On April 14, 2016, an earthquake shook Kumamoto Prefecture. A couple days later, on April 16, a series of stronger quakes struck both Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures.

While there was no major damage in Beppu City or at APU, we were not left unscathed. Most students at APU had never experienced an earthquake of this magnitude.

Many students evacuated their homes. Some sought refuge far from the aftershocks in Fukuoka or Tokyo, while others stayed at earthquake shelters around Beppu City.
Many students took part in activities aimed at supporting and helping other students and citizens affected by the earthquakes.

This month's special covers the stories of the earthquake, its aftermath, and some of the support and relief activities as seen from the perspective of APU students.
Earthquake experiences Standing hand in hand against the quake Beppu and APU: Feeling at home Disaster prevention: Always be prepared
We interviewed some APU students about their experiences during the earthquake.

Stories about APU students and staff who refused to be defeated by the quakes, and who helped others during the crisis.

The heartwarming response from APU.

We can never know when disaster will strike, but we can be prepared in order to minimize the damage.

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Student Press Assistant (SPA)
NGHIEM Quoc Hoai Minh (College of International Management 4th yerar, Vietnam)

My first earthquake experience has taught me this most important lesson: Living in fear is a choice.

As I kept praying for the ground under my feet to stop shaking, I saw Japanese people in the evacuation shelters and my neighborhood carrying on their routine, trying their best not to burden other people. Their calm attitude left a strong impression on me, and I eventually realized that in times of chaos, fears are self-made. Claiming so doesn’t mean I am taking natural disasters lightly, but in fact, I have learnt that sufficient knowledge of ongoing happenings, trusting specialized relief teams, and keeping a clear mind no matter what are the key to minimize fears. We may not be able to control earthquake magnitude, but we can always keep our emotions in check, though it is challenging and I tip my hat to Japanese people for doing such an incredible job of it.

I would love to extend my heartfelt gratitude towards evacuation shelter staffs, APU and all of my friends that have supported me physically and mentally with both their professional skills and sincerity. My heart is with our Kumamoto and Ecuador fellows who have been caught up in much more challenging situations.
Earthquakes test our resilience. They resemble the rocky road we walk on each day to achieve our aspirations, and we are all mighty warriors in our pursuit of a fulfilling life. As we all live in the age of “expecting the unexpected”, let us all stay safe, strong, and invincible wherever we go.

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Student Press Assistant (SPA)
ARORA Akshat(College of International Management 3rd year, India)

As I sat amongst hundreds at an evacuation center while experiencing the worst series of earthquake shocks I had ever felt, there were a plethora of questions spiraling inside my head - Was the worst over? Or was it yet to come? And how much worse could it get?

I was at the beach with almost 20 of my friends at 1:25 am that Saturday morning, when our phones first warned us of the earthquake. Before we could even realize what was happening, the ground below us started shaking, the trees around us, swinging, and all of us stood there - trembling.

It was probably the most severe earthquake I have ever experienced, and although I thought I was mentally prepared to handle myself in such a situation, I evidently wasn't. On the contrary, little did the 'do's and don'ts' come to my mind, and the only thing I could think of was returning to my apartment as soon as possible.

Everyone probably knows what followed that earthquake and although the tremors in Beppu weren't that strong compared to Kumamoto, they were strong enough to damage buildings and trigger a tsunami alert initially. Since there was always a possibility of a strong aftershock, I felt it was a better idea to spend the next two nights at an evacuation center. The Thai Embassy was kind enough to get buses arranged for Thai as well as other APU students to get out of Beppu, and that's how even I went to Fukuoka where I spent a few days post the earthquake.

However, in the last two weeks, I have realized Japan's sense of responsibility and collectiveness as a nation. I cannot imagine any other place where people would be so meticulous, dedicated and organized. Furthermore, the assistance and support rendered to the students by the local residents at the evacuation center as well as entities such as mobile phone companies that provided us with free Wi-Fi and phone charging spots, filled me with love and respect towards the entire community around me.

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MOHAMMAD Rifqi Rizaldi(College of Asia Pacific Studies 3rd year, Indonesia)

Have you ever experienced an earthquake before?
I have experienced several less-strong earthquakes back in Indonesia.

