Home is Where the Heart Is

CY resident moved to action by Japan disaster

By Susannah Acuff

Asuka Taga Yow, a Cooper-Young resident since 2004, has organized local resources for Japan relief since March 11, when Japan was devastated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that triggered a 25-foot-high tsunami. Yow watched as her home country lit up in red on the television screen that morning. Feeling as if her hands were tied so far from home, she has sought out avenues to provide assistance to Japan. She plans to send her profits from the Cooper-Young Community Yard Sale on May 21, including monies from a donation box, to the Japan-American Society of TN, where 100% of the donation will go directly to Japan relief. Yow encourages other Cooper-Young and Memphis residents to visit the yard sale at her home, located at 2095 Walker, and give to the cause. Yow will also host a Japan relief booth at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, at 1000 S. Cooper, on the first Saturday of every month from 8am-1pm, beginning May 7. The Japan relief booth will house a box for donations and information, in addition to offering origami creations and t-shirts for sale to benefit the cause.

Yow moved to Memphis from Nara, Japan when she was a junior in high school. The Japanese company her father worked for has a location here, which facilitated her family’s move to the area. After her father finished his time in Memphis, her family returned to Japan. But Yow stayed and married in 2003. She and her husband moved into their home in Cooper-Young in 2004. She is the only family member that remained in Memphis. The rest of her family returned to Nara, with the exception of her sister who works in Tokyo.

On March 11, Yow watched her television with dismay as the satellite image of Japan showed the entire country lit up, a sign of the danger level the tsunami had reached. For the first time, she truly feared for the lives of her family. She clamored to track down her loved ones. It took a few days, but luckily, she got in touch with all of them and confirmed that they were unharmed. Yow’s sister reported that she wore high heels to work that day in Tokyo. Her office is on the 8th floor of a 55-story building. The trains, transportation, and electricity stopped, so Yow’s sister (a 27-year-old computer systems engineer) walked home for four hours in her high heels. Yow is thankful that it wasn’t much worse.

Yow is concerned that the US media coverage, ample when the earthquake and tsunami first struck, has slowed down. In response, she is spreading awareness that Japan is still struggling and that assistance is still desperately needed. It may come as a surprise to some that there have been an alarming 400 aftershocks of 5.0 magnitude or greater in northeastern Japan since March 11. These quakes have resulted in widespread cases of nausea and anxiety, comparable to seasickness. Yow says that people are staying put in the cities, partly because there’s nowhere else to go, but also because of the sense that they can pull through this disaster together.

Despite the peoples’ strength, there are not enough supplies in some areas. There is not enough electricity either. In Tokyo it is still dark. Electricity alternates around the city in three-hour intervals. This greatly affects families and companies alike. Yow’s sister, for example, says the trains suddenly stop when the electricity switches. Understandably, this creates a feeling of unease for the young woman, suddenly stuck in the dark to find her way home. People are unable to work regularly. The economy is immensely affected. Tourism is gone. Farmers and fisherman that survived have been financially wiped out. They lost their land, houses, and boats.

Many people who were evacuated to shelters are still there. The New York Times reports that as of April 25, over 130,000 people remain housed in temporary shelters. Water is in short supply due to nuclear contamination. People in shelters are unable to bathe and personal space is incredibly limited. The elderly were evacuated to the shelters without their medicine in numerous instances, resulting in embolisms and other health calamities on top of the emotional ramifications of the disaster.

Yow points out that there is comprehensive preparedness training throughout Japan for earthquakes and tsunamis alike. The Japanese are taught to ultimately focus only on getting themselves as individuals to a pre-agreed upon safe place. Individuals can reunite with their families once they arrive. The far-reaching effects of the earthquake and tsunami are not due to lack of preparation of the Japanese. The buildings are very strong and reinforced to survive such natural disasters. The magnitude of the quake and tsunami were simply beyond the scope of what anyone expected. Yow, the mother of two young children, found herself questioning her own preparedness for an emergency after witnessing what happened in Japan. She realized she was simply not as prepared after living here. Her children are very young, but since the disaster she has discussed the what-ifs of an emergency with them and encourages others to question their own preparedness. She emphasizes the importance of knowing and practicing the exact steps to take with your loved ones: what to grab, which way to go, and where to meet.

Yow’s determination to help is inspiring. She has organized several resources to make it easy for Cooper-Young residents to aid Japan. Yow feels like she is the closest source that many of her neighbors have to the disaster. She has banded together with other Japanese moms in the area to do what they can to raise money. She has also garnered the support of Pastor Tom Kyle at Lifelink Church, 1015 S. Cooper, where there is a donation box for Japan Relief. Robert Grisham, pastor at Neighborhood Church, 2181 Union, has also pledged assistance for the cause. Yow urges anyone to contact her who might already be involved in Japan relief efforts, or who may have more ideas for fundraising. She is grateful for the generosity shown by the Cooper-Young community so far, and comments that, “many people have called, emailed, prayed, and donated. They have been kind and touching with their support and love. I just want to say thank you.”

To get involved with relief efforts for Japan:

● Visit Yow’s booth on Saturday, May 7, (and every first Saturday of the month) at the CY Community Farmers Market, 1000 S. Cooper, from 8am-1pm

● Shop at Yow’s house (2098 Walker Ave) during the CY Community Yard Sale on Saturday, May 21. There will be plenty for sale, as well as a donation box, and 100% of funds raised will go to Japan relief.

● Donate to the Tennessee Tomodachi Fund (Tomodachi means “friend”). 100% of donations go directly to Japan relief. Simply make out a check to the “Japan-American Society of TN,” with “Tennessee Tomodachi Fund” written in the memo. You can take your check to any First Tennessee Bank to deposit the money with no fee and to receive a receipt, just mention the Tennessee Tomodachi Fund account. Or mail your check to: TTF c/o JAST, PO Box 190476, Nashville, TN 37219.

● Write a check to “Consulate-General of Japan,” with the memo, “Earthquake Aid,” and mail it to: Consulate-General of Japan at Nashville, 1801 West End Ave, Suite 900, Nashville, TN 37203.

Asuka Taga Yow welcomes your comments, questions, and suggestions via email at asukataga@hotmail.com.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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