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Family prepares for Japan trip

March 23, 2011

Carol and John de Perczel received a call at 3 a.m. March 11 alerting them to a massive earthquake in Japan.

For the de Perczel family, of Hickory, their thoughts went immediately to their 29-year-old son, John Forrest, who teaches English in Yokohama, Japan.

"We just really felt he was OK for some reason," Carol said. "We felt at peace."

Several hours later, Carol and John received an email from John Forrest's cell phone telling his parents he was OK. By 10 a.m. that day, they were talking to him on a video-chat program, Skype.

Carol and John learned about the devastation from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami from John Forrest, who travels the country as a substitute teacher and is fluent in Japanese. Carol said John Forrest was teaching school about an hour south of Yokohama, Japan, when the quake hit.

"He said the earthquake seemed like it just went on and on and on," Carol said.

The school where John Forrest was teaching had a swimming pool, and the force of the quake displaced about half of the pool's water.

The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. Tokyo is south of where the quake hit, and John Forrest lives south of Tokyo.

"He told us that he felt (where he lived) was a good place," Carol said.

Although there has been some "panic shopping" in the country, Carol said John Forrest hasn't reported any food shortages. John Forrest told his parents that the country's power outages made travel and shopping difficult, with malls and trains shut down to travelers.

Carol and John, and their daughter Leslie, have traveled to Japan two times to visit John Forrest, and they're not letting the earthquake and tsunami stop them from visiting the country again.

John and Carol bought tickets to travel to Japan in January, and they will depart soon to visit their son again.

Their visit falls on John Forrest's spring break, so the family will be able to spend time together touring the country.

"Our son has reassured us that we're going away from the disaster," Carol said. "... I'm a little nervous about traveling, but there's a risk any time you travel."

They plan to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as other Japanese cities during their two-week trip.

But sightseeing isn't all the family will do. Carol said she plans to take a suitcase of emergency supplies and toiletries to help with relief efforts in the country.

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