It has been one year since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster which devastated large parts of northeastern Japan. It is a day I feel I should mark in some way. I have been thinking about this for weeks, about what I would say, what I would do, on March 11. But I find I have nothing to say. I wasn’t in Japan when it happened, and I haven’t been back since. I have no real connection to these events, no firsthand heartwarming or terrifying story to share.
I keep trying to think of different things to say, but I cannot help feeling like anything I say, or anything I might do, is only to help me feel better, to help me feel involved, or to feel like I’ve done something, when in fact I haven’t really helped anyone at all. I wish I lived in Japan, and could donate my weekends to journeying up to Tôhoku and helping out in person. It’s a year later, but there’s still a ton of work to do; many many places are still very far from recovery. Of course, even that would really be more about me, my selfish desires to want to have a story to tell, to want to be able, years or decades from now, to say that I helped, to say that I was involved. My selfish desire to see people’s smiles and hear their words of thanks just for my being there.
I do hope to go to Japan soon. Maybe this summer. And if I don’t make it to Tôhoku, then I guess, at least I’m kind of helping out by spending my tourist dollars to help the Japanese economy in some miniscule way, and helping by setting an example, in a tiny tiny way, to show my friends and family that Japan is safe and a good place to go, to show Japanese people that I am not at all afraid to come visit, despite radiation fears or whatever (though I may be merely one of thousands of Americans doing the same this summer). … Between school and everything, I just don’t find myself in Japan any time soon, except for a small “vacation”, a brief week or two visit; it might not be for three or five years from now that I once again find myself spending any real significant time in Japan. But I hope that at that time, even though I know the toughest work is being done right now, and the toughest times are already past, I hope that at that time, I will still be able to lend a hand, to do something genuine to help the people of Tôhoku.
In the meantime, all I can do is to think about them, to hope and to pray, to donate a few dollars every now and then, and to support and applaud the efforts of friends who are doing more.
Michael Connolly is one such friend, who has been doing tons to help out, very actively engaging in relief and recovery efforts, both as a photojournalist, and in a more direct way, with official Volunteer organizations. If you would like to donate, or to get involved yourself, please take a look at It’s Not Just Mud and Foreign Volunteers Japan, two of the many many organizations working to help in Tôhoku.
Many many articles, essays, blog posts, and videos have been posted in the last few days leading up to 3/11, and of course many many more have been posted over the course of the year. I hope not to add to anyone’s media exhaustion; there are just a couple of links/videos I’d like to share.
First, from the New York Times today: In the Wake of Disaster (Embedding Failed)
Meanwhile, the only remaining geisha in the town of Kamaishi has recovered the treasured shamisen she thought lost in the tsunami, and is preparing for a memorial concert. Video here. I would never mean to make light of the vast losses of lives and livelihoods, which are of course the greatest element of this tragedy. However, I cannot help but wonder and fear for so many arts traditions, as well as historic sites and artistic treasures, lost in the tsunami or in danger of being lost. It is a small thing within a vast complex of difficulties and challenges – from radiation, to physical rebuildings of towns, to the relocation of families – but I hope that the geisha tradition of Kamaishi, or of the broader region, can and will survive this.
Third, a link of links. Bloggers at Shinpai Deshou have shared with us a few firsthand accounts from those remembering the disaster or engaged in recovery in a variety of different aspects, including a JET now living in Sendai, and a volunteer with an organization caring for animals who lost their homes in the disaster.
And finally, across the US and around the world, numerous organizations and institutions today are holding concerts, lectures, theatre performances, and memorial services. SHINSAI, organized by the Theatre Communications Group, is but one of these. Japan Society in New York is likewise one of countless institutions organizing such events. So far as I know, no such events are being held here in Honolulu.
My most heartfelt wishes, hopes and prayers to everyone affected by the disaster, and cheers and applause for those who, unlike myself, are pitching in first-hand to aid with the recovery.