How was the situation when the earthquake happened?
During that night, I was sleeping at my place on the 6th floor of an apartment. When the earthquake alarm rang, I woke up and started panicking as many of my stuff were falling from their place due to the quake. My roommates and I immediately rushed through the emergency stairs and found our neighbors outside the apartment building. I was only wearing my sleepwear, and even forgot to wear my glasses and sandals.
Not long after that, I heard echoes of warning siren and saw other people from the area walking uphill, so I decided to follow them while waiting for further instructions. My roommates, neighbors and I checked and see if there were anyone missing, and tried to stick in groups and keep an eye on each other while trying to contact our parents at home, ensuring them that we were safe. Together we made it to the nearest emergency evacuation shelter, in around 10-15 minutes walk from my apartment.
It was indeed a terrifying experience…and I will definitely tell this story to my future child.

How was the situation after the earthquake happened? Were there any actions taken by your community/embassy? If yes, could you tell us what and how it went?
A few hours after the earthquake happened, I received messages from both the Indonesian Embassy and Indonesian Students Association in Japan. They told me to stay aware and not to panic, while keeping them updated about the situation in Beppu. Many of my seniors also gave me a contact and asked if there were anything they could do to help.

I stayed at the evacuation shelter for four nights, knowing that there might be tremors and aftershocks following the quake. We received a disaster relief support from the Indonesian embassy, which included food, water, and medicines, a couple of days after the first big quake. We distributed and kept them at the shelters in case of further emergencies. The Indonesian Education Attaché, also spared her time to visit us in Beppu to give us moral support and to clarify rumors and news regarding the situation.

How did you feel about the situation? What did you learn from the disaster?
It was the strongest earthquake that I have experienced so far, and even until now I am still trembling every time I recall the memories from that time. However, at the same time, I feel relieved to know that Japan was well prepared to deal with natural disasters such as earthquake, shown by the procedures and information they gave on how to act during various emergency situations.
I learned to be more prepared in any kinds of situation, and I felt that the bond between us human beings, no matter which nationalities we hold and communities we belong in, were made stronger by the unfortunate event.

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FERNANDO Thiththalapitige Sherveen Randima Anton(College of International Management 2nd year, Sri Lanka)

How was the situation when the earthquake happened?
I was on my bed when the Earthquake warning rang loud that night. Before I can even get off the bed, the whole building shook very strongly, the windows were shaking and things were falling. Though I now realize it was only around 5 seconds of shaking, it felt as if it shook for over a good half a minute.

Were there any actions taken by your community/embassy? If yes, could you tell us what and how it went?
The Sri Lankan embassy and the Sri Lankan Business Council of Japan (SLBC) took steps to dispatch aid as soon as possible. They sent us aid consisting of dry rations and sanitary wear including towels, soap, and toothbrushes on the chance our access to basic necessities would be cut off with continuing earthquakes. We are thankful to their generous and prompt responses.

How did you feel about the situation? What did you learn from the disaster?
As our life and activities went back to normal, I, along with the other Sri Lankan students of APU went to visit the earthquake victims in Kumamoto and shared a meal with them, provided by the SLBC. Going through the earthquake myself, I realized that the power of Mother Nature over us humans is a force to be reckoned with, and that our lives are certainly not to be just taken up for granted.

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VEERABURINON Pannavat(College of Asia Pacific Studies 4th year, Thailand)

Have you ever experienced an earthquake before?
Several times, but the recent one was the strongest I have ever been through.

How was the situation when the earthquake happened?
I was so scared and frustrated at first. It was the first time I, and supposedly others, felt that our houses were not the safest place to stay. Such thing would not happen back in where I came from. The feeling became worse when I evacuated to the evacuation center in Beppu, where there were crowds of evacuees, all looking so anxious and depressed. Things felt better when I managed to evacuate to Fukuoka and did volunteer works at a donation center in Fukuoka city. I felt lucky to have a chance to actually help the victims in Kumamoto.

Were there any actions taken by your community/embassy? If yes, could you tell us what and how it went?
It was actually a great experience in a way. Together with my fellow Thai friends, we managed to cooperate with Royal Thai Embassy in Tokyo, Thai Students’ Association in Japan (TSAJ) and Thai Students’ Association in Fukuoka (TSAF) to provide buses for Thai students and also international students to evacuate to Fukuoka. We were also offered to stay at shelters and houses provided by the TSAF and the Embassy at that time.

