broadcasting System and a media consultant to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

(Updated October 2009)

Established in 1985, Japanese American National Museum (JANM) promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM provides a voice for Japanese Americans and a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 70 exhibitions onsite while traveling 17 exhibits to leading cultural museums in the US, Japan, and South America. For more information, visit or follow us on social media @jamuseum.

Updated March 2023

Soji Kashiwagi has written numerous plays, articles, columns and essays on the Japanese American experience, many of which have focused on the WWII imprisonment of the Japanese American community. He's a playwright, co-founder and Executive Director of the Grateful Crane Ensemble, a non-profit theater company based in Los Angeles, CA. With Grateful Crane, he has led three goodwill tours to Tohoku, Japan in 2014, 2016 and 2018 where the group has performed songs of hope and healing for survivors of the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Updated March 2021

María Laura Martelli Giachino has a degree in Journalism (Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina - 2015). Graduated with her thesis "The Tohoku catastrophe. An analysis of the media reconstruction of Japan's image in the face of the tsunami." He traveled to Japan to interview residents of one of the cities affected by the disaster, in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. He continues his studies of Japanese and English. She has been General Editor of the digital media Alternativa Nikkei since March 2016. Since she was a child, she was passionate about the culture and history of Japan, which led her to venture into the language. He has knowledge of Drawing, Illustration and Digital Editing that he incorporates into manga-style drawing.

Last updated May 2019

Nisei Japanese-Argentine. In 1990, he came to Japan as a government-financed international student. He received a Master’s degree in Law from the Yokohama National University. In 1997, he established a translation company specialized in public relations and legal work. He was a court interpreter in district courts and family courts in Yokohama and Tokyo. He also works as a broadcast interpreter at NHK. He teaches the history of Japanese immigrants and the educational system in Japan to Nikkei trainees at JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). He also teaches Spanish at the University of Shizuoka and social economics and laws in Latin America at the Department of law at Dokkyo University. He gives lectures on multi-culturalism for foreign advisors. He has published books in Spanish on the themes of income tax and resident status. In Japanese, he has published “54 Chapters to Learn About Argentine” (Akashi Shoten), “Learn How to Speak Spanish in 30 Days” (Natsumesha) and others.

Updated June 2013

Nancy Matsumoto is a freelance writer and editor who covers agroecology, food and drink, the arts, and Japanese and Japanese American culture. She has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Time, People, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Civil Eats, NPR’s The Salt,, and the online Densho Encyclopedia of the Japanese American Incarceration, among other publications. Her book, Exploring the World of Japanese Craft Sake: Rice, Water, Earth, was published in May 2022. Another of her books, By the Shore of Lake Michigan, an English-language translation of Japanese tanka poetry written by her grandparents, is forthcoming from UCLA’s Asian American Studies Press.  Twitter/Instagram: @nancymatsumoto

Updated August 2022

Okinawan American Susan Miyagi McCormac is a New York-based writer who started the website JapanCulture•NYC in May 2011 as a resource for all things Japanese in New York City. She also blogs about her Okinawan heritage and her fascination with Japanese culture at

Updated March 2012

Henrique Minatogawa is a freelance journalist and photographer, Brazilian third generation Japanese descendant. His family origins are Okinawa, Nagasaki and Nara prefectures. In 2007, he was granted a scholarship Kenpi Kenshu in Nara prefecture. In Brazil, has been working in the coverage of events related to Japanese culture. (Photo: Henrique Minatogawa)

Updated July 2020

Mia Nakaji Monnier is a writer in Los Angeles. Her journalism and essays have appeared in BuzzFeed News, Shondaland, The Washington Post, and more. She started her career in Little Tokyo at Discover Nikkei and The Rafu Shimpo. You can find her on Twitter @miagabb and read more of her work at

Updated May 2021

Gwen Muranaka, Senior Editor, has been with The Rafu Shimpo since 2001. Prior to that, she worked in Tokyo at the Japan Times where she still contributes the weekly cartoon “Noodles.” She attended UCLA where she received a BA in English literature and also studied one year at Waseda University. Muranaka started in community newspapers as assistant editor at the Pacific Citizen.

Updated March 2021

Harumi Nako Fuentes is a social communicator with a major in journalism from the University of Lima. She has worked in public and private institutions, as a teacher, press analyst, writer and editor of various publications. He has followed specialization courses in image and marketing and has a diploma in Cultural Management. She is currently head of Communications for the Peruvian Japanese Association (APJ), editor of Kaikan magazine and member of the editorial committee of the APJ Editorial Fund.

Last updated April 2019

Born in Hokkaido. Joined Daido Life Insurance in 1976. In 1992, started volunteering to help foreigners living in Japan learn Japanese. Through this volunteer work, he met Japanese-Canadians. He left the company in 2011. Currently, he continues to do various volunteer work while working at the Miyagi Prefectural Government. He lives in Sendai City.

