Jedediah Hawkins chef still awaits word from mother in Japan

03/16/2011 12:02 PM |

Minoru Suzuki, a new chef at Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport, is waiting for word about his 80-year-old mother back in Japan, whom he’s been unable to reach since he arrived here last week. Mr. Suzuki’s mother was staying in Akita in Tohoku, an area hard hit by the tsunami that followed the earthquake.

Hired to enhance the restaurant’s Japanese menu offerings, he left Tokyo’s Narita International Airport for New York just before the earthquake struck on Friday.

Mr. Suzuki, 56, knows his mother might have been traveling when the tsunami hit, according to Rick Takemoto, the inn’s vice president for international marketing. His mother lives in the countryside and has only an old-fashioned landline telephone, Mr. Takemoto said, so she could be fine and simply unable to communicate.

“He’s in shock right now,” Mr. Takemoto said of Mr. Suzuki. “We’re trying to keep him busy” to distract him from his worries, he added. “Everybody’s trying to keep his spirits going.”

On Wednesday, March 16, Mr. Suzuki prepared a bento menu of healthy Japanese foods and 100 percent of the restaurant’s profits that day were to be sent to relief agencies working in Japan.

Meanwhile, a Southold family was relieved to hear by e-mail from a friend in Japan that she and her family were safe.
Back in the mid-1980s, John and Anne Aicher welcomed Miki Okatake into their home for six weeks so that she could prepare for a job in the hospitality industry, familiarizing herself with American idioms and customs.

“She was a pure delight,” Mr. Aicher said. He described Ms. Okatake as “pretty and fun.” She returned to Japan to pursue her career, but the Aichers have corresponded with her and had her back to visit a couple of times.

“She’s always been a very special part of our lives,” Mr. Aicher said.

He and his wife were relieved to receive an e-mail from Ms. Okatake saying that she and her family are all safe. Although her husband works in Sendai, which was largely destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami, she reported that he, too, is safe.
“We had a power cut after the earthquake,” Ms. Okatake wrote. She was alone at home and described it as “scary. I hurried on my way to school to see my kids,” she said.

“We spent a scary night with only a radio and some flashlights,” she wrote. Her cell phone batteries were dead. The next morning, power was back and she was able to watch television and learn that damage in her area was minimal. Her husband was in a safe building in Sendai, she wrote, but had little to eat.

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