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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Local Japanese American residents react to the earthquake

Residents and business owners of Little Tokyo are in shock

Nobu Watanabe couldn’t believe what he saw on the news.

“Japan is known for their earthquakes,” said Watanabe. “But not this big.”

Watanabe owns a business in Little Tokyo with family and friends in Japan. Watanabe said he tried not to call because he knows they need the phone lines for emergencies. He said everyone is worried but “right now its too early.”

The president of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, Brian Kito, has family, friends and business associates in Japan. He said most people in little Tokyo have some connection to the island nation.

In the Little Tokyo neighborhood “you’ll find a lot of first generation elderly,” Kito said, “their connection to the old country is very close.”

Kito said even Japanese Americans generations removed, like himself, still feel a sense of connection to the events.

Kito returned from a business visit to Japan three weeks ago.

Kito is the chairman of Tanabata Festival in Little Tokyo. He said the festival is a copy of a festival in Sendai, Japan where the quake was centered. He worked colosely with a group during his time in Japan that helped him plan the festival.

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