How did you feel about the situation? What did you learn from the disaster?
I realized that it was not the earthquake that scared me, but thoughts of it. However, though it might take time to heal, life goes on, and on the bright side, I have learned through this rare experience which I believe, not many Thai people would get to experience, even though I obviously do not want to go through it for the second time. Additionally, my friends and I had a great experience of actually taking an act during the disaster. I feel grateful to be given a chance to help people to be safe, or at least, feel safe because I truly believe that it is such a blessing to be able to give than to receive.

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99 exchange students in APU also experienced the huge earthquakes this time. I interviewed three of them about their feelings after the earthquakes happened. They and most exchange students were spending their time in AP house 4 (Former Oita International House) when the earthquake happened.

BRAIDOTTI Estelle Marie Madeleine (Exchange student, France) was having dinner with her friends when the first earthquake happened. She heard some mobile phones started ringing as alert. She said it was the first time to experience earthquakes, she felt strange but was not so scared as Japanese people in AP house 4 were not upset so much. However, she was scared of the second one because of the size of shaking and was afraid that the ceiling may collapse. BRAIDOTTI tried to find out more information about the earthquakes and says “Everything in Beppu” in Facebook was really useful to get information. At about 2-3 a.m. on that day, she decided to go to an evacuation center based on the advice of the office staff in AP house 4.

SERROUKH Jamal Din (Exchange student, the UK) was in his room and became a little bit worried because the second earthquake was stronger and longer than the first one. He hid under the desk and all the books fell down from the shelf. After shaking, he checked everyone was ok and gathered in the lounge.

EGBERT Benjamen Ronald (exchange student, the US) saw people who were annoying and angry in the shelters. They looked so stressed because they could not get comfortable sleep. On the other hand, he was slightly positive as he evacuated and stayed with other exchange students. They stayed there for one night and went back to AP house 4.

After experiencing the earthquakes BRAIDOTTI said that she could learn how she should react like covering and protecting her head when earthquake happens. She is not so afraid of living in Japan though she experienced the huge disaster. SERROUKH said that he really likes Japan. He will return to his country after this semester but plans to come back to Japan after the final year in his university.

I hope they enjoy their staying in Beppu and Japan.

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#九州が大好き:HANEO Takashi (College of Asia Pacific Studies 4th year, Japan)

After the big earthquake in Kumamoto and Oita, the APU online community – particularly on social networking platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, were flooded by amateur photographs and stories on Kyushu tourism embedded with an eye-catching hashtag, #九州が大好き. The trend was initiated by one of APU students, whom we had a chance to talk with.

Could you tell us more about your project?
The idea is simple. I wanted people to spread the positivity and good aspects of Kyushu by sharing photos and stories about the region along with the hashtag #九州が大好き, which could promote its appeal to potential tourists, particularly foreign tourists. I believe information sharing on the Internet could open up opportunities and lead to more unexpected outcomes, and I wanted everyone to become a part of it as players, not only as observers.

What drove you to start your project?
I am aware that the earthquake, apart from damaging the physical environment and leaving traumas among the people, could affect the tourism industry in Kyushu area. As an APS student majoring in tourism and working at a small tourism-related business, I felt the urge to help recover the situation by utilizing something that everyone uses - the social networking services, as a platform.
Even though the situation is getting back to normal, I would still keep this project going in order to expose Kyushu to a wider world. In the short term, along with Beppu’s local NGO “Beppu Project”, I am working on a similar project focusing on Beppu with the same concept called “#We Love Beppu”. I believe that even the smallest step could make a change and help Kyushu’s tourism to recover, if not develop, after the disaster.

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IMAI Shion (College of Asia Pacific Studies 3rd year, Japan), Representative of KOKOKARA

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, the student club KOKOKARA has been spreading a message about the importance of disaster preparedness. During the recent Kumamoto Earthquake, the group provided up-to-the-minute information on its Facebook page and has been conducting activities aimed at connecting with people in the Kumamoto area. On April 21 and 22, the club collected donations and relief supplies, and on April 23, a group of five students, including two members of KOKOKARA, traveled to Kumamoto to deliver the supplies to the evacuation centers set up at Tobu Junior High School in Kumamoto City and Hiroyasu and Mashiki Chuo Elementary Schools in Mashiki Town.

