Area native talks about life in Japan since the tsunamiWritten by Emily Gibb | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Defiance native Andrew Atkinson has seen two major Japanese earthquakes. He lived through the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake in 1995 and now lives in Nara, Japan, about 400 miles from the areas hit by the recent earthquakes and tsunami.
Atkinson, who was raised in Temperance, spoke with Toledo Free Press via e-mail about his experiences.
“The possibility of an earthquake is always something I think about living here. We have things prepared in case of an earthquake — emergency food and water, sleeping bags, flashlights, portable radio, even an emergency toilet,” he said. “While Nara and the vicinity is relatively calm in terms of an earthquake, we are always, or try to be anyway, prepared in case a big earthquake hits here.”
Atkinson runs a business that offers an English language school, import and retail of English language teaching materials and does Japanese-English translation. Although he said his business has been affected only minimally, he has seen a decline in online sales. Also, no shipments are being accepted for addresses in the Northeast.
“We are worried about aftershocks and what will happen to the nuclear power plant,” he said. “We’re concerned about the potential nuclear power crisis.”
A major difference from the 1995 earthquake, he said, is the huge role social media has played in connecting and sharing information.
“People are using Twitter to share information about news, missing persons, where to get emergency rations and such,” he said.
In the affected areas, people are having trouble getting information because there is still no electricity, he said, so much of their news is coming from sources such as Twitter.
While he said the media is accurately depicting what is happening, the real news for most of those affected is coming from social media.
Thankfully, Atkinson does not know anyone directly affected and his friends who do have friends and family in Tokyo are all safe, he said.
“These people are planning to send food, like rice and other necessities, diapers and baby formula, to their relatives as stocks are short in supermarkets there,” he said. “We just all think it is a horrible tragedy after seeing the same footage [the U.S.] has seen.”
Atkinson said he has noticed that stocks of batteries, bottled water and instant noodles are running low in stores near him as people plan for the possibility of a power outage there.
“A friend told me that flashlights and batteries were all sold out even at larger electronic stores in Osaka,” he said. “Tokyo and Northeastern Japan are experiencing mandatory power outages, but because the electricity is different here in Western Japan (60 mhz to Tokyo’s 50 mhz), we don’t need to worry about conserving electricity.”
Atkinson moved to Japan in 1992 to study art as a recent Japanese art history graduate from the University of Michigan. His brother is Steve Atkinson, the marketing director for TARTA. Andrew was supposed to visit Toledo soon, but he has decided not to for now.
“With the nuclear reactor situation, as well as continuing aftershocks in Kanto (Tokyo), I thought it would be best to stay. Also, I am worried about the safety of my wife and daughter,” he said.
The Japanese people, he said, are grateful for the swell of aid from around the world.
“The people and residents of Japan are very thankful for the support they have received from the U.S. and other countries around the world,” Atkinson said.