Japan-Honolulu Earthquake Journal

One Worry at a Time: With resiliency, love and a lot of text messages, a Hawaii family separated during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami picks its way through the aftermath.


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The coastal area near Shizugawa where Ian would fish with his grandfather.

Monday, March 21

Staying Put – とどまる


When talking with reporter Michael Tsai for his story in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, I was asked a question both Yasue and I get often: “Are you trying to get her out of there as quickly as possible?”

No. We are not trying to get her out. We are trying to get her things she needs to remain there for the foreseeable future. I knew nearly 20 years ago when we married that Yasue was an only child and would be responsible for caring for her mother and father. When Yasue’s father fell terminally ill, she spent three months in Sendai. When her mother got sick this January, there was no question that Yasue would go.

With her ailing mother and the quake aftermath, we are planning on her remaining in Japan for months. Ian and I fully support her decision. She has promised us she will be careful and take good care of her mother. I have promised her that I will ensure Ian continues to do well in school, hang out with friends and lead as normal a teenage life as possible.

Last Thursday, a media friend sent me a release from the U.S. Embassy announcing that they were sending buses to Sendai to bring American citizens and their dependents to Tokyo. Yasue has many friends in Tokyo and could stay with any of them. But only she would have a seat on the bus; her mother’s illness would prevent her from boarding. I forwarded Yasue the release even though I knew what her response would be.
Text from Yasue, 4:25 p.m.: Thanks! I wish I could go home!! Ha ha.Sin


Monday, March 21

An Update from Yasue – やすえからの最新情報

Yasue shares more on life in Sendai after the quake and tsunami:

Japanese hospitals do not provide towels and pajamas for the patients. There is a coin-operated washing machine and dryer at the hospital. Currently, to conserve energy, we are not allowed to use them. So, I have to wash mom’s clothes at home and carry them to and from the hospital.

My neighbors, a young couple, left a few days ago to visit their relatives in Iwate prefecture. They are not back yet. They are both from the same small, coastal fishing village. Both of their parents’ houses were swept away by the tsunami. Her mother was found dead, but her father and sisters survived. His parents were safely evacuated. She told me that her family is very lucky that they found her mom’s body. Many people are still missing and their bodies might never be found.


Tuesday, March 22

Signs of Life – 生命のしるし

With each passing day, Yasue sees more stores open, more people on the streets. Her friends and family in Japan have successfully mailed her some aid packages. The commercial delivery services are now accepting larger packages, but will only deliver to their branch offices. Recipients must go to the offices to pick up their packages. In a few days, gas will become more plentiful and the delivery services are expected to resume home delivery in the areas not impacted by the tsunami.

Text from Yasue, 10:06 p.m., yesterday: I have enough food to survive! My friends are sending me even more. How can we politely tell people asking for my address that they shouldn’t send more to me? Others are in more need.


Wednesday, March 23

Bread and Blurs – パンともうろう

Yasue sends a picture of bread she purchased at a neighborhood bakery. One loaf of white bread and a small raisin pastry. Her text is succinct and joyful.
Text, 5:12 p.m.: Got bread this a.m.!!!

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that today marks two weeks since the quake, tsunami and the threat of a nuclear meltdown all converged on Sendai. These past 14 days have been a blur. No matter how hard I try, I cannot distinguish individual days. It will take years for Japan to fully recover from the enormous damage. Yet somehow, I feel Yasue has already made tremendous progress in our small corner of this disaster.

Editor's note: For more on what has happened to the Schumakers since this story came out, click here
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