Technology is assisting in Japan's post-quake like at no other time in history. From Google's Person Finder to YouTube's unprecedented ability to showcase near-instantaneous images of the devastation, people in Japan and around the world are benefiting from technology's now-central role in recovery. For Akiko Kosaka, a 20-year-old student from Japan studying at the University of California at Riverside, the World Wide Web has provided an invaluable link with her family at home.
For three days after last week's earthquake and resulting tsunami, Kosaka didn't know if her family members in Minami Sanriku were dead or alive. More than half of the fishing town's 17,000 residents are missing and feared dead and Kosaka worried her loved ones were among the unfortunate victims.
For three days she scoured the internet for any sign of her family. "I didn't think they survived," Kosaka told CNN during a tearful interview Tuesday. "I cried for three days -- Friday, Saturday, Sunday."
Then she received word Sunday night from a friend in Japan of the existence of a 45-second YouTube video showing her family home as the only one standing amid the rubble. The video highlighted her older sister holding a sign to a TV news crew saying in Japanese "we are all safe."
Kosaka expressed relief upon hearing of the video, but became distraught after she couldn't find it online, despite staying up all night looking for it.
Then a contact through a Japanese social network e-mailed her the link Monday morning.
When seeing the video for the first time inside the home of her host family in Riverside, California, Kosaka's reaction surprised everyone in the household.
"I screamed, and my host parents woke up and they thought it was really bad," Kosaka said. "They asked what happened. And I said, 'They survived!'"
In the video, her 24-year-old sister, Shoko, is seen standing on the family home's balcony, asking the TV crew to pass along word to her sister in America that she's safe.
Now, using the same social mediums that brought her family's message out of Japan, Kosaka is trying to let her relatives know she received the message.
Speaking in Japanese, Kosaka extended a message to her family through a CNN news crew: "I saw your video and thank you very much for being alive, and thank you very much for being worried about me when you are in a tough situation. How are our grandparents? How are our parents?"
After asking about the family's pharmacy business, Kosaka ends her message with, "I look forward to seeing you guys again."
According to CNN, Kosaka's family home is the only one left standing in the oceanside village because her father reconstructed the two-story house just five years ago. Other houses in the neighborhood were aging, she said.
Since she found the YouTube video from her sister online, Kosaka says she's watched at least 50 times. "I couldn't believe it. It's a miracle," she said.
Kosaka's family is not out of the woods yet, however. She guessed that no one in her hometown would have access to clean water and the winter weather is still cold, with snow.