Japanese students visiting Pittsburgh describe life after tsunami

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

When the earthquake and tsunami battered Yui Moto's native Japan in 2011, a lifeline of electricity, water and fuel was cut.

But neighbors brought food to her family and told them where to find clean water.

“I learned the importance of daily bonds of friendship,” said Yui, 15, of Hitachi, Japan.

Yui is one of 23 Japanese high school students visiting Pittsburgh to learn even more about bonds, this time international ones.

The students are here as part of the Kizuna Project, named for the Japanese word for “bond.”

Twenty-three Allderdice High School students went to Japan in June, touring the disaster area and visiting Hitachi Daini High School, which the Japanese students visiting Pittsburgh attend.

A 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northern Japan on March 11, 2011, left about 18,000 people dead or missing.

The visiting students were scheduled to take part in a presentation on the disaster on Thursday night at Allderdice in Squirrel Hill.

Yurina Nemoto, 17, of Tokai, Japan, said that during the earthquake, the foundation of her house moved, the house shifted, and a boat washed up from a river onto a road in front. Nobody in her home was injured.

She and her fellow students arrived in Washington on Saturday and return to Japan on Nov. 13.

The Kizuna Project has brought 1,000 students from Japan to American high schools, and vice-versa, to “encourage a greater understanding of the youth of Japan and the U.S. by providing a first-hand experience with the culture,” said Noriko Yamamoto.

She is program director of the Grassroots Exchange and Education Program for the Japan Foundation Center, based in Tokyo, which is assisting with the project.

“I hope this exchange will help us understand each other and make a good relationship for us in the future,” Yui said.

The Allderdice students helped raise money for the recovery effort, in part by selling origami paper cranes they made.

Some students who visited Japan said they were amazed at how well the nation recovered.

“I learned the importance of working together with others and not panicking and fretting,” said Brandon Naccarato, 17, of Lawrenceville. “If everyone is calm and working together, we can get together through everything.”

Isabel Valdivia, a Japanese teacher at Allderdice, accompanied the students on the trip.

“I saw a little bit more maturity,” she said. “They have more confidence in their skills and like Japan even more than before.”

Sponsors of the Kizuna Project include the Laurasian Institution, an exchange program with offices in the United States, China and Japan.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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