Japanese expats in B'lore struggle to reach kin

Communication links to large parts of island nation lost

Japanese expats in B'lore struggle to reach kin

Chiaki, who lives in the Whitefield suburb, attempted emails and phone calls to many friends in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the world’s most populated at 36 million, but she was left searching for scraps of information coming out of Japan.

Electricity and mobile communications were lost to large parts of Japan, including Tokyo, after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake. “I feel very far away. The hard thing is nobody’s phone is working and there’s a lack of information,” Chiaki said.

Luckily, her immediate family were able to send out messages to tell her they were safe and well, though they had no gas or power. Chiaki now wants to fly to Japan as soon as she can to help with the recovery, but airports have been closed and the country’s public transport shut down. When the news came, Chiaki was with a group of Japanese expats in an art class, some of whom are yet to hear from their daughters.

Initial reaction

“It’s very tough for them,” she said. But their initial reaction was nonchalant - earthquakes were commonplace in Japan and they expected Friday’s was just another.

They left their art class and went out to lunch together without giving the earthquake much extra thought.

It was the great concern and compassion shown by everyone in Bangalore that finally tipped them off that this was an extraordinary event, Chiaki said.

“I’m so touched because all my Bangalore friends - Western and Indian - are so concerned. It’s a happy thing Japan isn’t so isolated,” she said.

Kiyomi Yamada, another Japanese expat, said she rushed to phone her family when she saw the images of destruction. She got through without a hitch to her hometown, southwest of Tokyo. But her company’s head office is in Tokyo and must deal with the transport disruptions.

In Tokyo’s biting winter, millions stranded at stations must seek refuge in offices and shelters set up at universities and public halls. For many in Bangalore, like Chiaki, it is a difficult plight to watch from afar.

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