Some scientists estimate that the tragic earthquake that has recently devastated Japan shifted the axis of the Earth by almost seven inches. It has shifted the lives of several UVU students much more.
Tenkai Kawazoe is the president of the Japanese Club on campus, and the disaster of March 11 has reached around the globe to touch his life directly. “I lost a couple of my friends in the tsunami and the earthquake,” Kawazoe said.
“It just affects everything.” Almost 10,000 have perished in the disaster, with tens of thousands still missing and hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
Kawazoe has also been spearheading the effort to collect donations to send to the Red Cross and to help with food, clothing and heat for those affected in Japan. Though he has been at UVU for four years, the time line of his return to Japan may have changed. “I was planning to [go home sooner], but now I can’t,” Kawazoe said.
He said getting into and out of the country is difficult at this point, and it could be some time before he is able.
Kawazoe also said that many of his friends in Tokyo fear that another earthquake might hit there. “It’s scary, but you cannot do anything about it.” Over six hundred aftershocks have kept the country shaking in recent weeks and kept many Japanese, both at home and abroad, in an ongoing state of stress.
The continuing crises and difficulties are a constant presence for many, and it is something they try and keep up with. “We hear many, many stories. We have been watching TV almost every day, many hours a day,” said Junko Watabe, a coordinator and senior adviser in the International Center on campus. “Some of my husband’s relatives are from Sendai also, but we still can’t contact some of them,” Watabe said.
The coastal area around the northern city of Sendai has been especially hard hit due to its closeness to the epicenter of the offshore quake. Thus, television and other media, including lists of the dead and missing, have become ways of learning more about those who are still out of contact in that area.
Watabe said that in many ways the situation brings to mind the years during the Second World War. She insists, however that everyone has to think about more than their own family. She was quick to focus on the stories of unity and selflessness that have come out, including the ongoing fundraiser.
“The students, they had spring break, but they spent hours folding paper cranes … they just didn’t think about themselves,” Watabe said. Young Kwak, a student from South Korea and president of the Korean Club, felt like this could be an opportunity to help rebuild bridges as well as lives, so he has been helping to collect donations.
“We used to be enemies of each other, right? But even from our country, when we see this kind of thing happen, we feel really sad about it,” Young said. “It’s going to bring back later, you know. Whenever we have a hard time, they are going to help us out.”
Young said that representing his country by helping Japan is important and could help heal old wounds between Japan and South Korea.