RAFU STAFF REPORTS
Across Little Tokyo and Southern California, the story was essentially the same for local residents attempting to connect to loved ones in the quake-affected areas of Japan: we can’t get through.
A Little Tokyo shop owner who is a Sendai native said she and her husband have been attempting to contact family and friends in Miyagi Prefecture since news of the quake broke, but to no avail.
“Some customers have come in talking about it,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
“My friend’s husband is from Miyagi, but he hasn’t heard anything from them either.”
The refrain was a familiar one, with phone and electric service out across the region in northeastern Japan, and Internet service is spotty at best.
Hiroshi Ono, a chiropractor in Yamagata City some 35 miles from Sendai, said while the quake was strongly felt in his area, there didn’t seem to be significant damage there.
“There’s no electricity in all of the Tohoku area it seems,” he told the Rafu by telephone early Saturday morning in Japan. “This is the first time in my life that I’ve spent the night by candlelight, but my wife and kids are all fine.”
Ono, who was living in Los Angeles when the 1994 Northridge earthquake struck, said that residents in his town have not been given information as to when electricity is expected to be restored.
Brian Kito, the director of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, had been fielding questions at the Koban on First Street for much of Friday morning, about information and where donations could be sent.
At lunchtime Friday, Kito was in contact with the Japanese Consul General’s office about possibly arranging for the Koban to serve as a donation collection center. He said he hasn’t been able to reach anyone in Miyagi Prefecture, though he has heard from contacts in Tokyo, which also experienced severe shaking from the quake, which occurred at around 2:46 Friday afternoon there.
Kito, who over the last few years helped to develop the local Tanabata Festival with Miyagi Kenjinkai president Toshihito Yonezawa, recently returned from Sendai, the largest city in the area hardest hit by the temblor and ensuing tsunami. He said he had made numerous attempts to contact Mr. Shinomatsu, who donated paper and other supplies for the festival from his company in Sendai.
Kito also was concerned about the welfare of Kumiko Tsuchida, an associate professor from Sendai University who had been visiting Los Angeles to do conduct some Nikkei research, before returning home on Sunday.
Yonezawa, who has family in Sendai, said all his efforts to track people down there have been fruitless.
“I can’t contact anyone, nothing, not even email,” he said. “I called the Miyagi Prefecture office, sent email, but I think it might be a couple of days before they can communicate.”
He added that he attempted to contact family members living south of Sendai via cell phone.
“I worry about the people there, near Sendai Airport,” Yonezawa explained, “But no one is there. The same thing with email, no response.”
Video on NHK following the tsunami’s first surge showed Sendai Airport mostly submerged on Friday afternoon.
Masako Chai, a former Sendai resident who now lives in Downey, said she had spoken to her niece there after a moderate earthquake struck the same region on Tuesday.
“They said everything was okay,” Chai explained “Now, I saw on the Internet that they had a big, big earthquake. I was surprised and tried to contact them until midnight, but I couldn’t reach them.”
Chai said she got up at 4:30 a.m. Friday to attempt her call again but all lines were down. She said one of her relatives lives in Shiogama, one of the towns where a great deal of damage has been reported.
“It’s such a nice place there, and I go once about every three years. I’m hoping that they’re okay.”