Thursday, March 17, 2011


Like so many others, I've been following the news from Japan, feeling heartsick with every development as things seem to go from unimaginably bad to even worse, and suffering is layered upon suffering.  I was in the northwest of Japan, on the Sea of Japan, while the tsunami struck on the Pacific side.  Still, architecture in Japan doesn't vary that much, and the homes and trees that were seen swept out by that wall of water could easily have been on the Noto Peninsula.  Also, I did live in a town with a nuclear power plant, so it's all too easy to imagine this same kind of tragedy striking there, and also how devastated and frightened the people all over Japan must feel, waiting for further news of the extent of the radiation leak.  Even here in San Francisco, where everyone says that it's a question not of if but when the next earthquake will hit, everyone seems shaken and subdued.  Watching the footage of families and individuals stumbling, stunned, across the rubble that was left behind, it's hard to believe that these were vibrant coastal communities just a week ago, with no premonition of what was to come.  It looks like something out of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.  Such a reminder of the fragility of life as we know it.

I've been asked by several people where to give money to best help people in Japan.  I did a little research, and this seems like a good site:

I also thought I'd share part of this email from a family friend who lives in Japan, who had to evacuate his house because he lives in a town near the plant.  For someone directly affected by what's happening, he is remarkably hopeful:

I think it was 2000, wasn't it?, when the World Cup was held in France (?)  The workers responsible for cleaning the stadium complained about the Japanese fans who picked up after themselves, leaving their seating section as clean as they'd encountered it.  Japan will be fine in the aftermath.  They've got an amazing group work ethic.

In a country that experiences natural disaster after natural disaster, they've developed a spirit of resilience.  One of their sayings is "fall 7 times, get up 8 times.

As I type this, I almost wish I'd stayed behind to help pick up at my school today, which is Monday.  We've been given Monday and Tuesday off, though, and a rest in the mountain hot springs away from potential radiation isn't a bad thing.