New "Stories From Tohoku" Documentary Pays Tribute to the Survivors of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake

Los Angeles (March 7, 2014) – On the afternoon of March 11, 2011, the tremors of what would be the most powerful earthquake to ever strike Japan was felt, followed by a devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster. It has been three years since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the Tohoku region. Today, the survivors are still trying to recover.

Stories From Tohoku is a one-hour documentary, produced by Japanese Americans, Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi, that chronicles survivors' stories of courage, resilience and re-discovering joy. Told through the voices of ordinary people, the documentary follows survivors as they face an uncertain future with hope and strength, and of Japanese Americans committed to help and support in Japan's recovery. The disaster was personal for many Japanese Americans and stimulated a reconnection to the land of their ancestry, as they initiated fundraising across the U.S. resulting in more than $40-million to support survivors and NGOs helping in the recovery.

"The documentary personalizes Japan's recovery from both a Japanese and Japanese American point of view through shared ancestry, values and culture. It is a tribute to the survivors of the Tohoku disaster and the kizuna or bonds that connect them with Americans of Japanese descent," said co-director, Dianne Fukami.

You'll meet Dr. Paul Terasaki, a Los Angeles based Nisei (second generation Japanese American), who sponsors trips to Tohoku for Japanese American college students to experience the region "first-hand." We follow the students and see their reactions to the devastated town of Minamisanriku, as they volunteer to aid in local recovery.

The film takes you to a school and playground in Miyagi where children welcome a delegation of Japanese American visitors led by U.S. Olympic skater, Kristi Yamaguchi, just months following the disaster, bringing hope, toys and smiles to children in a devastated region. Brian Kito, Little Tokyo businessman, and Darrell Miho, Los Angeles-based photojournalist, are profiled as Japanese Americans who mobilized to support survivors and bring needed attention and aid to the region.

"Listening to the survivors' stories about losing everything and accepting those losses with resilience; I couldn't even imagine. This resilience is a cultural trait, gaman – enduring the unbearable with dignity, and it became the recurring theme throughout the film," said Eli Olson, co-director.

Stories From Tohoku will have its world premiere at the 2014 Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) CAAMFest, film festival on March 15 and March 19 in San Francisco and the 2014 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival May 1-11 in Los Angeles.

Stories From Tohoku is co-directed by Dianne Fukami and Eli Olson and co-produced by Fukami and Debra Nakatomi, Japanese American third-generation Sansei, who met in 2009 on an educational delegation to Japan. There are plans for Stories From Tohoku to be broadcast nationwide on PBS stations in May 2014.

Stories From Tohoku is a Bridge Media, Inc. production. For more information, including DVD info and screening dates, please visit

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