Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:54 PM on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homer connects with friends, family in Japan


The March 10 earthquake in Japan prompted people in Homer with connections in the devastated country to check in with distant family and friends.

Since coming to Homer from her homeland in Japan in August, 17-year-old Eri Sugiyama has maintained contact with her family thorough Skype, a text, voice and video computer program. Earlier last week, in communication with her family, Eri was told by her family they would be traveling from their home in the Tokyo suburbs to Japan's east coast city of Sendai.

About 11 p.m. March 10, after completing volleyball practice in Soldotna, Eri was informed of the earthquake.

"My friend said the worst city hit was Sendai," Eri told the Homer News. "I was really, really worried."

After reaching the home of her Homer host family, Eri turned on her laptop, eager to find more information.

"I checked e-mail and my parents were worried about me because they knew about the tsunami coming to Alaska," she said of the tsunami advisory that was issued after the earthquake for areas of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.

Through Skype, Eri was able to see her family and hear the details of their experience. Fortunately, they were out of Sendai when the earthquake struck.

"They were in the car and the land started vibrating," said Eri. "All the stop lights were shaking. All the signboards were swinging. They told me it was the biggest earthquake they'd ever had."

While earthquakes are not uncommon in Japan, "this time everybody is freaked out," said Eri, who has been in contact with friends through text messages on her cell phone.

"Some of my friends were at school when the earthquake happened and they had to spend the night there because all transportation is shut down. They haven't gone home yet," she said last Friday.

Although she isn't scheduled to return to Japan until June 14, Eri's attention is focused on the events unfolding in the wake of today's earthquake.

"I guess everything is in chaos," she said.

For the past 25 years, Homer has shared a sister city relationship with the Japanese city of Teshio, on the western coast of Hokkaido. Teshio resident Vicki Mansell traveled to Homer in August as the interpreter for a Teshio delegation.

"As of last night Teshio is/was OK," Mansell wrote in an e-mail to the Homer News the day after the quake. "There has been another earthquake this a.m. on the other side of the island and I don't know yet how that will affect the Japan Sea side. Yes, the news is devastating and it will continue to be so for quite awhile I imagine. Greet all there and if there are any changes I will let you know."

Frequent visitors to Japan, Steve and Noko Yoshida are currently in Hawaii. After hearing of the earthquake and the resulting tsunami spreading across the Pacific Ocean, Jane Little of Homer contacted the Yoshidas by phone.

"They're up high," Little reported of the Yoshidas' distance from the Hawaiian shoreline.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben. jackinsky@homernews.com.