Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Year On

Sunday marked a year since the earthquake-tsunami-meltdown. It's been a tough year, emotionally and physically, living in the disaster area, but not.

On Sunday there were ceremonies and moments of silence. At 2.46 pm (the time of the quake), fire trucks sounded their sirens followed by a "mokutou" - where everyone bowed their heads and payed their respects. There were also lighting and candle ceremonies in the prefectural capitals, and prayer services throughout the region.

Ad for a lighting ceremony in my prefectural capital, Morioka, Iwate.


I haven't been out to the coast since the 3 days I spent there last March. So my impressions of the coast come from friends and TV.

It seems much of the road network is back up. Some of the train tracks have been fixed, but I'm not sure how much. The airport in Sendai is running. People are rebuilding. There is still a long way to go. A long, long way, but everybody is dealing with it.

We're still on setsuden - electricity conservation measures. Noone seems to know if or when power plants will generate enough energy to support East Japan again. But we seem to be getting by on what we have. Everyone is conscientious about energy use.


I can't explain the emotion I feel in regard to the disaster. I lived through it, like people all over Tohoku. I live way too many miles in land to have been in danger of tsunami, but I went through the thousands of earthquakes with everybody else. My colleague and I started joking that anything under 6.0 wasn't even worth the time. It sounds offhand and callous, but when you experience 100 earthquakes in a day, you have to deal some way.

It's hard for me to deal with the coast. My TV broke and I didn't get a new one. That's partially because I don't want to pay NHK's ridiculous licensing fee. But it's also because there's tsunami are coverage every day, and I can't take it. I guess it's different when you've been there. You've seen my tsunami area pics. Imagine travelling to somewhere - somewhere you've been before, where there used to be houses and buildings and schools - and there's nothing. There's not even debris, no grass, just dirt, as far as your eye can see. I still can't get down to Ritz (Rikuzentakata) where my colleague, Monty Dickson, was claimed by the tsunami. I just can't face the place.

It's still hard to deal with how unaffected I was. I'm an hour inland. One drink fell over in the drink machine and an antenna fell off at work. We ran out of New Zealand Cheese and toilet paper. (My town is a farming town, so we were good for food.) We ran out of gas. The power went off. The trains didn't run for a week. The shinkansen (bullet train) didn't run for over a month, and then when it did run, it ran an hour slower. Due east of me another colleague spent her post-tsunami days cutting up cloth to cover dead bodies. I got off easy.


I am still glad I was here. I am still glad I AM here. Living through the past year has taught me so much about the human condition. What love really is. How much people can help one another. How much they want to.

And it's taught me so much about me. About who I become in a bad situation. About how far I can go before I can't take any more. I know how I can be helpful, and how it all feels. It's made me understand that sometimes, when the world crumbles, all you can do is to keep moving as best you can. Never forget, no, always carry those memories with you. They make you stronger and better. But always keep moving.

Thank you, Tohoku. I will keep moving. ありがとう東北。続きます。

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