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Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

The Great Tohoku Disaster - Part 5

Read Part 4 >>

This is a recreation of my personal experiences from the e-mails that I sent to friends in Canada and Japan, TV news reports in Canada, the U.S., and Japan, and from what my wife Akiko told me.

Wednesday, March 16

Hi Norm,

My name is Marnie and I was reading your article re: returning to Sendai that you wrote for Discover Nikkei.

I am particularly interested in story about Kurosu Senji. Many years ago I lived in Sendai as a singer and later as an English Teacher from Australia and became very close with Cross, his mum and dad and his friends—I was Cross’ girlfriend at the time. I have lost contact with them over the last 8 or so years, but with the disaster in Sendai, I am desperate to know if Cross and his family and particularly Ron, his best Australian friend, have escaped the tragedy. Do you know anything? I wonder if there is anything my partner and I can do to help.

I’m sorry for contacting you unknown, and I understand that you may not have any answers, but it is still important to me to know that Cross, his family, his mum and extended group of friends are ok.

I hope you will reply to this letter.




Hi Marnie, Nice to hear from you. Senji has spoken about you.

I am glad to tell you that Senji, wife Atsuko and Hikari are safe and staying in an evacuation center somewhere in Sendai. I have not heard from him directly but a friend in Tokyo was able to text him.

Ron is living in Australia. He moved back to his dad’s place some time ago with his family. I am in regular contact with Paul McLaughlin who is now living in Calgary. His wife’s family in Sendai is fine.

Did you ever know Canadian Tomo? His family is fine. Having said all of this, however, food is starting [to] be rationed, many places have no water, electricity, gas and telephone service. It’s still cold there, of course, so it’s got to be really tough, to say the least.

I’ll let you know when I hear from Senji.

The Canadian government is doing nothing to help for some inexplicable reason. It usually matches private donations when disaster hits other parts of the world but not this time. I hope that Australia is doing more.

Just heard that 500,000 people are homeless in Tohoku.

Will be in touch, Norm


Hi Norm

I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that Cross, his wife and daughter have managed to stay alive; thank you so much for coming back to me so quickly—I really appreciate it. Thank you for also filling me in on Ron and Paul—whom I had a great affinity for. Gee I remember Paul as one funny bugger! I didn’t think I met Tomo, he must have been a little after my time—but I am still so interested to hear of the experiences of those in Tohoku.

I would be most grateful if you would indeed let me know when you hear from Cross. As mentioned earlier, we want to help, & I guess that will be in the best form as a cash donation—whether through an agency or direct to Cross’ family. In terms of the Australian Government response to the tragedy, I haven’t been able to find any announcements about government aid, but I would be extremely surprised if there is not some aid package going to Japan.

Norm, are you a regular visitor to Japan? I’ve been back a couple of times since “the old days” for work and such, but it remains the country holding the most attraction for me to return. I have been meaning to go back to Japanese language classes for a couple of years now—I think this terrible time in Japan has reminded me how much I love the people and the country in general.

Once again Norm, it was very good of you to come back to me—I shed a little tear when reading the first line of your email!

Kind regards



Hi everybody, The Barrie Examiner here in Ontario has run my friend, Tomo’s letter and pictures in their paper. Go to and you’ll be able to read it. Lorna Hayashida is my aunt who lives in Barrie. All the best to you all, Norm


Thanks Norm and Neal ... Hi Sis.

I want you to keep this to yer self because it could undermine what I am trying to do. I decided to get O-san up here and on the computer to try and get a ticket for ANYWHERE from Yamagata airport. I may have enough gas to get there on one tank—abandon the car. It is worthless anyway. Then out. But I just talked to a friend who got on a bus. My sources said that there was a HUGE lineup, but my friend got on at a different stop.

Well, she did a O-san thing. I do not blame her. She is already grieving a life if we should leave. What she does not quite grasp is that we do not have time. Anyway, she said ‘no,’ she was going to bed. This is typical. If I beat her with tire irons and got her up here, she would sabotage the attempt. It is irrational. Later as we conferenced with a friend, she began to accept. I grieve too, but we have to get out of here. But without Canadian government support, there is a risk. All Canadians I talk to are aware of this risk. All of us are aware that our govt has abandoned us. The Prime Minister has pronounced it with great unction. How would this man feel if he were stranded in a crowded, freezing refuge centre with a rice ball a day—a survivor of a tsunami in a small town who has been overlooked and forgotten.

