Sunday, March 13, 2011

earthquake & tsunami in japan

The Russians of Pavel Lebedev-Lastochkin in Japan, with their ships tossed inland by a tsunami, meeting Japanese in 1779.

My son is in touch with people on his Papa's street who say that now water is becoming scarce, electricity is being rationed, rolling blackouts are in place. There are food shortages in the stores. There are aftershocks every 30 minutes. And this is Tokyo, as opposed to the Sendai area where there is completely terrible devastation and now radiation leaks.
       Kohei opened Skype on the first morning and reached his aunt by an old phone number, a landline that has been connected at the location, even with completely rebuilt houses, since the 1960's.  She was amazed to hear his voice all the way from America, since the majority of cell phone connections in Japan were not working!
       My daughter and I also reached family and friends quickly and those friends were in touch with others.  We learned of family members staying overnight at their offices because of the trains immediately stopping.  Others walked for many hours, 4 hours, 7 hours, to return to their homes.   My son wrote on his own facebook page remembering the stories learned when he went to high school in Japan of the every-one-hundred-year tsumani.
When disaster strikes the first thing needed is to be in touch with close family and to know where everyone is, even if we can't be physically close to each other. What is amazing in the past generation or two is the amount of technology that allows us to contact so many  within such a short period, minutes sometimes, or, at the most, a few hours.
      I remember my Japanese exchange sister living with us when I was a senior in high school and in a whole year of living in the United States she talked with her mother once for exactly 3 minutes only, on New Year's Day. I remember that it cost $25, a huge amount at that time. She didn't talk with her again until she was back in Japan. Many letters of course, and care packages every few months of Japanese foods...but it was a very different time.

The news from Sendai is horrific, much worse than we originally heard, but Tokyo with good planning and an incredible 1 minute warning system with texts to phones allowed people to take precautions, for trains to be halted, for production lines to be stopped. NHK TV broadcast streaming was also enabled for all cellphones. In spite of the thousands who are missing and feared dead in Japan, without these systems in place, there would be many thousands more who would not be so amazingly spared.  Still, there continue to be frightening aftershocks and many people were scared to fall asleep after the first day.
       I know the Japanese government is mobilizing with great care, and there are international rescue teams who have arrived in Japan, including from New Zealand's own recent disaster.  I am amazed and admiring of these supporting individuals who use their talents to help others far away.

For the people who walked hours to return home,the Family Mart stores (like 7-11s) opened their employee bathrooms for all the walkers and gave away free water for the people passing by.  There has been no pushing, no looting even in Fukushima Prefecture, where the now homeless residents line up and wait patiently for the government water and supplies. 

One family member was travelling in Asia, and he returned on Sunday, two days after the 8.9 magnitude quake.  His next-door brother and nephew and downstairs neighbor had come to the house and cleaned up the initial mess (the house completely intact, well built by the earthquake standards, and this area was not affected by the raging tsunami), but glass dishes had fallen out of cabinets and broken, and many table top items were all over the floor.  He wrote:

Tonight I do not feel to clean up more. Small glasses are still everywhere. So I have to put slippers.  Before I came back, Otsune Ojisan and Kazutami came to the house and cleanup. However I still have to work many things. I do feel not to work today. I just watch TV and go to sleep.

      He mentioned that valued Chinese medicinal liqueurs containing healing snakes had broken, so the floor smelled of liquor.  His brother who cleaned up before he returned gathered up the snakes and put them in a dish at the end of his bed.  He was debating whether to eat the snakes or give them a grand ceremonial burial.

So many emotions to hear of this disaster and to watch the specific and individual many tragedies.  Always the solace in gathering with our closest, and of hearing of the safety of those who are across the globe.

              after the earthquake



Hannah said...

Thank you for this. I am hoping that supplies are forthcoming, and this blog, more than any newscast, conveys the feelings in my former home and of loved ones I no longer speak with often. Thank you for sharing it with me.

lena said...

Ahh, yes. I'm glad it conveyed those feelings. And thank you for your comment, Hannah!