Thoughts on 11th March…

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.

As I sat in my office today we had a brief blizzard of snow and very strong winds. When I glanced at my emails in my break, I noticed that my guest poster, Steph, had posted this haiku on her blog:

また白い
雪ふっている
東北で

Again,
white snow is falling
in Tohoku

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.

London Evening Standard, 11th March 2013

London Evening Standard, 11th March 2013

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.”

InsideJapan Tours

Zooming Japan

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.”

Zooming 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.”

Surviving in Japan

The Guardian

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.'”

The Guardian

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.

Children pray during a memorial ceremony in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture

Children pray during a memorial ceremony in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture
Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

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.'”

The Japan Times

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…

Aizuwakamatsu Castle, Fukushima

Aizuwakamatsu Castle, Fukushima ©Akira Okada/©JNTO

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on 11th March…

  1. Debris from the tsunami keeps washing up on Oregon beaches. A portion of a Japanese dock from Misawa was made into an educational exhibit and memorial at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/. Local experts keep warning that Oregon is overdue for a large earthquake and possible devastating tsunami. But very little has been done to prepare the coastal communities for a major natural disaster.

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  2. Thank you so much!
    I’m happy that you consider my article worth sharing.
    I think people living in Japan, no matter how far away from the affected areas will never be able to forget what happened. I’m sure I won’t. Even if I might leave Japan in the future.

    I keep saying that I wasn’t affected by the earthquake and tsunami, but that’s not completely true. Mentally it affected me a lot. And I think a lot of people can relate to that.

    Some really great articles. I read them all. Thank you so much for taking the time to share them with us! :)

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    • I know what you mean. I was in Hamamatsu at the time, so I couldn’t say I was affected – certainly not like people in Tohoku – but it has left its mark on me. I’ve thought of nothing but Japan since that day, and still want to find some way to help. Whether it’s going there and volunteering, or encouraging and helping others to visit Japan, or simply making people aware.

      Thanks for reading! :)

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  3. Thanks Haikugirl, not many people will read my blog post but I wanted to say something about my experience of the tsunami. I find the audio I posted of the news headlines quite hard to listen to. I just want people to remeber. That’s all.

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    • Well, I hope people do read your post. I found it very moving, and also insightful. It wasn’t until a month or so after the disaster that I really thought about the impact it would have on the travel industry.

      I’m very glad tourism is picking up now, and hope people continue to consider Japan as a tourist destination. I’ve noticed a very enticing Okinawa tourism campaign on the Underground recently and it certainly gave me itchy feet! ;)

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  4. Hello. Thank you for your comment on my blog, and this made me read this post, which made me moved a lot, as some people like you and other bloggers still stay beside the victims of the earthquake & Tsunami. Arigatou gozaimasu!

    Thank you all, and wish a happiness to everyone in the world!

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