That does not describe us, but the prime minister has overlooked these inevitable victims. We listened to all the grand speeches and absorbed the poetry of love and peace during the Olympic opening, but as it turned out it has had no lasting effect on Mr Harper as he abandons us to our rough fate. Would it be different if he had a child in-country. Would he extract he/she in secret?

O-san was a travel worker. She can read the schedules and do the things I can’t. So I will try to find a way out tomorrow. But I will not move the “twins” unless we get a ticket. It can go ANYWHERE. Sapporo OK. Fukuoka. Can I get a ship to Korea? Tomo


From my old Sendai pal, Paul M in Calgary, Alberta:

Norm, it is difficult to say whether this is going to just be a major disaster, or one of biblical proportions yet. I watched a couple experts, not giving conflicting opinions, just basically saying they don’t know yet. it seems they are pretty sure that radiation is leaking, they just don’t know how bad it is going to get. one guy was saying that they are unable to cool things down. hence the helicopters dropping water. however, this guy was saying that it is a delicate process and there is the risk that they can crack some of the apparatus and cause an explosion, making this worse obviously. apparently the difference between this reactor in japan, that they had at 3 mile island and chernobyl is the containment system. chernobyl just released the radioactivity into the atmosphere. fukushima has a containment system made up concrete and steel. at fukushima unfortunately, they think this may have been breached as well. these guys, like I said weren’t really making any predictions, just kind of saying what could happen. one dude said if they can’t control it and alot of radioactive material leaks out, the 30 km area around the plant—in his own words—will never be habitable again—this is straight out of a george romero movie. as much as I now really feel glad that through all the pain of moving back, f*** am I glad to be here, I feel sorry for the people there. it is a mess. japanese news is sh***y. in martian fashion, they don’t really say much other than the facts and beat around the bush a lot. this may be to not raise the panic level but…cnn and bnn give a much better picture of what is happening, and what may potentially happen—what can go wrong from here, what might go right, etc. etc.

I think Tomo is doing the right thing by trying to get the hell out of dodge in whatever possible way he can. doesn’t sound like not trying is going to be any better. i feel for the guy and do think the government here is doing nothing. do you have any social networking savvy friends—twitter etc.—unfortunately, it is not I—and I know how skinners dog useless it is trying to get through to anybody in the government—however, there are a lot of canadians in japan—don’t know how many in sendai etc but the government should be doing something. they jump when it is revolt of sorts in egypt etc—not that they shouldn’t—but this could potentially become one of the biggest disasters in the history of man—who cares if it doesn’t involve people shooting at each other—it is a nuclear disaster.

given that e-mail from Tomo, I think he has tried to bolt. I sure hope so. to make things worse than they are. it looks like it was snowing in sendai—although it may have been showing iwate—and it looked windy when they were dropping water bombs.

Part 6 >>


© 2011 Norm Ibuki

Canada disaster discover nikkei earthquake Japan JPquake2011 sendai

About this series

In Japanese, kizuna means strong emotional bonds.

This series shares stories about Nikkei individual and/or community reaction and perspectives on the Great Tohoku Kanto earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the resulting tsunami and other impacts—either about supporting relief efforts or how what has happened has affected them and their feeling of connection to Japan.

If you would like to share your reactions, please see the “Submit an Article” page for general submission guidelines. We welcome submissions in English, Japanese, Spanish, and/or Portuguese, and are seeking diverse stories from around the world.

We hope that these stories bring some comfort to those affected in Japan and around the world, and that this will become like a time capsule of responses and perspectives from our global Nima-kai community for the future.

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There are many organizations and relief funds established around the world providing support for Japan. Follow us on Twitter @discovernikkei for info on Nikkei relief efforts, or check the Events section. If you’re posting a Japan relief fundraising event, please add the tag “JPquake2011” to make it appear on the list of earthquake relief events.