Messages from EWCA Alumni in Japan

Dear EWCA Alumni and Friends,

We have been receiving several messages from our Alumni in Japan. We are fortunate to hear from several of our EWC alumni in Japan that they are safe and we wanted to share some of their stories with you.

We encourage all of our alumni in Japan to visit the EWCA Facebook page or contact the Alumni Office ( if you would like to connect with the wider EWCA community.  We also invite you to share your images, stories or reflections regarding the experience on the EWCA Facebook page as a central communication point for EWC alumni affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Also, here you can find the contact information of our alumni chapters in Japan:

Mahalo for your attention,
EWCA Alumni Association


Aska Hirabe (Former EWC Degree Fellow)

This is a difficult time for all of us in Japan and beyond. But more than ever we cannot lose hope. So I wanted to share some hopeful stories, or stories about courageous people making noble contributions.

Our traditional culture – attitude of humbleness and humility; sympathetic and orderly nature; sense of community, oneness, and sharing; loyalty to our people and country – which was thought to have somewhat been diluted especially in big cities like Tokyo, is now proven to have been deeply ingrained in our hearts all this time. It is still very much there and becoming an important and valuable factor in coping with the disaster. Such Japanese cultural characteristics are reflected in the fact that the Japanese people complained when the blackout did NOT happen as planned; many said the government should be doing more of planned blackouts to send electricity to the most affected places.

Here are some stories:

Much aloha,
Aska Hirabe (Former EWC Degree Fellow)


Eiji Kobayashi (ISI: 64-66)

Thank you for your sympathy for the victims of the recent massive disaster in the north-eastern Japan. Because the earthquakes and the tsunamis hit a vast area, the number of the dead and missing continue to rise now reaching almost 30,000.  Although my area of Yokohama luckily did not suffer much, I feel sorry for a great number of people who had to evacuate to temporary shelters, especially for those children who lost their family members, houses and schools.

In addition the Fukushima Nuclear Plant was damaged by the attack of Tsunamis, and we fear radiation danger being spread in the eastern part of Japan including the Tokyo/Yokohama area. The technical experts advise us that it might take probably years before the damaged plant and reactors are sealed. This is very serious, as radiation danger continues to hover about our daily life, affecting air, water. food items, etc.

American and French experts are now working hard together with Japanese counterparts to bring the reactors under control.

This recent bitter experience remind me of the importance of international partnership, which we learned at the East-West Center when we were much younger. I myself received a great number of sympathies, inquiries and encouragement from my friends overseas. I called Mr. Mitsugu Sato (ISI grantee 1965-67) as he was earlier associated with the Fish Market in Ohfunato, Iwate Prefecture.

He now lives in Morioka and is safe, but he was wordless, as his Fish Market was totally washed away.

This is the third difficulty I have faced in my life: the other two were during late 1940s immediately after the end of the war and the difficult years during 1970s under Marcos in the Philippines.

I then stayed in Manila with my family and was able to witness the Philippine people’s strong fight for democracy. These past difficulties have been successfully overcome with the people’s wisdom and efforts.

I am sure we can overcome again the current crisis, this time with greater international solidarity. Thank you.


Kazuyuki Matsumoto (ISI: 69-71, OEA: 08)

1. I was at home in my room checking my email, and my wife was in the living room downstairs, when the first biggest quake occurred at 14:46 on Friday 11th March. Normally the quakes subside after 10 seconds or so, but this time it continued and didn’t stop but magnified greater and greater. The whole house was shaking and rattling, and bookshelves started swinging, nearly falling down. I was holding the PC monitor with one hand and the nearest bookshelf with the other. I was worried about other shelves on the other end of the room. The floor was moving together with the walls, which made me think the house might collapse if the tremors continued a few more seconds. This was the most terrifying moment in my life on this volcanic island.

2. The severity of an earthquake is described by both magnitude and intensity. Magnitude characterizes the size of the quake source, energy released at the epicenter. Intensity indicates effects and potential damage at a particular point on the Earth’s surface, i.e., severity of the shaking resulting from the earthquake. If the quake happened very deep in the ocean, the effect or damage is not so great. Intensity falls off with distance from the quake source and varies depending upon the pathway from the source to the particular point.

Magnitude of the original earthquake was 9.0, the 4th biggest in recorded history. Intensity at Kurihara City, nearest to the epicenter, was 7. Intensity at Sendai, Fukushima (where the nuclear power plant is), Narita, for instance, was 6. It was 5+ at the center of Tokyo (business office area and Tokyo Station) and 5- at my house area (west of Metropolitan Tokyo).

3. There was virtually no damage to houses and buildings in the Tokyo area. The quakes did not cause structural damage here in Tokyo although it was close to doing so. The damage was from the tsunami that hit along the Sanriku coast in the Tohoku area of northeastern Japan, as you may have seen on TV. We saw for the first time very vividly the effect of the tsunami on the deeply indented coastal shores.

It is tremendously difficult to reach out to the people affected there simply because the places they live are isolated, on the shorelines normally distant from inland cities, which were relatively less affected. We live in Tokyo, very far from the center of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and far enough from the sea coast. So there has been not much direct hazardous impact on us who live in the Tokyo inland area except for possible power shortage measures in coming days.

4. But, magnitude 5-6 scale quakes continue to occur off north eastern coast of Japan along the boundary of Pacific Plate and North American Plate in the range of 500km north-south and 200km east-west, and they are moving southbound down to Tokyo, toward the boundary of Philippine Sea Plate and Pacific Plate.

There have been 47 after-quakes (with maximum intensity above 4) within 58 hours after the original biggest quake, excluding much more of the smaller ones. I was surprised that I started feeling dizzy or nauseous after being exposed to such constant tremors over 3 days successively. Being constantly moving like floating leads to a kind of hallucination effect. When will this end? Much more aftermath?

Note from EWCA Blog Editor: Kazuyuki  continues to maintain an online diary about his experience during and after the earthquake in Tokyo. You can also access his website showing his last visit to Hawaii for the EWC 50th Anniversary International Conference.


Junko Kobayashi (APLP G1)

Dear Everybody.

This is Junko Kobayashi (APLP G1). First, I would like to send my appreciation to this heartful concern.
When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, I was in my office located in Tokyo.
So, I walked all way back to my home. From yesterday, I am working as usual.
Even though we still cannot talk to my husband’s family living in Namie town, Fukushima Pref., my husband and I are well.

Thanks for your prayers.


Junko Kobayashi


Hitomi Yokote (APLP 09-10)

Dear my Ohana APLP in Japan.

I am Hitomi Yokote from G9.  I just started working for the Japan Association for the UN World Food Programme as Executive Officer.

I would like to inform you that there are two accounts for WFP.

The donation for below is directly reaching Japan, that is the one I am handling directly.

The other one on the main WFP page go through Rome headquarters.

Thank you.



Kathy Tran (APLP 04-05)

Aloha from Miyazaki,
We are fine down here on the southern coast. We were evacuated but the tsunami waves only reached heights of  2-3 meters. We are very lucky, however, Shinmoedake has decided that it also needs attention and has begun erupting. We felt it’s rumbles although are far enough away that we have yet to get ash as we did when Sakurajima erupted. Please let us know if there is anything we can do.