Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Things That Move

It’s still hard to process the scale of the destruction and human suffering in northeastern Japan, especially when most of your energy is directed toward staying calm and waiting for the next big quake. I’m guessing it won’t really hit me for at least a few days. For now, though, a few things that have moved me since the quake.

1. A few hours ago a spokesman for the Japan meteorological agency addressed the media after the 6.2 quake that hit around 10 am. He was addressing concerns about more tsunamis and telling residents of the area to get to high ground immediately (to my knowledge there are currently no warnings).

He stumbled over his words, had trouble catching his breath, and appeared to be on the verge of tears during the entire speech. It was disturbing but also strangely moving–sometimes Japan can feel overly “official” to the point where the humanity gets lost. This was not one of those times. The poor man has probably been awake for 72 hours and has had to endure endless footage of devastated towns and cities, only to have to tell people that more waves, and more death, might be coming.

2. A woman in Miyagi prefecture whose five-year-old daughter was carried to her through knee-deep water in the arms of a rescue worker. The woman was weeping, but she was trying very hard to keep it together for her daughter, who seemed to be in shock.

3. A group of elderly women who survived on the roof of a partially submerged building for two days, sharing what little food they had. When they were finally rescued and were about to part company they broke down one by one and thanked each other for all the life-saving support.

4. Seeing a steady stream of people put thousand and five thousand-yen notes into a donation box at a concert hall, one after the other, without interruption.

5. Uniformed train staff standing patiently at the ticket gates answering question after question from hundreds of commuters about suspended / reduced train service.

6. People hugging. Japan isn’t known for public displays of affection, so it’s somehow heartwarming to see total strangers hugging and crying together, mostly out of gratitude that they’re all alive.

I’ve just returned from a trip to two different supermarkets, where I managed to secure some rice, more canned goods, fresh fruit & vegetables, and pasta. Lines were long but everyone was pleasant and staff seemed even perkier than usual. No one tried to cut in line or fight anyone else for the last package of instant noodles. Will try to make some spaghetti rice tonight if I’ve still got power. Still hunkering down for that next big quake, but feeling confident that Tokyo will handle it with grace when it comes.

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6 comments on “Things That Move

  1. Jennifer
    March 14, 2011

    The way people are pulling together there reminds me of the accounts of usually cantankerous New Yorkers on and after 9/11. It was an event that still affects the way people in the city interact. I wonder if these earthquakes are going to have that sort of long-lasting effect in Japan.

  2. gradland
    March 14, 2011

    I broke down for the first time tonight watching footage of people being reunited with family members who’d been missing for three days, or watching people desperately searching for loved ones…people are crying, wailing in such raw displays of grief. It’s horrible but if anything sticks I hope it’s the compassion and willingness to let out emotions in times of need.

  3. Leila
    March 14, 2011

    Oh Linds, this entry nearly made me cry :-(. Please keep writing about what you’re experiencing, much better than most of the coverage we are getting here.
    You’re amazing!!!
    Lots of love,
    xoxoxoxo~

  4. Leila
    March 14, 2011

    ps- do you know how I can “share” this on Facebook?

  5. Jennifer
    March 15, 2011

    Lindsay, out of curiosity, have any of those displays of grief come from Tokyoites? I ask because I remember what friends and students told me when I was leaving Yamaguchi-ken for Tokyo: people in Tokyo are cold. And I do recall them being more emotionally demonstrative in Yamaguchi.

  6. gradland
    March 15, 2011

    Jennifer–good point, I think it’s a given that people in rural areas are usually a lot more demonstrative than those in Tokyo. That said, I believe the Japan meteorological agency rep was from Tokyo, and while people in Tokyo haven’t been as consumed with grief (unless they have friends and relatives up north), they have been remarkably compassionate and very good about asking after everyone’s health and welfare.

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2011 by in Japan and tagged .
Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

tales of travel, research, and life

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