The catastrophe in Japan on March 10, 2011 was sudden and devastating. Many survivors of the earthquake and tsunami are still searching for friends and family members, while trying to rebuild their lives in the midst of enormous challenges. In the aftermath of the natural disaster, news stations broadcasted messages from people in Japan and other countries hoping to connect with loved ones.
Yuka Uno, a visiting student at St. Lawrence from Japan, struggled during this time. “When I first saw the news, I called but couldn’t get a reply though cell phone or internet,” she said. “I was very worried, but I heard from my family the next day by email.”
Uno is from Toyota, a city in central Japan. Her family and friends are all safe, but every part of Japan has been very affected. “I am very frustrated- the north part of Japan is suffering. They lost everything- home, family, and are still missing people. I want to go to help them but I am in the US.”
Despite Uno’s distance from her country, she decided to take advantage of the situation. “I am not in Japan, but I can get students here involved to support.” The most needed forms of aid are money and donations. This past week was donation week. There was a table in the Student Center from Monday through Friday, encouraging people to aid in helping Japan. She also organized a candlelight vigil from six to 7pm on Wednesday, March 30th. Uno and others showed videos of the earthquake and tsunami in Dean Eaton, followed by the vigil on the quad. She is working to encourage students to send messages to the Japanese people. “The people need to maintain hope and will. They have been very strong.”
Uno is very appreciative of the role of the US in the crisis. “The US has given lots of help and support.” She also mentioned that China was a vital friend and the relationship between the two countries has improved. New Zealand, still suffering from their own natural disaster, also aided the relief. “I realized that Japan is not alone and can rely on support from all over the world.”
The actions of the Japanese people during the crisis and after exemplified their strength and compassion. Uno was careful to pick her worlds, but said because of the earthquake, “Japan is more united and people support each other.” She told a story about her friend in Tokyo, who had to walk four hours to reach her destination because all the transportation was stopped. There were many people doing the same and a lady at a bakery was giving away sandwiches, even though almost all other restaurants and stores were closed. There were also many people standing with signs that said feel free to use our bathroom. Seeing the reaction of the Japanese people to such a devastating event, Uno said, “I am proud to be Japanese.”
Uno hopes that students will continue to be interested in Japan and its culture. “Japan will become stronger and be back. Never lose hope. I want people to stay interested in Japan- not for just one week.”