At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


陸前高田 (Rikuzentakata, Iwate) May 2013

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of the massive 9.0 earthquake that struck off the coast of Tohoku, Japan in 2011.  Something about today has really hit me harder than it did the previous years at this time.  I think I feel a certain connection now to that region since I spent some time last May volunteering there.  Maybe it's also because I have written a number of poems that poured out of me afterwards.  It's hard to tell why this year has left a stronger impression than the prior years.  I suppose some memories strengthen in time, instead of fading away.

At 2:46pm today, I watched the clock and bowed my head.  Three years ago I was watching the clock at this same time, without realizing that the entire Northeast of Japan was undergoing a devastation that would change everyone's lives in Japan.  As I have written in prior posts, I was waiting (and wasting time -- as I so often did that first year) in a portable office on a small island named Kohama.  I still remember the conversations I had with my soon-to-graduate 三年生 students.  I remember that I'd sat for hours after lunch waiting for 3PM to roll around so that I could leave to get on a boat.  When I think about how remarkable time is -- how it can seem to stall at times, crawling at an old snail's pace, or speed by in hyperdrive mode at other times -- I think about how much is taken for granted.

I feel deeply for the people who were affected by the earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear incident, those who were immediately killed, and those who survived but have basically had to hang on to a semblance of the life they once knew with some deep faith and strength that I can't claim to have.  As time flows on, I think about the memories of those who perished, those who lost people they loved dearly, who never got to say goodbye or show their love to these people (and I'll add animals as well, because people do become very attached to their pets).  Time continues to move the living forward, while the dead are left at that particular point in time.  It's like a very slow boat moving further and further away from the shore.  You can still see it, but you see that it's moving further away towards a horizon, where it will then disappear completely.

Doll found in Rikuzentakata, May 2013. 

What's left.  Rikuzentakata, May 2013

It's really important for the people of Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate to know that they are still being thought about.  I believe that the majority of the people who have remained behind in these regions really do feel as if most of the world, as well as most of Japan, has forgotten about them.  Whatever you can do, even if it's just some small gesture in spreading a note online to "pray for Japan" or forwarding a legitimate fundraising link to help raise money for reconstruction of these cities, do it.  If you can do more -- if you can go to Tohoku to volunteer and meet the people there, if you can organize Japan-(your country) letter/gift exchanges to orphanages or schools, or even older folks homes -- do it.  Even the smallest things make a difference and can have major outcomes for those who are in need.

As for me, I've been working with a few people here in Okinawa to start a film festival that will show Tohoku-based documentaries as part of an outreach fundraiser.  We're also aiming to link up with a volunteer organization there that will allow the JETs and JET-related community members to go up to one of the cities and do volunteer work over the summer.  Hopefully this link will grow and become something that deepens overtime.

I hope that whoever you are and wherever you are living, that you also find ways to use the time you have been given on this earth to do good things, spend time with the people you love, and show others compassion and forgiveness.  One never knows if we'll get the chance to do so in the future.  One never knows...

Rikuzentakata, May 2013

1 comment:

  1. I made a typo on the original post. I've corrected the date in Japanese script.