Japanese earthquake hits home

Nearly six weeks ago, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook the country of Japan to its core and almost 9,000 miles away here in the city of Charleston, Ayaka Hisanaga was left to worry about her family still in Japan.

Hisanaga, a first-year graduate student in clinical psychology, left Yokohama, Japan, in 2006 to begin her education in Eastern, which she finished May of last year.

“I wanted to improve my English, and I was looking at Midwest schools like Idaho and Eastern was the cheapest I could find,” Hisanaga said.

According to Hisanaga, her hometown, Yokohama, is south of Tokyo and is the second biggest city in Japan.

Hisanaga said a few of her relatives lived close to the Fukashima nuclear plant but were outside of the evacuation zone at the time of the earthquake warning.

“The epicenter was 200 miles north from my hometown and they were still getting aftershocks at least three times a day,” Hisanaga said. “There is a great of anxiety, but aftershocks are still noticeable.”

Hisanaga said she was not able to get in contact with her mom or sister until 16 hours after the earthquake because of the down phone lines.

“Amazingly, the Internet was connected way before telephones so my mom was able to call me on Skype,” she said.

Hisanaga also said the early depletion of local food in her hometown was an issue for her family members

Japanese people do not shop for food like Americans do instead of shopping for a week or a month in Japan they shop for one day, she said.

“By the time my mother and sister got off work in the evening, there wasn’t much food (available) except for rice for about two weeks,” Hisanaga said.

Hisanaga said she stopped watching American television stations because of their under-reporting of the destruction of Japanese cities, Hisanaga said.

“From what I hear from my family, my friends and Japanese news stations, it’s worse that what (American television) make it seem here,” she said. “It was upsetting to find all of those bad situations that I didn’t even know about.”

Even the survivors were dying in the shelters, she said.

The stress of the earthquake and her mounting schoolwork caused her to become depressed, she said.

“I wasn’t functioning at all for like two weeks,” Hisanaga said. “I would say I’m experiencing the trauma with my peers back (in Japan) even though I’m here.”

Hisanaga said she has seen an Eastern counselor to help discuss her depression.

Her Eastern friends could not understand why was still upset when her family and friends were OK, Hisanaga said.

“I can’t feel happy just because my family is safe,” she said.

In theory East Asian culture has a group-centered ideology, Hisanaga said.

“There is a lot of togetherness and there are definitely not individualistic views,” she said.

Hisanaga said because there are some people that could not fit in shelters and people from (northern Japan) are accepting people from the south to live with them.

“Luckily, I am in clinical psychology so (my professors) are very understanding of my situation,” Hisanaga said.

It will probably take Japan five to six years to recover, she said.

Hisanaga has collaborated with multiple businesses and groups in the Charleston and Mattoon areas as well as the American Red Cross to raise money for the survivors of the earthquake.

“The help I have been getting is great, all the people in my department have been helpful and understanding throughout all of it,” Hisanaga said.

Nike Ogunbodede can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].