Noriko Ishibashi of Bozeman has a hard time watching the "horrible, horrible" Internet images of the devastation in her native Japan caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Ishibashi said she and her American husband have a 5-month-old daughter, so she thinks about Japanese women with new babies who have been missing since the tsunami and are presumed to have died.

"It makes me just teary to think about it," Ishibashi said. "It makes my heart crush really bad."

Instead of sitting glued to a screen, Ishibashi is taking action, getting together with other members of the community to organize a fundraiser for earthquake victims.

She is working with I-Ho Pomeroy, owner of I-Ho's Grill; Ted Watanabe, owner of Watanabe's Japanese Restaurant; and Masaki Uchida, an assistant research professor of chemistry at MSU since 2004.

They're planning a Japanese food sale on Sunday, March 27, from noon to 3 p.m. at I-Ho's Korean Grill, 1216 W. Lincoln St.

"I have to keep myself busy, to feel I'm helping," said Ishibashi, who earned a master's degree in computer science at Montana State University and worked about nine years with RightNow Technology.

Uchida said when he heard the news of the massive magnitude 9 earthquake, he worried about friends and former colleagues in Sendai, a city hit hard by the tsunami. He sent out e-mail messages and heard back from friends in a few days.

"Most of them turned out, they're fine," Uchida said. His friends were at the local university, far from the coast.

"It's so sad," he said of the destruction. Japan has prepared well for earthquakes and tsunamis, but not for a once-a-millennium event like this. "It overwhelms our preparations. It's so sad."

Money raised at the Japanese food sale will go to the Rotary Club of Sendai, he said. Rotary was chosen because Pomeroy, who has hosted several fundraisers in Bozeman and is a Sunrise Rotary Club member, felt it was a reliable way to get money directly to people who could help.

Ishibashi and Pomeroy have been good friends for years, since Ishibashi was a student working in I-Ho's Grill. She asked Pomeroy for help and the use of her restaurant, which is slightly bigger than Watanabe's.

"It is natural to help other people," Pomeroy said. "I said I'd love to help you."

Pomeroy explained that when she grew up in Korea, "we learned hatred of Japan" because of horrible things the Japanese army did in World War II to the Korean people.

But today, Pomeroy said, "We should forgive each other. Now, we need to help. Japan needs help."

Ishibashi estimated there are about 50 people in Bozeman's Japanese community outside of MSU.

In addition, there are about 22 students from Japan studying at MSU, according to Norm Peterson, vice provost for international education. Right after the quake, Peterson said, one Japanese student's father was stuck for a while on a bullet train, but overall the exchange students reported their families were fine.

MSU's biggest connection with Japan is Kyushu University, which is on the western end of Japan, farthest from the quake epicenter, Peterson said.

Tomomi Yamaguchi, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, said in an e-mail that MSU students from Japan, Japanese studies faculty and the international office are planning to hold fundraisers when classes resume next week, after spring break.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.