It’s been a funny old day. I woke up at 5.30 this morning and lay in bed staring at my ceiling. I’d just had a bad dream that my flat’s ever-increasing damp problem had spread overnight, but I was reassured to find that my ceiling was still there – I had a roof over my head. As 5.46 am approached my thoughts were with Japan. I knew most people in Japan would be pausing for a moment’s silent contemplation at 2.46 pm (JST), as I would at 5.46 am in London, to mark the 2nd anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. I thought about the roof over my head, and how two years ago many people in Tohoku had lost theirs. Over 100,000 people still have no real home to go to, and are living in temporary accommodation.
It was freezing cold when I walked to the station this morning, and I felt myself grumbling as some very unseasonal snowflakes hit my face (Snow? In March?!). But then my thoughts turned to Tohoku again, and I remembered those harsh days after the earthquake and tsunami two years ago when the snow came. many people had nowhere to call home and were living in school halls and community centres, and thousands were still missing and being searched for.
white snow is falling
I did everything I could to stay connected to Japan today – right down to packing myself a proper bento for lunch, and having a green tea Kit Kat for an afternoon snack. While commuting I listened to the Lost in Translation soundtrack on my iPod and flicked through the Japanese news headlines.
However, two years after the disaster, and I know most people who have no connection with Japan will have forgotten what happened. They might see a brief article on page 31 of the Evening Standard, but they probably won’t really stop to think about what’s happening in Japan right now.
But I have read some really interesting blog posts and articles today, and there are a lot of you out there who are thinking about Japan today, and always. Rather than filling Twitter up with a stream of Tweets, I thought I’d gather together some of the pieces which I consider worth sharing and share them here. To say I ‘enjoyed’ reading these articles seems like the wrong choice of words, given the subject matter. But these are all interesting, informative, honest, or moving pieces, and I hope you get something from them too.
Get beneath the surface – InsideJapan Tours
2 years on – a personal look back from InsideJapan’s director, Alastair Donnelly - A touching account of the disaster told through the eyes of a Japan specialist travel company director.
“That day our team work was the best it had ever been. We called next of kin to let them know their loved ones were safe; we spoke to clients with imminent departures, reassuring them their money was safe even if they were unable to travel; I was interviewed on local radio and James was interviewed live on BBC World. We did our best to answer the barrage of questions whilst remaining reassuring and professional at all times. I was extremely proud of our team both on that day and during the weeks that followed.”
Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2011 – How I Experienced It - A German expat in Japan recalls the day the earthquake struck, and reminds us that it is safe to travel in Japan.
“In May 2012 I visited Miyagi Prefecture just to see that some cities such as Ishinomaki still had not recovered from all the damage that was caused.
It was a horrible disaster and its traces (especially the radiation) will never fully disappear. Even now people are still worried about how safe it is in Japan.”
Surviving in Japan (without much Japanese)
HOW TO: Prepare for an Earthquake in Japan - Essential advice from one of the most informative and interesting blogs about life in Japan.
“Everyone knows that Japan is an earthquake-prone country, but the events of March 2011 made it much more real for many of us living in Japan or considering a move to Japan. It’s easy to think that since you can’t predict when or where an earthquake will occur, or what damage will result, you can’t do much to prepare for one.
This is not the case.
We can learn how to be prepared by seeing how Japanese society prepares and educates their citizens to respond to earthquakes.”
Japan marks tsunami anniversary - Of all the media sources in the UK, I generally trust the Guardian to report accurately and fairly.
“In an address, Abe promised to speed up the reconstruction effort, which has been delayed by bureaucratic bungling, labour shortages and a lack of land on higher ground to accommodate residents crammed into tiny temporary shelters.
‘Japan will never experience a true spring if spring does not come to north-eastern Japan,” he said. “I promise never to forget the weight of each day and to speed up the reconstruction of the region.’”
In addition to the Guardian article above, there is also an article which shows photos taken inside Fukushima’s abandoned towns: Inside Fukushima’s abandoned towns, two years on – in pictures, and another page with photos from the anniversary: Japan marks second anniversary of Fukushima disaster – in pictures.
The Japan Times
Nation marks second year since calamity - Reporting from Japan.
“The Great East Japan Earthquake, one of the most powerful quakes on record, spawned tsunami that left 15,881 people dead, mostly in hard-hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, with 2,668 people still listed as missing as of Friday, according to the National Police Agency.
About 1,400 police officers and Japan Coast Guardsmen conducted another intensive search for remains along the Pacific coast on Monday.
In the tsunami-ravaged town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, divers offered a silent prayer facing the sea before the start of the search. Nobuki Fujita, 38, who heads a dive team, said, ‘We hope to return those missing to their families.’”
I’ve only mentioned a few articles, because as well as these good ones I also found a lot of utter rubbish. As always with the British media, be careful what you read, and even more careful what you believe! Yes, Tohoku still has a lot of rebuilding to do, and yes, some parts of Fukushima do remain out-of-bounds because of nuclear contamination, but neither of those things should stop people visiting Japan. For one thing, it’s actually not such a small country, and there are plenty of wonderful places to visit in Japan which are nowhere near Tohoku. But, more importantly, I would like to encourage you once again to actually visit Tohoku! I’m gutted that I never went there in my three years in Japan – it just never occurred to me! Now, more than ever, Tohoku needs our tourism. Flights from London to Tokyo can be found for around £600 (sometimes cheaper) if you search…