Kent State Japanese community deals with events back home


A Japanese man waits while Natori firefighters work to pry open his car to look for his missing family members after he found the family car in Natori, Japan, Monday. The firefighters found no one in the car. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Taylor Titus

Takahiro Sato, assistant professor in physical education, repeatedly called his family in Tokyo after hearing about the earthquake.

“This is the first time the phone line disconnected,” Takahiro Sato said. “The phone line never rang — it was just silence.”

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami hit northern Japan on Friday. Floods and fires from the natural disasters caused panic for the people living in Japan and their loved ones abroad.

There are 37 students from Japan studying at Kent State. There are no Kent State students studying in Japan, wrote David Di Maria, director of international student recruitment, admissions and advising for the Office of International Affairs, in an e-mail.

Takahiro Sato has heard from his family via e-mail. They said all of the subway transportation was shut down. People evacuated their homes and relocated to school gyms. The grocery stores were completely empty.

“My main concern is how long will it take to bring back their normal life,” he said.

Student organization efforts to help Japan

The Kent State International Mentors is having a table in the Student Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this week. The organization is sending money to the ShelterBox organization, which sends boxes of various care supplies to Japanese families. Its goal is to raise $1,000.

“Our organization is based on family and support,” said Carrie Circosta, assistant director of Student and Recent Graduate Programs. “We try to be a home away from home for our international students. This is the perfect example of when we need to step up and do something.”

The Kent UNICEF Chapter met Tuesday to discuss fundraising plans.

Shota Kuriki, a freshman business major from Tokyo, talked to his family and friends through Skype after the earthquake. He has experienced smaller earthquakes while growing up. He said every time they go to a new place they have training for earthquakes.

“Our training is always hiding under tables, but we don’t do that during a real earthquake,” Kuriki said. “We don’t take training seriously. I never feel scared because we are used to earthquakes.”

Kenya Sato, a freshman political science major from Chiba, Japan, has visited the cities that were hit the worst. After hearing about the earthquake, he had to call his family many times before he got through to them. His family told him that many of Tokyo’s roads and buildings are broken.

“I want to see my family, it is most important,” Kenya Sato said.

Takahiro Sato said he has been watching the news and calling his parents every day to make sure they are OK.

“It’s really hard to deal with,” Takahiro Sato said. “I just cannot believe it’s really happening. It looks like a movie to me.”

Contact Taylor Titus at [email protected]