Monday, March 14, 2011

We all lost our words...

Those of you who know us and our strong link to Japan (Mike and I met while teaching in Japan in 1987 and lived there for 3 years) might be surprised that I haven't written about the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It was nearly all I could think about all weekend. I was glued to the news sites and Facebook, desperate and terrified to read the latest details.

I was not terribly concerned about any friends of ours losing their lives--we do not know anyone who lives in Sendai--and Japanese engineering and preparation is amazing. With the strongest recorded earthquake in history, initial reports are saying that only about 100 people died in the earthquake. We will relax a bit when we hear from our friends in Tokyo--we do not have their e-mail addresses so we have no way to contact them. Gradually, news has been trickling in from some of our friends. Most upsetting was hearing from a Scottish friend who had recently left her family in Japan to fly home to Scotland to bury her father. She finally heard from her husband--he and their daughters are alive but they are sleeping in their car because they have no electricity or water. But I am feeling heartbroken for the whole country of Japan and the Japanese.

These images have been leaving me speechless. I think that's why I have not blogged in the past few days. I'm trying to read Virginia Woolf's The Waves for my book group this weekend, and it's a difficult book at the best of times. While the situation in Japan is heavy on my mind, it's very difficult for me to give a damn about Woolf's experimental fiction and narcissistic characters in this book.

Last evening I found myself perusing through my photos of our lives in Japan. I cannot get Japan--or the Japanese people out of my mind. Yet I couldn't find the words. This afternoon, an e-mail arrived from a Japanese friend--and a former student of Mike's--and it said so well what I have not been able to say--and it just breaks my heart:
Dear Mike, Marie and the boys,

My family, friends and relatives are fine.

Although we're living miles away from Tohoku (Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, etc) district and didn't feel any earthquake, we all lost our words. More than ten thousands of people lost their contact, cities were swept away, some were completely destroyed, just in a few seconds. Most of the TV station still have been broadcasting information, including what is happening right this moment, what they need and about the nuclear power plant. Using electricity are restricted in Kanto (Tokyo, Chiba, etc) and Tohoku area. A cold front is approaching in the east of Japan, more than four hundred and fifty thousands of refugees are forced to sleep in cold and dark shelters (schools, etc), fearing continuous aftershocks.

Haruko's niece, living in Chiba prefecture next to Tokyo, working at Tokyo city centre, needed to walk home on Friday night because most of the public transportation was unable to operate. She arrived home 5 am in Saturday morning.

We all thank the countries, including your country, offering help. Rescue teams are arriving from around the world. Fund raisings are everywhere. Foods, blankets, cloths, fuel and doctors are rushing into the area. There'll be a huge amount of damage on fishing and agricultural industries (Tohoku's main industry), countless factories are destroyed and closed, but we're uniting now.

Your friend,

Takeshi, Haruko, Kotaro and Liam
We all lost our words.

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