Takafumi Kajihara woke up on March 11th to a Facebook message from a British friend. It read: “Is your family ok?”. Kajihara’s heart skipped a beat. And he has barely been able to sleep since.
Turning on the news, the 26-year-old learnt to his horror that his home country had been struck by a massive earthquake. “Immediately I had flashbacks of the 1995 earthquake. I could see the scenes as they played out before me. I could hear my mother’s screaming.”
On that Friday morning, Kajihara, who is studying for a Masters in psychology at Goldsmiths, said he was still “somewhat calm” despite the earthquake’s magnitude. “Japan is used to having earthquakes all the time so I didn’t imagine it to be severe,” he said.
But shortly after, he was talking with his girlfriend in Australia via Skype, when she told him she had an uneasy feeling. Moments later, he heard the news of the tsunami hitting the eastern Japanese coast.
“It was when footage of the tsunami and the destruction surfaced that it all hit me and I started to feel really depressed,” said Kajihara.
Fortunately, his family were not directly affected but he, said: “One friend from Iwate lost his mother and grandfather in the tsunami.”
Since then, he has faced one of the most nerve-wracking periods of his life. “I wake up four or five times a night and I check the news maybe every 20 minutes,” said Kajihara.
He admitted to feeling guilty when asked about being in the UK while his country is facing such turmoil.
“I feel excluded and helpless. I am missing out on the feeling of unity.”
Kajihara said he is relieved the Japanese government has responded efficiently to the disaster.
“I am pleased by their quick effort because in ’95 [in Osaka] the government responded very slowly and this led to the loss of many lives,” he said.
But he added: “I am very disappointed…at how they are handling the blasts at the nuclear reactor plants. It is frustrating because both, the government and the company TEPCO, are giving out different information. Nobody knows what to believe.”
Kajihara is still planning on going back to Japan in the summer. But for now, he will have to keep living in uncertainty, following the news as it develops hour by hour and watching the death toll rise with a heavy heart.
“Seeing the footage over the past week is beyond anyone’s imagination. It’s insane.”
Goldsmiths Japan Society has set up donation boxes in the Student Union Bar. All donations will go to the Japanese Red Cross.