Japanese Earthquake Orphans Travel to New York

09/06/2011 - Several children orphaned in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March have traveled to New York to meet with their counterparts from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

There are an estimated 1,200 children who lost one parent in the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan nearly three months ago. Another 200 children have lost two parents, Japanese officials say.

Many orphans will find alternative care with their extended families in other parts of the country.  Some will find homes in orphanages, though most are full to capacity. This is a challenge, as Japanese culture tends to be resistant to adoption and the support of "non-blood relatives", CNN reports.

As part of a fundraising effort, several Japanese orphans traveled to New York City to meet American children who lost parents in the 2001 terrorist attacks of 9/11 and in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

Shoya Kasai, one of the orphans bound for New York, told The Christian Post that “only children like us can understand one another.”

Efforts to help Japanese orphans are waning, says Ashinga, one charity working to help the children. Ashinaga is the organization responsible for organizing the trip to New York. Ashinaga is trying to provide both financial assistance and psychological support to the young orphans.

Ashinaga’s fundraising phone lines – once ringing off the hook with donations in the immediate aftermath of the twin disasters – are now quiet.

“That's why we are going to visit New York, to ask the international community to never forget,” said Yukichi Okazaki, the organization’s Director for Education and International Affairs.

The group of four Japanese orphans left for New York on Tuesday. Yesterday, they came together with American orphans who have suffered and overcome similar challenges at the Tribute World Trade Center Visitor Center.

Wilborn Nobles III, who lost his mother in Hurricane Katrina, echoed Shoya’s statements.

“No one else can understand how it feels to lose a loved one other than someone who’s also lost a loved one,” he said. “I’d say it’s almost magnetic. There’s this kinship.”

An estimated 24,000 people are either dead or missing as a result of the earthquake and the tsnuami that followed. The March 11th earthquake struck about 400 kilometers north-east from Tokyo and had a magnitude of 8.9.

Some of the worst-affected prefectures include Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. High levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami, have caused Greenpeace to call for pregnant women and children to be evacuated from the region.