Sydney: The eyes of the world are on
Japan`s people as they struggle to cope with an unfolding
disaster, but tens of thousands of Japanese expats around the
globe are also deeply affected by the tragedy.
Japanese living far from home are anxiously scanning
newspapers, Twitter and Facebook for news of friends and
family after last week`s devastating earthquake and tsunami
triggered a nuclear crisis.
Engineers are struggling to bring the situation at the
Fukushima nuclear plant under control, dousing overheating
reactors with water to avert a meltdown in an emergency that
has caused grave concern in Japan and beyond.
The disaster, the country`s most serious crisis since
World War II, has seen Japanese expats frantically trying to
make contact with relatives, support each other and raise
money to help their compatriots.
Australia has one of the world`s largest Japanese expat
communities, with over 70,000 registered as living in the
country, according to its embassy in Canberra.
The Sydney Japanese School said it had been a difficult
time emotionally for staff, parents and children, but that
they had received tremendous support from the community with
fund-raising activities in full swing.
"The images of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent
tsunami that struck in Japan have been most terrifying," said
deputy principal Allan Meadows.
"It is only made worse when we know that our school
community is directly affected, with many teachers, families
and friends -- past and present -- coming from the devastated
regions of eastern Japan."
He said there were staff members whose parents` houses
were swept away in the tsunami, and knew of at least one
relative of a teacher who was killed.
"Some teachers have been doing it really tough. The
uncertainty is the worst," he said.
It was a similar story at the Taipei Japanese School in
Taiwan. Several teachers` houses have been damaged by the
tsunami that devastated swathes of Japan`s northeast,
swallowing up whole towns and villages.
Meiko Kobayashi, a Japanese writer living in Singapore,
has spent hours on Facebook and Twitter trying to get in touch
with family in her homeland.
"As far as I know, some people went back to be with the
family but most are staying put," she said of the city-state`s
Japanese community, comments echoed by Yosuke Tanaka.
"We are not going back home, but we watch TV and
websites for news about Japan," said the marketing manager for
Albirex Niigata, a Japanese football club based in Singapore.
Some expats have faced agonising days of being unable to
contact loved ones in the devastated region, where the number
of confirmed dead from the twin disasters now stands at 5,178
with thousands more missing.
Eri Osawa, 33, a teacher at a Japanese school in Kuala
Lumpur, said while her family was safe, she cannot reach two
friends in Sendai.
"I sent numerous emails to them but till today I have
had no response," she said through tears.
Osawa, who comes from Chichibu near Tokyo, said two
other friends have left their homes in the capital due to
concerns over radiation from the plant, which sent levels
rising in the capital -- although not to dangerous levels.