University Community Reacts to Crisis in Japan
Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
On March 11, a 9.0 earthquake occurred near the northeastern coast of Japan, the most powerful quake in the country's history. It created a series of tsunami waves that hit Japan minutes later. As of March 24, the estimated death toll has reached nearly 9,000 and is expected to reach about 20,000.
While Japanese authorities struggled to organize a rescue effort, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant underwent partial meltdowns that caused radioactive material to be released directly into the atmosphere.
On the day of the disaster, The New School's international student services office reached out to the estimated 75 New School students who either have citizenship in Japan or a home address in the country. The ISS sent emails offering students assistance with immigration matters and information about crisis counseling services.
While The New School does not currently have students studying in Japan, international students from Japan and students with family there have felt the weight of the crisis. Some have responded by fundraising for Japanese relief organizations.
Meina Naeymirad, a senior at Lang and a Japanese-American, has family in Japan and studied abroad in Tokyo last year. She said she didn't get in touch with her grandparents until three days after the earthquake.
"My grandparents live in Saitama, which is above Tokyo," Naeymirad said. "As soon as I heard my grandmother's voice I couldn't stop crying. It was mounting relief."
Two Japanese students at Mannes, Shoko Iwashita and Akiko Nishiguchi, felt devastated by their separation from their families. Nishiguchi's hometown, Tochigi, is just 193 miles from where the earthquake hit.
"My home in Japan is a Buddhist temple and my father is a Buddhist priest," she said. "He manages a cemetery with 300 grave stones. Over 100 of them are damaged now. My brother told me that windows in his school have been broken since the earthquake hit."
Both Iwashita and Nishiguchi said they were relieved that their families were safe, but wanted to support Japan in any way they could. "We wanted to do something for our home country," Iwashita said. " At first we didn't know how to how to help from here."
Iwashita and Nishiguchi worked with Eric Bestmann, director of concert operations at Mannes, and other Mannes students to organize a benefit concert. Scheduled for April 6, Musicians for Japan will feature both Western and Japanese composers, as well as Japanese folk music. Donations will go to the Japan Society's Earthquake Relief Fund.
Nishiguchi said she hopes this benefit keeps people in New York from forgetting about Japan. She and Iwashita want to inspire people to support Japan by reminding them of its beautiful culture and musical history, instead of the massive destruction caused by the recent disasters.
"We don't want this to be a funeral," Iwashita said. "We want this music to reflect our hope for Japan."
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