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From L.A., Japanese Church Sends Aid And Prayers

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From L.A., Japanese Church Sends Aid And Prayers

From L.A., Japanese Church Sends Aid And Prayers

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In California, Governor Jerry Brown designated Sunday as a day of remembrance and prayer for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Many people in Los Angeles need no reminder.

The city has one of the largest Japanese communities in the country, and a good part of that community lives in West Los Angeles. NPR's Ina Jaffe visited a church there and sent this postcard.

INA JAFFE: This neighborhood is sometimes called Little Osaka, but that doesn't ring a bell for most people. So if you had to describe how to find it, you'd probably just say: You know that street west of the 405 freeway where all the Japanese restaurants are?

There's more to this neighborhood, though, than sushi bars and noodle shops. Japanese immigrants began settling here in the 19-teens and returned here after World War I, when they were released from the internment camps.

The younger generation now haunts the boutiques and clubs. The older generation maintains the ornate gardens in front of the modest stucco bungalows. And on Sundays, the congregation at the West Los Angeles United Methodist Church gathers as they have been since 1930.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing hymn)

JAFFE: This is a small congregation. Not much more than 100 people show up on any given Sunday morning. Yet they've raised quite a bit of money for the victims of Japan's multiple disasters, says George Kikuta, who's worshipped here for more than 40 years.

Mr. GEORGE KIKUTA: Last Sunday was the first Sunday, and we raised $8,000. So today I'm hoping, you know, we could double and triple that.

JAFFE: This Sunday's collection brought in nearly $11,000 more. Many here have friends and relatives in Japan. Kikuta has an uncle and six cousins in northern Japan, about 50 miles from the crippled nuclear reactors.

Mr. KIKUTA: And I talked to one of them, and she's sleeping in the car right now, parked in front of her house. The house is OK, but because of the aftershake, she's so afraid.

JAFFE: Fear has been overwhelming for Chimie Hashimoto. She also has family and close friends in northern Japan. She now knows they're OK, but she had no word of them for almost nine days.

Ms. CHIMIE HASHIMOTO: I pray every day, and I'm every day look at the TV. And it really hurt.

JAFFE: Another member of the congregation, Toshio Takahaschi, thinks that the Japanese people have set an example for the world with their resolute stoicism.

Mr. TOSHIO TAKAHASCHI: I am very proud of that. And many people say to me: You should proud to be Japanese.

JAFFE: Takahaschi says that he hopes America can learn from how the Japanese people are enduring the devastation caused by the earthquake. After all, he says, something like that could happen here. And in Los Angeles, everyone expects it will.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing hymn)

JAFFE: Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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