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Local student worries about family in Japan

Ryan Yokota, a doctoral candidate in Japanese history at the University of Chicago, has spent a lot of time in Japan, making new friends and reconnecting with relatives. Since the earthquake last week, he has heard from many of them — all safe in Tokyo.

But Yokota continues to worry about family he has not heard from in Fukushima City, approximately 35 miles inland from the hardest hit areas of Japan’s northeast coast. It’s close enough he says for there to be serious earthquake damage.

Yokota, whose grandparents and father survived the Hiroshima bombing during World War II, says he also is now mostly concerned about the situation with the two nuclear reactors, which is now the central threat to the country.

“With the reports about a nuclear meltdown, I started to flashback to all the effects of Hiroshima,” said Yokota, 38. “To all the effects of black rain. If it gets in the air it has the possibility to travel a distance.”

Yokota says news reports from the Fukushima City area are few. He hoped to get through to his family Sunday night, but if not, he would keep trying in the coming days.

“This whole thing has been incredibly shocking and traumatizing,” Yokota said. “You feel helpless and extremely concerned and hoping for the best.”

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