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JCC grad to document relief efforts in Japan

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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A Watertown High School and Jefferson Community College alumnus living in Tokyo is heading to Sendai, Japan, to document the relief effort in the tsunami-devastated region.


Ian Thomas Ash, a 1997 graduate of JCC and an award-winning freelance documentary filmmaker, left for Sendai on Tuesday. He has been posting a series of short reports on YouTube after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit off Japan's northeast coast March 11.


In his report posted Sunday, Mr. Ash, who speaks Japanese, interviews residents of Tokyo who seem relatively calm and almost cheerful despite the recent earthquake and tsunami and concerns about radioactive fallout at the Fukushima nuclear power plant some 150 miles away.


"Compared to the people in the areas hit by the tsunami, we have absolutely nothing to complain about," he said in the video.


However, Mr. Ash said essential supplies such as rice, milk, bottled water, eggs, toilet paper and even face masks, flashlights and batteries were difficult to find. "People are probably panic-buying those just in case something else happens," he said.


Mr. Ash also said that businesses such as 7-Eleven are turning off non-essential lights in an effort to conserve electricity.


The 1994 Watertown High School graduate earned an associate degree in liberal arts from JCC and graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a bachelor's degree in English literature and a minor in theater.


According to his online biography, he moved to Bato-machi, a rural town in Japan, shortly after graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh and then went to England to earn a master's degree in film and TV production from the University of Bristol.


In 2006, his documentary "The Ballad of Vicki and Jake," which was released in the United Kingdom in 2005, won first prize at the Visions du Reel Festival in Nyon, Switzerland.


In his most recent report from Tokyo — posted just a couple of hours before leaving for Sendai on Tuesday to document the work of three brothers who started a small charity — Mr. Ash asked people to send thoughts and prayers to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami and urged people to make donations to the Red Cross or other charity organizations.


People can follow his journey on his YouTube page and his personal blog.

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