(Updated February 2013)

Victor Nishio Yasuoka is a third-generation descendant of Japanese immigrants in Peru. Halfway through elementary school, he moved with his family to Panama, where he finished school. Almost 10 years later, he returned to Peru, finding the country completely changed. He studied architecture at a public university, but realized that his greatest interest lay in the field of communications. Today, living in Lima, Victor is a publicist, visual artist, and columnist.

To take a look at his work, visit his new website:, where you will find all his artistic, graphic, and literary output.

Updated August 2009

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA by his Issei parents who raised him with Japanese values at home while being educated by American schools, he was able to assimilate to both cultures and languages from an early age. Has been in the semiconductor and electronics industry for over 25 years and now has his own consulting company where he helps bridge the technology and culture gap between Japan and North America.

He became involved with JAMsj in the late Summer of 2010 by helping with the construction of the JAMsj Exhibit area. He is now more often found as a Docent on the weekends, with an occasional hammering here and there. Michael also joined the JAMsj Board in May of 2011. His attraction to JAMsj was the opportunity to give back to the local community while learning more about the Japanese American experience. “I’ve learned more from the internees who visit JAMsj then I will ever read about” says Michael.

Updated January 2014 

Lorne Spry has lived in Japan since 1993 — most of those years in Sendai, Miyagi. He is married with children and teaches as a contracting lecturer in tertiary education. His interests include writing, history, politics, sociology, photography and cycling. Very thankfully, the Fujita/Spry family lived through the Great Northeastern Earthquake without significant damage to their home or loss of loved ones.

Updated April 2012

Born in Miyagi Prefecture. After graduating from the Oil Painting Department of Musashino Art University in 1971, he studied art in Granada, Spain in 1975. He has had numerous solo exhibitions and shows. He has lived in Mexico for 24 years. While working as a painter, he also serves as vice president of the Miyagi Aoba Association of Mexico and is a member of the Japan-Mexico Association.

(Updated December 2011)

Wayne Tada is a third generation "Sansei" who grew up in San Francisco, and moved to Los Angeles after college graduation. He worked as a Financial Analyst and Corporate Instructor for Blue Cross of California. Now retired after 35 years, he enjoys sports photography and relearning "Nihongo" and getting involved with "things Japanese" within the Japanese American community. His goal is to lend his voice and support to other Nisei and Sansei in keeping the Japanese American heritage alive for future generations.

His current focus is in San Francisco where its Japan Town is threatened by expected commercial real estate development which would remove traces of the Japanese American community that he grew up in during the Post War Years. He has written several articles published in the Nichi Bei Times to advocate the preservation and restoration efforts by the current local population and business interests at large.

Updated March 2011

Masami Takahashi is currently an Associate professor of psychology at Northeastern Illinois University. He spent the last 20 years studying developmental psychology, specializing in late adulthood. His research focus has been on the psychological strengths of older adults including the concepts of wisdom and spirituality.

He is the author of a documentary film, “The Last Kamikaze: Testimonials from WWII Suicide Pilots”, which tells the story of Japanese teenagers recruited as suicide bombers during World War Two.

He lives in Chicago with his family.

The Last Kamikaze: Testimonials from WWII Suicide Pilots links:

Last updated March 2011

Marsha Takeda-Morrison is a writer and art director living in Los Angeles who drinks way too much coffee. Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Parents, Genlux, Niche,, and other lifestyle, education, and parenting publications. She also covers pop culture and has interviewed the likes of Paris Hilton, Jessica Alba, and Kim Kardashian. While she spends a lot of time in Hollywood she has never had plastic surgery, given birth to an actor’s child, or been on a reality show. Yet.

Updated May 2023

Debora Toth is a freelance writer and editor based on Long Island, NY. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Emirates Airlines magazine, Family Fun, and many other magazines and newspapers.

Since 1999, Tak Toyoshima has been creating the comic strip Secret Asian Man which has been printed as a monthly, a weekly and a daily syndicated strip. SAM focuses on the dynamics between groups such as race, religion, politics, dog people vs. cat people and any other group we find ourselves associated with. Keep up with SAM at

Updated March 18, 2011

Born in Costa Rica, Latin America. Has a Japanese father and a Chilean mother. Due to his father's work, they moved every three years to Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Japan, Suriname, Chile, and then back to Japan. Currently, he works at the Association of Japanese Abroad office in Yokohama, where he is in charge of supporting the activities of Japanese-descendants from the Nippon Foundation . As a first step towards establishing an alumni association for Japanese-descendants, he has launched an official page for Japanese-descendants from overseas .

(Updated March 4, 2008)