At Mashiki Chuo Elementary School, they saw a group of three elderly women sharing a single blanket. IMAI said she couldn’t stand the thought of the evacuees, who still didn't have access to a bath, having to live amid the less than pleasant odor of the center. After going to Kumamoto, she felt that the information that the mass media was conveying (e.g., volunteers were not needed because they would cause traffic jams, relief supplies were lacking, and so on) did not provide the whole story. During her visit, she heard that locals were having trouble cleaning up their homes because the schools were all closed and they had to look after their children. This gave her the idea to get a group of APU student volunteers together to offer a babysitting service.

KOKOKARA has been active since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and after Kumamoto, IMAI said someone she knows in Tohoku gave her some sage advice: “Don't let one month lull you into complaisance; you should be ready to run at any time.” In closing, IMAI said that even though the speed and process of reconstruction differs from place to place, she will remain committed to assisting with the recovery and providing support over the long term.

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Relief campaign in Beppu City by Kyushu Central Masjid

In the aftermath of the big earthquake that struck Kumamoto and Oita Prefecture on April 16, Kyushu Central Masjid (a.k.a. Beppu Mosque) launched a relief campaign in form of preparing and delivering dinner package for people in multiple earthquake shelters in Beppu City. The campaign, which was coordinated by Collage of International Management, Professor KHAN Muhammad T., emphasized the mosque’s inherent nature as a community center besides simply being a religious institution. During the week after the April 16 earthquake, volunteers cooked meals and delivered them shelters starting with those nearest to the mosque, including Sakaigawa Elementary, Ishigaki Elementary and Chubu Junior High School. (The campaign lasted for 17 days.)

According to Professor KHAN, the campaign was held in order to return the kindness of Beppu citizen in welcoming the Muslim community and may also help local people learn about Muslim. As academic and extracurricular activities in APU was suspended, a number of APU students from various countries also came to lend their hands in cooking and preparing the meals.

People at the shelters welcomed the activity and grateful for warm meals, as well as the friendliness of the community. The campaign also attracted the Japanese media including the local newspaper Oita Godo Shimbun and NHK to come and cover the story. Although Beppu city did not suffer from extreme damage, some people, especially the elderly were still staying at the shelters. (as of May 2nd)

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Okaerinasai: Interview with the organizers

For APU students who came to campus at the 1st period when the school resumed on Monday, April 25 there was an unforgettable experience. As they got off the bus, some staff members and professors greeted them with the Japanese phrase ‘okaerinasai’ which is traditionally spoken when greeting a family member comeing home. A lot of students were touched by this initiative and just a while later, pictures and videos of the activity were already uploaded to social media website like Facebook.

Three Student Office staff members were in charge of this event. According to them, who kept on working at the office throughout the first week after the quake, all APU students survived in a good condition - some evacuated to outside Kyushu or even outside Japan, and the others stayed in shelters in Beppu. However, being aware that the earthquake might be a first-time experience for some of the students, Ms.Tomotsune felt a need to cheer the students as they came back to school. She proposed the idea to her colleagues Ms.Sugimoto and Mr.Umemura, who just one day before the school starts informed their colleagues in the Student Office as well as the head of the department who subsequently informed faculty members and executives, including APU president of the initiative. Mr.Umemura was worried that nobody would show up because it was too sudden of a plan, but it turned out that the idea was very well received by both staff members and executives, and quite a number of them gathered and greeted the students amidst the continuing aftershocks.

Message to APU Students
Ms.TOMOTSUNE
“I am glad that everyone managed to overcome this once in four hundred years experience. Even if a lightly more nasty thing happens, I am confident that APU and the students would probably be able to overcome it as well.”

Ms.SUGIMOTO
“Seeing the students getting off the bus and walking towards the classroom, I felt glad that they really returned and so I greeted them. In Japan, when one comes home there will be an exchange between ‘tadaima’ (I just got here) and ‘okaeri’ (welcome back), so by doing this activity I would like the students to think that this is their second home.”

Mr.UMEMURA
“It would be nice if at times like this not only students, but also staff and faculty members would help each other and overcome the experience with smile, like they just did this time.”