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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Relief Efforts for Japan Continue

Many University at Buffalo students have banded together to remember and raise money to support and rebuild Japan's northern coast that was devastated by the March 11 earthquake.

The interested students, many of whom are members of the Japanese Student Association, have been tabling in the Student Union and will continue to do so until May 1. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., the students will be selling T-shirts for $10 to students ($15 to non-students) and wristbands for $5. Additionally, the students are giving out ribbons to support the cause.

Thus far, the group has raised $5,500, which is over half of its $10,000 goal. All money will be donated to the American Red Cross Japan relief fund. Although money is extremely important to the rebuilding efforts, the students say that showing the Japanese people that there is worldwide concern for their condition is invaluable.

"They must be struggling with everything, but what they really want… and of course donations help, but they really need hope, or a message from all over the world," said Yoshitaka Nakamura, a junior accounting major. "That has a significant effect to them."

Nakamura experienced the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit in 1995 Kobe, his hometown, in which an estimated 8,000 perished. Although he was not in Japan during the most recent earthquake and tsunami, he can attest to the damages and aftermath that a natural disaster can bring.

"From my experience, after the earthquake, the worst thing is that there is no food, water or electricity…It's so sad, even when I was five years old and you see everything collapse, there's no hope," Nakamura said. "All the volunteers and all the donations came from all over the world and that helps my mind, like, ‘I think I'll be okay.' That's what I want to send to Japan from Buffalo, even on the opposite end of the planet, we can send a message."

Additionally, the group will be participating in the Sakura Walk in Delaware Park on May 1, held at 2 p.m. This event is organized by Sakura Sato, a Buffalo State College student who has worked to bring the community together with other Japanese nationals with the goal of donating to the American Red Cross Japan relief fund.

"[Participating in the walk is meant] to raise awareness and also…. to show appreciation for everyone who cares about Japan," said Diana Tong, a senior psychology major. "It's important to raise money, but it's also important to show appreciation to people who are helping us."

Tong is also working on the "Smile Video Project," an endeavor that originated at SUNY Oneonta and has since spread to a number of other SUNY campuses. Tong has affectionately renamed her part of the project, "Smile for Japan," which encompasses her goal.

"My concept is people will write a message and I'll take a photo of them, and at the end, we collect all the photos and make a video," Tong said. "You can write in any language – we have Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English."

Students may write their own cards in the Student Union for free and contribute to the project. The cards will be compiled at the end of the project and, hopefully, sent to Japan.

"I think it is important to send messages to Japan. When I experienced the [1995] earthquake before, after I saw other countries donate to Japan, I think it's important to send some messages," said Chinatsu Matsui, a junior business major who also experienced the earthquake in Kobe 16 years ago.

The students encourage others in the Buffalo community to contribute to their efforts. Tong emphasized that, in accordance with Japanese culture, it is not appropriate to ask people for money, but it is highly appreciated if one chooses to donate.

"Maybe some people feel like a small donation won't even make a difference, but it does," Nakamura said. "You can make a difference if you really want to, and it's not that difficult at all. Even one cent helps."

To get involved, visit or or email One can also donate $10 to the American Red Cross by texting REDCROSS to 90999

"I think the first step to helping Japan is to remember how serious it is," Matsui said. "I think our fundraising event will help with that."





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