A tragedy across the ocean touches and inspires the Pacific community.Wanda Laukkanen
Serenco, Pacific’s international student advisor, lived for four years in Japan, two of them in a coastal village in the affected region that she now says “is half gone—the homes are gone, the train station is gone, industry by the sea is gone.” The bed-and-breakfast operated by her host family was destroyed, and many residents are still living in the elementary school gym.
Kazuko Ikeda, associate professor of Japanese, visited the country for three weeks over the summer to see her son and friends. The emotional toll of the disaster has had a tremendous effect.
“I think they are sort of traumatized,” she said. “I had quite a few friends who had a hard time, but they survived.” Nevertheless, Ikeda said even in Tokyo and other areas that did not suffer damage from the tsunami, there are daily reminders of the disaster, particularly with the failure of the nuclear power plants. In Tokyo, the electricity is cut off and trains don’t have interior lights on during the day. In the eastern part of Japan, where Ikeda’s son lives, she said only bottled water, not tap, is safe.
This year, 11 Japanese students were enrolled at Pacific University and only three American students, fewer than usual, were attending Japanese colleges. Because of travel advisories by the U.S. Department of State, two of the students did not attend spring semester, said Prag.
The connection between Pacific University and Japan goes back more than 141 years. The first student from Japan, Hatsutara Tamur, enrolled in 1870. He graduated in 1876 and Pacific became one of the first colleges in the United States to grant degrees to students from Japan. Since 2002, when a government database of international students was established, 93 Japanese students have attended Pacific University. The Office of Alumni Relations notes it has 56 alumni with addresses in Japan on file.