Japanese-Americans pray for quake, tsunami victims

March 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Many are finally reaching family and friends through e-mail and social networking sites.

And while people are finding their loved ones to be safe, their attention now turns to helping and praying.

The kan-sho or the striking of the bell preceeded a moment of silence Sunday morning as members of the Midwest Buddhist Temple prayed for those touched by Japan's earthquake and tsunami disasters.

"This is the time when you really appreciate this kind of community, the ability to come together and be with everyone who is affected," said Midwest Buddhist Temple board member Kiku Taura.

Taura's mother, father and in-laws still reside in Japan.

Although she has learned that many of her relatives, friends and colleagues are safe, Taura joined others to petition for blessings and peace for anyone still uncertain about the fate of their loved ones.

So far, it's a struggle to survive because of the lack of food and clean drinking water.

But right now, it is the threat of multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns that concerns Joanne Tohei the most.

Her son teaches high school in northern Japan.

"Because he lives in Fukushima, which is the city where the nuclear reactors are, does he have to evacuate," Tohei said. "And where can he go with the transportation system down, the roads are clogged, so he can't drive anywhere. He's just praying to see what the outcome will be."

Not hearing from relatives or friends worry some Japanese natives living in the northwest suburbs. Satoko Yamanmoto's family is fine, but she has yet to reach a close friend.

"I can't do anything. I called her, I e-mailed her many times but I still don't get any reply," Yamanmoto said.

And relief finally came for Hana Yaginuma.

The 17-year-old's entire immediate family is back in Japan.

After looking at the devastation on TV, Yaginuma thought her family was dead but they are safe.

"I want them to come here as soon as possible," Yaginuma said.

Yaginuma has plans to return to Japan this summer. She says she now wants to stay in America.

Joanna Tohei also has plans to go to Japan in a few months for a memorial service for her late husband.

Tohei says she is concerned about his grave site because he is buried on top of a mountain where the earthquake hit.

Air travel from Chicago to Japan
The United States urged its citizens to avoid travel to Japan, and while many are frantically trying to get out of Japan, others like Josh Onishi are fighting to get in.

The student's pre-planned trip was scheduled to take flight Sunday afternoon.

"It will be great if I can make sure my friends and family members in Tokyo are OK. I contacted them through Facebook and it sounds like they are OK," Onishi said.

Operations at two of Tokyo's airports are back to normal, but hundreds of flights have been canceled.

Many airlines are allowing passengers to delay trips to Japan without penalties.

Dozens of countries have offered assistance to Japan.

Two U.S. Aircraft Carrier groups were off Japan's coast and ready to help. Helicopters were flying from one of the carriers delivering food and water.

Two U.S. rescue teams comprised of 72 personnel each with rescue dogs arrived Sunday, as did a five-dog team from Singapore.

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