Gretchen Sager
Gretchen Sager (Contributed photo) Contributed photo

There is a phrase in Japanese, “gaman suru,” which roughly translates to “endure the situation.”

Gretchen Sager of DeWitt, Iowa, who is studying at a college southwest of Tokyo, said that phrase describes how the Japanese people have dealt with the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck the northern portion of the country last week.

“With everything they do, they don’t complain, and rarely do they falter. They bear with it and keep going no matter what,” she said Monday in an interview via Facebook.

Sager, a Central Community High School graduate, is a junior majoring in Asian studies at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is spending this school year studying at Nagoya Gaskin University in Nagoya.

On the day of the quake, Sager said she was sitting at her desk when she realized she was weaving back and forth. When she looked at the door and noticed it was shaking, she realized it was an earthquake. An aftershock soon followed.

Sager said she went to her balcony and saw people walking their dogs in the park, and since they didn’t appear to be concerned, she wasn’t, either.

It wasn’t for a few more hours that Sager heard about the extreme damage in the northern areas of the country. Sager said the Nagoya area was under a tsunami warning for about 48 hours, but there has not been damage or injuries in that area.

Sager’s mother, Renee, said she heard about the earthquake Friday morning on her way to work in Davenport and initially was unable to reach her daughter by phone.

Renee Sager said her sister in Arizona called and told her that her son had visited with Gretchen on Facebook about an hour after the earthquake hit, and that she was safe.

She visited with her daughter online over Skype on Sunday night. Other than facing the possibility of rolling blackouts while Japan diverts power to the areas where it is needed for recovery activities, things in Nagoya haven’t changed much.

Gretchen Sager said a planned trip to Tokyo this week had to be postponed, and people in Nagoya are being encouraged to conserve water and energy and to put together emergency kits made up of clothing, food, water, flashlights, batteries and other essentials.

Although the nuclear power plants damaged by the earthquake and tsunami are not a threat to the Nagoya area, they still concern her mother.

“Part of me would like to get on a plane and go over there and get her,” Renee Sager said.