UCLA Students, Faculty Accounted for in Japan; Terasaki Director Abe Discusses Quake Response

Nine UCLA students studying in the Tokyo area with UC's Education Abroad Program have been located and are safe, while an estimated 20 graduate students affiliated with the UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies were far from the worst damage.

By Cynthia Lee for the UCLA Newsroom

Nine UCLA students studying in the Tokyo area with UC’s Education Abroad Program have been located and are safe, campus officials confirmed. The program was on spring break when the earthquake and tsunami waves struck in northeastern Japan on March 11.
In addition, an estimated 20 graduate students affiliated with the UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies are in Japan doing field research and language studies. They were concentrated in cities far from the worst damage, in Tokyo, Yokohoma, Osaka and Kyoto, said Mariko Bird, assistant director at the Terasaki Center.
At least six other UCLA-affiliated travelers were known to be in Japan at the time of the earthquake. None have requested assistance.
In other developments related to the Japan disaster:

  • An e-mail to all UCLA students from Vice Chancellor Janina Montero has offered help from the office of Counseling and Psychological Services. Students and scholars from Japan also were reminded that they can meet with counselors at the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars for assistance and support. "We are collaborating with other entities on campus (including the Dean of Students Office and Student Financial Services) to ensure that students whose lives, studies and finances are interrupted by this tragedy are able to find the support necessary to ensure their well being and security," said Robert Ericksen, director of the Dashew Center.
  • Jonathan Stewart, an expert in geotechnical earthquake engineering and a professor in UCLA’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is joining a response team headed to Sendai. He has done detailed case studies of seismic ground failure in Japan, California, Taiwan, Turkey, Greece, Italy and India. He will be examining levees, dams, buildings, ports and other structures in the Sendai region.
  • Fundraising efforts on campus are being organized. The Nikkei Student Union at UCLA will be collecting donations on Bruin Walk. All proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross.
  • UCLA faculty experts are available for interviews on apsects of the disaster, including the health effects of radiation exposure, Japanese architecture and society, and the science of earthquakes and tsunamis.

Among faculty and staff who have the most ties to the Sendai area is internationally renowned architect Hitoshi Abe, professor and chair of architecture and urban design in the School of the Arts and Architecture. He is also director of the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies.

Born and raised in Sendai, and with many family members and friends in the area, Abe was able to contact his parents and brother who live there. He confirmed they are safe. Abe, who is an authority on Japanese architecture, urban design and building codes, also has an active international architectural practice in Sendai as well as a visiting professorship at Tohoku University in Sendai. Staffers at his business office sent him a photo of his earthquake-damaged office.

"Inside my office, things are just trashed," said Abe, who traveled there every two months. "It looks as if you put everything in a box and just shook it. But there was no water damage from the tsunami."

He added: "People are isolated there and just waiting for help to reach them. I’m so proud of the way the people there are behaving. They are helping each other survive. There are no fights as they wait hours and hours for food and water. It’s incredible the way they are dealing with the situation. People are being so civilized. That’s something I am very proud of."

Abe, who has received many offers of help from colleagues and other members of the UCLA family, is in the process of identifying rescue and aid organizations that can most directly help the community.

"We were as well prepared for this earthquake as any country in the world," said Abe. "When I was in high school, a huge earthquake happened, and so the architectural building codes were changed and updated."
But the size of this earthquake, he said, "went beyond our imagination." The sawtoothed formation of the area’s coastline, he said, also added to the force and the height of the tsunami waves.

Published: Monday, March 14, 2011