I was 20 when I took my first trip out of Hawaii. I went to Japan and stayed for three weeks at my grandfather's temple meeting relatives I'd only heard about but never met in person. I spent a lot of time with my cousin, Masako and her rambunctious baby brother, Norio. Everybody thought it was humorous that the first English word I probably taught Norio was, "no." Masako was in kindergarten at the time.
I took this photo of the Tanabata festival that I went to with my grandmother, Masako and Norio. We'd gone to an evening kindergarten program to see Masako and her classmates perform. It is still such a beautiful, happy memory.
With letters and the advent of computers, we've been able to maintain contact. Masako has visited us in Chicago and we've spent time with her and the rest of the family in Sendai.
I e-mailed Masako after the earthquake and got this reply yesterday from her.
"I am sorry that I could not reply to you earlier regarding the heavy earthquake which hit Tohoku area. I think you must have been very worried.
We are all okay, including my brother Norio’s family and the relatives in Shichigahama. I am thankful that we are alive, considering the fact so many people lost their lives by this earthquake.
In Miyagi prefecture, more than 6,000 people’s death was confirmed as of today, and the number is increasing everyday. Since there are still many people unidentified and not found yet, I don’t know how many people were actually killed. Many of them were killed by the tsunami which hit coastal areas on the Pacific.
And there is one more great problem which troubles us now. That is radioactive contamination in Fukushima atomic power plant. In Fukushima, there is a big atomic power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company. (The electricity for Kanto area is produced in Fukushima, not in Kanto.) Since Fukushima plants were damaged by the earthquake, radioactivity continues to leak. The air, the sea, soil are being contaminated. The nation prohibited shipment of some vegetables, milk produced in some areas.
Several days ago, the water purification plant which supplies water to Tokyo areas, showed the relatively high number of radioactivity and the government recommended not to give tap water to babies under 1 year old. So, people rushed to buy mineral waters, and mineral waters are not easy to gain now. A few days ago, the government cancelled this announcement because the number of the Tokyo purification plant showed lower levels, but I am not sure if it is really safe or not. Since my son needs powder milk besides breast milk, I am really worried about the water contamination problem. Not all mineral waters are good for babies, since the high minerals are a burden for the kidneys. Low mineral content in waters under 30% per liter are desirable. Please do not worry so much. I could already secure enough stock of mineral waters with the help of my husband.
For three days after earthquake, I slept with my parents and son in my car. Now, we are sleeping in house. At first, we had no water, electricity, or gas. Later, electricity resumed, and water came yesterday. It will take longer for gas.
(We cannot take a bath until gas is available.)
At first, we couldn’t buy food at all. Today, we are able to buy food, though many shops are still closed and we must wait in long lines to buy.
We cannot obtain gasoline yet. Many gas service stations are closed, and once we find a station open, we must wait 5-6 hours to buy. They won’t supply gasoline for a full tank (like up to 2,000-3,000 yen limitation), so we must return again soon. I am really tired of getting gasoline.
But, I hope things are getting better. Considering many people died, I am thankful for what we have.
Please do not worry. You need not send anything, because I am not sure if the goods will be delivered to our door. Transportation to Tohoku area is limited yet.
A second e-mail followed soon after I wrote to her:
I found another mail from you after I sent my last mail.
Thank you for worrying about my baby and offering a “vacation” in Hawaii.
I really appreciate it.
But, it is difficult to leave Sendai since I must go to work and my parents do not want to leave their house either. Norio already asked my parents again and again to come to his house in Akiu, because Akiu had water supply earlier than Yagiyama and they could take a bath without gas( with electric). But my parents refused. Their Yagiyama house is more comfortable for them.
I am still going to work, leaving my son with my parents. I had many busy days after the earthquake, since so many people rushed to my husband’s shop to buy cassette gas, electric pot, etc. as substitute for gas. Since he cannot collect enough supplies in Sendai, he had employees drive very far to Niigata everyday to obtain goods. (until a few days ago.) Since we cannot obtain gasoline in Sendai, we were getting it in Niigata so far.
I will write again when I can. Please do not worry so much.