When a voice over the loudspeaker called for a moment of silence at the Natural Products Expo West show floor’s opening Saturday morning, many exhibitors from—or with ties to—Japan still didn’t know whether family, friends, or facilities were alright after Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. But they all expressed appreciation for the formal gesture of sympathy, and for the continuing outpouring of support from visitors to their booths and fellow industry members.
Currently six employees of Ito En, a Japan-based tea company exhibiting at the show, are unaccounted for, but most of the company’s several thousand employees are thought to be safe. “We are hoping for news,” said Rona Tison, senior vice president of the company. Ito En’s headquarters are in Tokyo with a branch near Sendai. “There are certainly a number of Japanese exhibitors at the show, and we’ve seen a great show of support.”
“Many people have stopped by the booth to give their condolences,” said Shingo Hashiba, a sales representative at Hydride Ion Corporation. Hashiba said his family was from Sendai and that although he was initially unsure his family and the company facility were okay, local colleagues had since had a chance to go investigate and found that, thankfully, the facility has survived and family members are being housed in a government shelter.
At the Wakunaga of America (Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract) booth, president and CEO Kenro Nakamura said his colleagues were also safe, both at Tokyo headquarters and at the company’s farm in Hokkaido.
Many individuals and companies at Expo West have asked how they can help the people in the affected area. To donate $10 to relief funds text REDCROSS to 90999. For more information, contact the Consulate-General of Japan in Los Angeles at http://www.la.us.emb-japan.go.jp/.
“We see genuine concern coming from the people of America,” said Hiro Tome, president of EYT, Inc., an international marketing company. “It helps give us strength.”