Video by David Corrigan, voice of Stephanie Salazar
HILO, Hawaii: Hilo’s Hawaiian music virtuoso Mark Yamanaka, remembers this day, two years ago. The Na Hoku Hanohano award winner had just returned home from a trip to Japan in early March of 2011. It was still March 10th in Hawaii Time when the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s northeastern Pacific coast. The tsunami that followed claimed nearly 19,000 lives and, in Fukushima, caused the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
On Sunday in Hilo, Yamanaka performed on the campus of the Hawaii Community College during a benefit for the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
The event was organized to support the children in Japan who need physical and emotional assistance after 2011 disaster. The benefit included various performances, food and silent auction of items donated by local businesses and artists. It was the brainchild of the college’s Japan Club.
Club president Yoshie Uehara said that she was in Hilo when the earthquake occurred. All she could do was watch.
Uehara said she knew then she had to try to do something to help. She started a campaign to make cranes at Hawaii Community College. Soon after, the Japan Club was born.
Reports say efforts to rebuild the devastated regions of Japan have been slow. More than 300,000 people are still without a permanent home, many in cramped temporary housing units.
The Aloha State also felt the effects. The Kona side of the Big Island was worst hit. The ocean surge overtook the seawall in Kailua Village, tearing up Alii Drive and damaging businesses along the bay.
Some were swept off their feet by the waves. Escape by car was also useless, as the chilling story of survival told by Valerie Hawkins illustrates.
The landmark Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel suffered damage to its lobby, but nothing like the devastation at the Kona Village Resort, where the hale bungalows were tossed around and a total loss. The resort has yet to re-open. Also damaged: the Four Seasons Hualalai, which managed to repair and re-open later that year.
Hardest hit was the village of Napoopoo by Kealakekua Bay. Homes were torn off their foundation; one building was even washed out to sea. It took the community all year to rebuild.
Even with the troubles at home, Hawaii has been eager to help Japan. In the days that followed the tsunami – even as the island worked to restore its own hard hit shore – benefits were held to help Tohoku.
As Mark Yamanaka says, Hawaii has a close kinship with Japan.