Sho Kawabata: Rolling with the Repercussions

Luis Rodriguez

Sho Kawabata uneventfully skyped his family in Tokyo on March 10th and an hour later his family was dealing with the unfolding repercussions of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

The life of Kawabata, 20, media student and hotel worker, was about to change on that fateful day. All of Kawabata’s direct family live in Setagaya, Tokyo in the western side away from the ocean.

Kawabata said: “I was skyping with them 20 minutes before the quake struck, and then I went to the movies. At one point in the movie, I got about 10 text messages and 20 missed calls.

Of course, I didn’t check my phone till after the movie. When I saw the messages, I was shocked. “A Goddamn 8.9? I was just talking to them – what the hell happened?”

Within an hour of the earthquake; and after many tries with different family members, Kawabata’s mother was able to get ahold of Kawabata’s uncle, Awoto Seiji, a factory worker. Within 12 hours, they were able to contact Kawabata’s aunt Iyoko Seiji, a computer consultant, and his cousin.

Within 24 hours the family was able to touch base with Kawabata’s grandma, Sawako Kujiraoka, a Sogetsu ikebana instructor. It took an additional three days to contact Kawabata’s family on his dad’s side.

“Everybody was okay. They were all scared except for my cousin who semi-sarcastically said it was interesting to experience an 8.9 earthquake. As the days progressed, I heard of food shortages, power outages, and radiation. Naturally, I was worried,” Kawabata said.

Despite all the trouble, Kawabata’s grandmother arrived at LAX. After hearing that she had successfully landed, he got home as fast as he could to hear her tell about her experience.

“I was in the hospital, visiting his Grandpa when the earthquake struck,” said Sawako Kujiraoka. “Naturally, I was scared… but the doctors were even more scared. They were yelling ‘ITS AN EARTHQUAKE! KEEP THE DOORS OPEN! KEEP THE DOORS OPEN!’ at each other from across the building.

The doctor who was talking to me tried to get me out of the room as soon as the quake struck. (She stayed). After a while, everything stopped,” Kujiraoka said.

Kawabata’s grandmother said there were no incoming floods, no collapsed buildings along the way. “We have mountainloads of food. We are fine. The power hasn’t even gone out even once, though they said it would on TV. I think it might have to do with the fact, that Setagaya is considered a high-end neighborhood. Politicians, celebrities, etc. live around here,” said Kujiraoka.

“The power doesn’t go out too often. Food is not an issue. There were a lot of big aftershocks after the quake. Even now there are a couple little ones. It takes three hours to get to work, there are seriously not enough trains running right now,” said Awoto and Iyoko Seiji.

“Everything is fine. Food is plenty, home is safe. But I really don’t trust the Japanese media on what they say about the radiation. They should be ashamed of themselves,” said Kujiraoka.

“The public shouldn’t get the idea that all of Japan is in ruins because the media only shows the rubble from Miyagi. Regardless, it is a tragedy. In my opinion, the people of Japan are doing well despite the disaster. They are all working together… unifying as a people. Something that was almost dead prior to the quake.

To read more about the Japan tragedy, visit the blog

To donate to the victims of this tragedy, visit the Red Cross website