Ottawa’s Japanese community remain worried

Yumi Schoenhofer can sleep now.

The Ottawa woman has reached her 80-year-old mother who lives alone in Tokyo.

“I called and finally, the line was open,” Schoenhofer said, adding the quality of the sound wasn’t great.

“(We talked for) three to four minutes. It was good enough to find out she was fine.”

Schoenhofer, the president of Ottawa’s Japanese Community Association hadn’t been able to reach her mother since Friday’s devastating earthquake rocked the nation.

As of Saturday 1,000 had been confirmed dead but thousands more have likely perished in the quake.

The 8.9 magnitude quake was the strongest to hit Japan since earthquake records have been recorded.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs department estimates there are between 10,000 and 12,000 Canadians in Japan

Restaurant owner Mike Arai is still pacing. He still can’t contact his elderly mother.

And he doesn’t know if she’ll make it to her 84th birthday.

“No one can contact anyone,” the Ottawa resident told the Sun Saturday.

“I tried every half hour to contact Japan, so it’s frustrating. I’m watching Japanese broadcasting every day and every moment.”

Masnori Arai, 83, lives in Miyagi, Japan by herself. Her birthday is April 1.

Mike’s brother lives in the same city, about 10 minutes away.

But that’s little consolation.

Miyagi is roughly 30 minutes from Natori, which has been washed away by the deadly tsunami.

“There is no power, no water, no gas,” said a worried Arai.

The phone lines are tied up and e-mails go unreplied.

Arai owns Suisha Garden, a Japanese restaurant on Slater St. He’s been distracting himself by working hard at the restaurant.

Meanwhile Hiromi Fujie’s relatives back home are far from the disaster zones.

Since she knows her family’s safe, she’s not even trying to call.

“I should leave it to somebody who needs it,” she said.

There are roughly 2,000 members of the Japanese community in Ottawa.

“A lot of our members are still not able to reach their family,” said Ottawa Japanese Community Association board member Sachiko Okuda.

“A lot of people have aged relatives in Japan and they don’t Twitter, they don’t Facebook.”

Even though her mother is safe, Schoenhofer said she’s still worried.

“With aftershocks, you never know.”

The association is planning a disaster relief fundraiser in April.

In the meantime, “we are putting all our support behind the Red Cross’ reconstruction efforts,” said Okuda.

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