Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 11, 2011

Already three years have passed since that date, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was living in Osaka at the time, having recently moved there from Shikoku. That afternoon, at 14:46, I was sitting in the staff room at work, cutting out some shapes for an upcoming craft, along with two other teachers. There was no shake, but major swaying that lasted for several minutes. No one really knew what was going on- until I checked the news on my phone, and there it was.

What ensued were some of the strangest, surreal weeks of my whole life. Realizing the proportions of the disaster, feeling unable to help, anxious and isolated, not knowing what would happen next. Even though Kansai was fine, I could not sleep for days, refreshing the news, hearing different things from both Japan and abroad. Many of my Tokyo friends came down to Kansai and it felt like having family around, but deep down I could not shake that feeling of isolation and that incident made me feel paranoid for a long time. Yet I could not imagine ever leaving Japan, the place I had made my home.

My experience is absolutely nothing compared to what others went through: losing homes, family members, friends, watching their whole lives being washed away. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the town of Ishinomaki, and met some people that opened my eyes and changed my life, such as Abe-san*, who lost several family members, her home, her business, and all her belongings, yet still smiled and welcomed us with open arms, sharing stories and insisting on preparing a meal.

The most disturbing part is that not much has changed, three years following the disaster. The affected area is still very much devastated, 267,000 people still live in temporary housing and other makeshift facilities, and thousands of people are still missing. It angers me to see how the Japanese government seems to be more interested in the upcoming 2020 Olympics than the recovery of that area- it's shameful, really. It seems like very little is done to clear up the debris and build homes and encourage people to build businesses again. Instead, Japan is all about getting excited for those Olympic games, and talking about re-starting those leaky nuclear reactors.

Tohoku still needs lots of help, and I wrote about how to contribute, in any way, from anywhere in the world.

My thoughts go to everyone in Tohoku who experienced loss and are still struggling with loneliness, isolation and sorrow. Let's not forget.

Last year, with Abe-san in Ishinomaki

*You can support her and local fishermen by buying products from her shop.


Quyen Nguyen said...

Wow, that is absolutely terrible. I didn't realize that things have not changed there. We don't get that information here in the States. Thanks for sharing how to help out!

Christine said...

How unfortunate that a lot of people are still in temporary home after 3 years!

What happened to all the aid money?

Vivian said...

Indeed- I think most media stopped caring, but it's still a disaster zone and residents there feel forgotten :(

Vivian said...

Yup, unbelievable. Japan can build apartment building in like, weeks, but nothing is happening in tohoku. I think the money is there, but not being used... Or being used to fixed those leaky nuclear reactors? Who knows... It's scary.