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Reaching Out to Japan in Crisis

Lawyer Susan Onuma focuses on fundraising with Japanese American organizations

Needed: time and money

Floyd Mori, 71, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, has joined the relief effort. He is putting together a partnership with Direct Relief International, an organization that provides medical assistance for people affected by disasters. Mori says he is optimistic that Americans will rally around the Japanese.

"It will be rebuilt because Japan is a very developed country. It will take money, and it will take time," Mori says.

Fumi Matsuki, 67, a clinical social worker with the Japanese clinic of the Hamilton-Madison House in Manhattan, also says the support will be strong, but adds that the grief has been overwhelming.

"All of my clients suffered from the quake and wept. They are concerned about the nation. It was difficult to see whole areas of Japan disappear," Matsuki says.

Others see what happened in Japan as an opportunity for Japanese Americans to pull together and show their strength and unity.

"The news is horrible. People are in total shock, very depressed. It's almost as if the question is what you can do first," says Julie Azuma, 67, founder of a small business in New York that helps autistic children. "Most of our community has given to Haiti and Katrina. It is in keeping with the way we work."

Onuma is in it for the long haul.

"The last time we undertook such a big effort [relating to Japan] was after World War II, when we sent money and clothing to help the Japanese Americans," she says.

Experts are predicting it could cost $180 billion to repair Japan's infrastructure, economy and standard of living.

"We recognize this is not a one-time thing," Onuma says. "The recovery and rebuilding will take a long time."

Judi Hasson is a writer in McLean, Va.

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