Disaster in Japan may be an ocean away, but struck close to home for some in the San Gabriel Valley

Long-time San Gabriel Valley resident Sonia Narang arrived in Japan the night before the earthquake. The next day she boarded a train in Western Japan.

"Because I was on a moving train, I didn’t feel the ground shake, and I got word of the disaster from a text message from my family in California,” Narang wrote in South Pasadena Patch. Until a few weeks ago she had edited the local website; she had left for a journalism fellowship in Japan. "People on the train were reading the news on their cell phones and showing me pictures of severe damage in Tokyo."

Even though Japan may be across the Pacific Ocean, for many San Gabriel Vally residents the catastrophe occurring there is close to home.

It took Stan Yonemoto, marketing manager at Alhambra's Chamber of Commerce, days to confirm the safety of his family in Japan. "Luckily they’re further away from the epicenter,” he said. “They didn’t have direct damage. A cousin was in one of the skyscrapers."

Yonemoto was born in Japan in 1953. His father, a Hawaiian native of Japanese descent, had served with the United States during World War II when he met his mother, a Japanese national. When Yonemoto was six they moved to the United States, but kept close ties with family there. He says that one of the difficulties presented is the current lack of transportation in major cities, forcing people to "literally walk miles and miles and miles."

He also is concerned that economic woes could cause trouble even after the catastrophe has faded. "It's the third biggest economy in the world,” he said. “It’s going to take a major hit. There'll be repercussions all over the world."

The mayor of Alhambra, Gary Yamauchi, also has family ties in Japan. But the second-generation American only discovered them a few years ago.

"Last year I went to Japan and I met relatives that I never knew existed, they’re my third or fourth cousins. They prepared a family tree for me." Yamauchi said that his cousins are unharmed, as they live in Kirishima, which is relatively far from the epicenter. It’s also Alhambra’s sister city – thanks to a connection Yamauchi forged.

According to Yamauchi, the call for help has reached Alhambra. “I received several e-mails from organizations that are putting together relief funds through, the Japanese American National Museum is one,” Yamauchi said. “One of the e-mails I received was from the Consulate General of Japan who said he is collecting money.”

If you would like to support Japanese victims, a few organizations that the Asian Business Association is recommending include the American Red CrossHabitat for Humanity and World Vision. The Japan America Society of Southern California also has a list of "Drive-Through" fundraiser events.

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