Earthquake relief fund a success

A relief fund established in Japantown to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year has raised more than $4 million from 12,000 donors, including many local individuals and businesses. Already the funds have been used to build two shelters and three day care centers in northern Japan and to help provide medical and mental health care.

“We are absolutely overwhelmed by the response to our fundraising campaign,” said Paul Osaki, executive director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in Japantown, which organized the effort. He said that 100 percent of all donations are going to help the recovery in Japan.

Osaki moved quickly to begin organizing a relief effort after the earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11. “We really felt it was our responsibility as Japanese Americans to do this,” he said. He had experience to draw on from 1995, when his organization helped raise $600,000 to aid the victims of the Kobe earthquake, which killed more than 6,000 people.

“This disaster is even bigger,” Osaki said. The death toll could reach 20,000, and more than 12,000 others were evacuated after the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear meltdown that followed. The Japanese government estimates it will cost $300 billion to repair and rebuild the area.

Osaki plans to keep the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund operating at least through the anniversary of the earthquake in March.