Disasters in Japan Affect Purchase Students

The tsunami that slammed northeastern Japan missed Purchase senior Kevin Cai’s home in Tokyo, but the 8.9 magnitude earthquake did not.

“The earthquake split the house in half and destroyed almost everything inside,” the arts management major said in an email. “It was my mom’s birthday so my dad had taken her out. Thank god they weren’t home.”

Over the last century, Japan has experienced 23 earthquakes that have caused major damage, according to Web-Japan.org. Estimates of magnitude make the earthquake of March 11 the largest earthquake to hit Japan and among the top five largest earthquakes in the world. 

The quake that destroyed northeastern Japan sent shock waves more than 6,000 miles away, as students and faculty at Purchase College dealt with the tragedy in varying degrees. Some, like Cai, lost homes. For others who had lived in Japan, the disaster brought up memories of past earthquakes.

Masako Kunimoto, a percussion student, said that Japan’s recent disasters remind her of an earthquake that happened near Osaka, Japan, her hometown, about 17 years ago, that caused buildings and rail lines to collapse.

“I’m just hoping the aftershocks stop happening and the situation gets better for them,” Kunimoto said.

Deirdre Sato, director of international programs, said that Purchase is still getting inquiries from students interested in studying abroad in Japan this summer.

“For now, we’re thinking positive,” she said. “Safety comes first, so hopefully things die down, otherwise we’re not sending students there.”

Sato lived in Tokyo for five years, and has survived “many earthquakes.”   The biggest earthquake she’s been through was in the low six category on the Richter magnitude scale.

“It was horrifying,” Sato said. “I was at a friend’s house and we got under the dining room table. Dishes fell out of cabinets, everything was falling over and shaking. It was extraordinary,” she said. “Japan is built for it. If you live there, you have to get used to it. It’s the way of life in Japan.”

Dikyi Ukyab, a sophomore political science major, said she tries her best to get involved when natural disasters happen. She helped out last year at the benefit show for Haiti on campus, and plans to get involved to do what she can to help those in Japan.

“For the most part, Purchase students are very sympathetic to the cause,” Ukyab said. “But it’s surprising to see how many people really don’t know much about what is going on. Even little things like benefit shows help inform people.”

Toshiyuki Shibata, senior music major, from Osaka, Japan, is one of the representatives of fundraising for Japan. He organized a benefit concert at the PAC, where faculty from the music building will be playing a concert for free in the coming week.

“There is also a touring Japanese orchestra that will come to campus to play a concert,” Shibata said. “It’s a big deal. They’re broadcasted by the NHK, the biggest broadcast company in Japan.”

Shibata said there will be a fundraising booth in the PAC lobby, along with a station where visitors can learn to make paper cranes, called 1000 Paper Cranes.

“The paper cranes are a symbol of peace in Japan,” Shibata said. “They’re made especially after a catastrophe.”

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