When news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan broke last night, Shinji Kawakubo when straight to the phone.
“I talked to my family, my friends until 3 a.m. to make sure they’re still alive,” said the owner of Kawakubo’s. “They said it was so scary.”
Kawakubo is one of several members of Revelstoke’s small Japanese community impacted by the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, last Thursday night, and sent a 10 metre high tsunami roaring in from the ocean.
“I was surprised then I was so sad,” said Kazuhito Hayashi, a chef at Kawakubo’s who is from the Tokyo area.
Both Kawakubo and Hayashi are from near Tokyo, where they still have friends and family. When we spoke this afternoon, Kawakubo said he had just spoken to his mother, who said they only just got power back.
“They were so panicked. They had no idea and then suddenly, bang,” he said with a clap of his hands.
They also said they had friends living in Miyagi Prefecture, where the earthquake was felt hardest. There was still no communication with them.
Tomo Fujimura, who hails from the west coast of Japan, remembers being caught in the Kobe earthquake of 1995 that killed more than 6,400 people.
“That’s why I moved out,” he said. “I had enough of shaking my body.”
Fujimura just returned from a trip to Japan last week. He said he was in Tome, just north of where the tsunami hit, visiting the family of Shokei Kumagai, one of the victims of the 1910 Rogers Pass avalanche.
“I tried to call them but there’s no connections whatsoever,” Fujimura said. His wife Yuko and child are still in Japan, near Kyoto on the west coast. He said he spoke to them to make sure they’re prepared in case anything happens there.
He also pondered hosting a fundraiser to raise money to assist earthquake victims and rebuilding.
The damage was worst in Sendai, the city closest to the earthquake’s epicentre, but large tremors were felt in Tokyo, 380 kilometres away. Kawakubo said his girlfriend spent six hours getting home because all the trains were shut down and traffic was at a standstill.
Japan is no stranger to earthquakes and students are taught in school what to do in case of an earthquake. Still, Thursday’s earthquake is the strongest ever recorded in Japan, collapsing buildings, breaking apart roads and damaging nuclear power plants. Perhaps most destructive of all, it sent a massive tsunami roaring inland and washing away cars, trees, houses and almost everything else in its way.
“It’s very peaceful people living there,” said Hayashi. “The Japanese people are very peaceful. I can’t imagine.”
Added Kawakubo: “Every Japanese person knows about tsunamis but there’s so many people missing. It’s just so sad.”
Said Fujimura: “It’s tough situation for people who survive, losing family and friends.”
Do you know any Revelstokians living in Japan or any Japanese living in Revelstoke? If you would like to contribute to this story, please call 250-837-4667 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.