Japanese students say social media helps them get connected with family, relatives, and friends during disasters

Written by: 
Tomson Cheang
The country of Japan was hit by a typhoon and earthquake in the same week.

Japan was hit by Typhoon Jebi, a category 5 super typhoon with the highest wind gust of 130 mph on Sept 4, which made it the strongest storm this year on the planet and the worst one in Japan since Typhoon Yancy in 1993, according to the Washington Post.

The storm resulted in at least 11 deaths, a power outage of more than 400,000 households, and the closure of Kansai Airport, one of the busiest airports in Japan, according to the Associated Press.

The Typhoon

“Natural disasters are always unexpected,” said Mako Kamiya, a Japanese sophomore studying elementary education. “We prepared a lot in Hawaii but it didn’t come. Japanese people didn’t prepare a lot but it turned out to be terrible. We better prepare for natural disasters.”

Kamiya said her brother lives in the Kansai area and he described the typhoon as the worst typhoon he had ever seen.

“He told me there were broken glasses and trees lying around everywhere. The blackout in some areas lasted for hours, while some other areas had no electricity at all. They had no light until the sun came up the next day,” shared Kamiya.

Sho Fukuchi, a Japanese senior majoring in finance and accounting from the affected area, said his family had stored food because of the advice from the church. “We always prepared food, not me in my hale, but my family did. The house wasn’t damaged either, it was just a blackout. My family is fine.”

Kamiya said she hadn’t expected the typhoon this time to be that destructive.

Kamiya said she’s used to having typhoons come in September so she wasn’t scared at all. She recalled of her high-school experience, “When the typhoon came, school got canceled and I just hung out with my friends in town.”

The Earthquake

Two days after the typhoon, on Sept 6, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake occurred in Hokkaido, the main island in the north part of Japan, where 5.4 million people reside and the Japan Sapporo Mission is located. At least 39 people died and the electricity network of the area was paralyzed, according to AP.

Worried more about whether his friends serving in Japan Sapporo Mission were affected by the earthquake, Fukuchi said, “Normal people can let others know they’re safe on Facebook, Instagram or something, but missionaries can’t. They can’t just text me now. I have to wait until their preparation day.”

Fukuchi said he’d worry even more if he couldn’t receive emails from his friends on preparation day. “If they don’t send me an email, maybe it’s because there is no electricity there, or maybe they just can’t get to use emails somehow. But I can only wait.”

Japanese students said they’re already used to natural disasters. Sarah Kutomi, a Japanese sophomore majoring in piano performance, remembered her experience when the devastating magnitude 9.1 earthquake happened in Japan in 2011.

“We tried to contact our family and relatives to make sure they were safe and tell them we were fine but there was a power outage, and phone lines were very busy. A Messenger or Line call would be a lot easier but at that time smartphones weren’t used yet. We only used normal phones so it was hard.”

Kutomi said she lives near Tokyo and the area is not seriously affected by earthquakes, but she shouldn’t take that safety for granted. It’s important to have an awareness of the crisis.

“In where I live, it’s not that serious but things still shake when an earthquake comes. Things might drop. We need to place our items and furniture safely. For example, I wouldn't put a bookshelf above where I sleep, otherwise, it’ll just drop on my head if an earthquake happens at night.”

Mari Kojima, a Japanese freshman studying intercultural peacebuilding, is currently living in Hokkaido. She described the situation of her family.

“We couldn’t flush the toilet so we used a bucket. The traffic was dangerous since the traffic lights aren’t working. Police came and guided the cars. Stores are not opened. Some stores were opened but there were long lines so my mom couldn’t buy anything.”

However, Kojima said this experience taught her the importance of cooperation and how happy it is to stay with her family even in tough times. “Since there’s only one candle in a room, everyone gathered. It was actually a fun time. As long as there [is] food, water, and family, we can be happy in any situation.”

According to a study led by the University of Miami scientist Shimon Wdowinski in 2011, typhoons/hurricanes often trigger earthquakes. "The heavy rain induces thousands of landslides and severe erosion, which removes ground material from the Earth's surface, releasing the stress load and encouraging movement along faults," said Wdowinski.


Date Published: 
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Last Edited: 
Thursday, September 20, 2018