Businessman glad family is safe in Japan

Photo by Bill Dinicola

Photo by Bill Dinicola

CONYERS -- The back-to-back natural disasters that shook the country of Japan last week have also affected our local area.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake just off the east coast of Honshu, Japan, on March 11 caused a 23-foot tsunami and more than 50 aftershocks. The death toll may be up to 10,000 with thousands more injured and missing, as the country deals with physical damages, financial losses and impact to nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex from the disasters.

LioChem is a Conyers-based company located on East Park Drive off Sigman Road and is a manufacturer of specialty chemicals used in printing inks, plastic colorants and adhesives. The company is a part of Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd., which has its international headquarters in Tokyo and is about 231 miles away from the earthquake epicenter.

LioChem president Kazuhito Nakano shared with the Citizen on Thursday morning that his family members in Tokyo are safe. Phone lines were down when news of the disaster first broke in the U.S. last Friday, but Nakano got an email from his son, a 20-year-old university student.

"He sent my wife an email and my wife noticed the email content was very strange," Nakano said. "The first sentence was he's OK, he's all right."

He found out more about the horrible news through the Internet.

"We have a couple Japanese working in this company, but their family was also safe," Nakano said.

So far, nothing has changed yet in the local company's operations.

"In Japan, it's still very much confusing," Nakano said. "Our headquarters is still investigating the impact on their customers, their suppliers, the business, everything."

Toyo Ink Company, LioChem's parent company, has facilities located in the Tokyo area, but there has not been any serious damage and no one was injured.

"They are continuing with their operations," Nakano said.

Bill Bonny of LioChem said the local company is putting together a donation drive to help in relief efforts. LioChem is also working with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the Japan-American Society of Georgia in those efforts. The drive started last Friday and will continue.

Nakano has worked in U.S. for the past four years and he pointed to the close relationship Georgia has with Japan.

"In the whole state of Georgia, there are many Japanese manufacturing companies and facilities operating right now," Nakano said. "So Japanese manufacturing companies very much have a good relationship with the state of Georgia."

Japan has had the most tsunamis in world history. And Nakano said the island country has also had a lot of earthquakes and many Japanese companies have created their buildings to stand the stress of a possible earthquake.

"But this earthquake is much more than our expectations, much more damage," Nakano said.

Nakano said it was difficult to say how recovery will go and estimated it would take years.

"They're struggling to survive right now, but probably, we hope, Japan will recover soon, maybe in a couple of years," Nakano said.

The positive relationships with the U.S. and other countries will help in relief.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.