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DEVASTATING JOLT IN JAPAN : L.A. Quake Relief Effort Seeks Cash, Not Supplies

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two days after volunteers at Little Tokyo’s Japanese Village Plaza began collecting food and clothing for Kobe earthquake victims, they switched to soliciting monetary donations Friday because they could not find a way to get the collected items to Japan.

“It’s a little frustrating to tell so many people who want to help that we can’t do anything right now,” said Tom Kurai, marketing director of the plaza, where dozens of Japanese businesses are located, including two owned by Kobe natives. Kurai said he was told by the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles and three relief agencies that the Japanese government does not want clothing and food.

On Friday, he and other volunteers set up a box for contributions at the plaza’s Enbun Market. Donors can also mail checks to the Kobe Relief Fund at Enbun Market, 124 Japanese Village Plaza, Los Angeles, Calif. 90012. He said donations will be forwarded to the American Red Cross.

Volunteers will sell the clothing and food collected so far at a rummage sale and send the proceeds to the American Red Cross, said Kathern Inouye, an employee of Japanese Village Plaza. She is trying to arrange the sale in Montebello because it has a sister city relationship with Ashiya, a suburb of quake-hit Osaka. The date has not been set yet, but anyone wishing to contribute items for the sale may call the plaza office at (213) 620-8861.

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“We feel so sad because we see all those people who are suffering on TV,” Inouye said, “yet we have no way of sending them the things they need because the planes are full and there are no ships going to Japan.”

Kurai said his office has received many calls from victims of last year’s Northridge quake “who really identify with what people in Kobe are going through.”

He said some have told him that they are unable to contribute money but would have liked to donate clothing and non-perishable food items.


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