Keietsu Nishimura

Jessie Hellmann

When Keietsu Nishimura heard about the earthquakes and the tsunami that hit his home country, Japan, he looked at the list of refugees from his hometown to make sure that his friends were still alive. He soon gave up his search because the refugee list was too long.

“There were too many names in the list. It looked like as if all the citizens were in the refugee (camps),” Nishimura said.

Nishimura is the principal of the Japanese school in Evansville, which is part of the Outreach and Engagement program at USI. He is from the Iwate prefecture and lived in the Miyako city, one of the cities destroyed by the tsunami.

From 9,307 miles away, he watched on television as the tsunami tore apart his town. He witnessed fisher’s boats sink and he watched the monstrous wave completely destroy other people’s homes.

“The white cars in the parking lot were lifted by the black tsunami and were swallowed easily,” he said.

His mother lives in Morioka, a city in the Iwate prefecture. Although his family survived the earthquake and are safe, they still have problems finding the basic necessities required to live.

“They go to grocery stores,” he said. “You can buy food only for 20 minutes early in the morning because there is a long line of people shopping and the food is quickly gone.”

Nishimura’s niece is living in the midst of all the danger right now.

“My niece is pregnant, and she lives in Tokyo,” he said. “I’m worried about her and I told her that she should come to the United States, because there’s radiation at the power plant. “

He said one of the current teachers at the Japanese school is from Ishimaki, a city in the prefecture of Miyagi, and her city was hit very hard by the tsunami.

“An elementary school near her house, they have 108 elementary school students and only 24 students survived,” he said. “They were waiting for their graduation ceremony in March… The principal of the school says he would rather have the ceremony for the students who died.”

He said he hopes the people in Japan will recover as soon as possible.

“Many are coming to my prefecture for rescue, but they’re astonished to see the sight of our town which has disappeared completely.”