Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Japan tsunami: Kiwis tell their stories

Japanese R'nB popstar Jay'Ed, whose real name is Jade Goto. Photo / Supplied
Japanese R'nB popstar Jay'Ed, whose real name is Jade Goto. Photo / Supplied


New Zealander Anthony Netzler was having lunch with a friend in Tokyo when the quake struck.

Mr Netzler, originally from Mairangi Bay in Auckland, described a scene of mayhem.

"I looked up and literally, there were 20-storey buildings just smacking into each other."

He walked 15km home and managed to get in touch with his wife and two children, who were safe.

"Our home is on the eighth floor. You could still live in it but it was just a wreck.

"A woman who lives on a lower floor has nowhere to go. Her home is completely destroyed."

Mr Netzler, who has lived and worked in Japan for the past 25 years, was visiting Taupo when the earthquake in Christchurch struck.

He and his family are now living at his in-laws' home in Chiba prefecture.

He said the family had not yet made a decision about moving away from Tokyo permanently.

"I just know that we're okay and we're hoping that everyone else is coping and trying to look after themselves."


Kiwi expat Mark Wright knew his house would be fine when the quake struck - it is earthquake-proof.

The 47-year-old, who was born in Britain but grew up in Auckland, now lives with his wife Yukie and their 15-year-old son Ken in Kiryu, Gunma prefecture - about three hours from Tokyo.

Mr Wright, a teacher, was at school when the quake struck.

"My school sustained quite a lot of damage. My son and wife were okay and I knew our house would fare well."

Unlike traditional Japanese homes - which have heavy tiles throughout - the Wright family's home is made from a combination of wooden and metal frames.

Mrs Wright was at home at the time and was having a shower.

She only realised something was wrong when the hot water cut out.

During an earthquake, a fail-safe system installed within the house means that the gas will shut off.

She told the Herald yesterday: "Our house is quite strong. It can take a magnitude 7 earthquake and will still be okay, according to the builder.

"This [quake] was stronger and although still a little scary, the house stood well."


Roger Nepal was a week out from moving into an apartment near Sendai Airport.

Now he is grateful that move did not happen a week earlier.

Mr Nepal, who left New Zealand 12 years ago to live in northern Japan, was planning to move just a few kilometres from Sendai Airport this weekend.

"I was going to move to Sendai this Saturday ... plans [are] on hold now."

Mr Nepal is now staying on the northern island of Hokkaido.

He said: "We felt the quake, very long, but that was it - just can't believe the TV coverage."


New Zealand-born Japanese pop star Jay'Ed ran for his life when the earthquake struck.

The 29-year-old was in an office building near Sendai and was told by his record label people to get to higher ground immediately.

Jay'Ed - real name Jade Goto - may not be a well-known face in his country of birth, but he is a star in Japan, where he grew up.

His family in New Zealand waited anxiously for any word from him, before an email arrived on Sunday.

His uncle, Siti Mavoa, told the Herald yesterday: "It was a bit worrying for a while. We kept looking at Facebook and ringing and ringing, but couldn't get through.

"Then we got an email from them on Sunday that they were safe. They said Jay'Ed was close to where the tsunami came. As soon as the quake happened his people got him to just get out and go."

Jay'Ed's mother Diane King Goto, who is Samoan, also contacted them from another part of Japan to say they were okay.

"We're just so relieved that they're all safe," Mr Mavoa said.

- NZ Herald

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