One year passed since the earthquake/tsunami catastrophe.
I have not done much. I have not helped anybody. I did not go there.
I did worry. I did panic. I did buy batteries, water, flashlights.
One week after the disaster, I sent an email to all the people in my address book.
My good friend Emily donated to the Red Cross right from London.
Sebastian, full professor of philosophy at Alma Mater, embarrassed himself with a very short reply: “Contemptible”. I realised that having in your address book mostly academics at top universities is sad and useless.
Out on the streets of Osaka, no one could care less. Shopping was thriving. Life is short, go buy more, was the survival idea which struck people 346 miles away from the affected area.
Transport from the northern parts of the country became difficult. The food in Tohoku got banned. For radiation reasons.
Lots of things changed quickly. Shortage of food supplies. Only 2 bottles of water per person in every supermarket across the country.
I went to Tokyo 3 weeks later. No water anywhere. No cup noodles. No lights at night.
The Tokyo smart fashion style became inaccessible to the southern areas. Logistics issues. Osaka’s lame style started moving south and making profits within weeks. Osaka was not doing bad at all.
Many foreigners disappeared from Tokyo. Teaching English, that is what they know to do best in this country, had to wait a little. The German embassy closed its doors in the capital and moved to Osaka.
Survivors back in Tohoku were asked if they would leave the temporary shelters to move somewhere safe. Family is very important over there, so no one left. Sometimes kids were send to Sapporo for the summer, to play and forget. Sometimes pregnant women would move south to protect their body from radiation. Most of the time, they chose to stick together, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.
Ganbare Nippon, that is, Go, go, Japan ! , became the political catchphrase of the year. Patriotism revived. Charity events boomed. Greasy haired wealthy members of the safe and sound areas of the society were honoured with classy invitations. Listen to that violin. Feel those strings vibrating. Give a little. Get more.
Looking charitable became a must. Grants were pouring like mad. Universities created opportunities for high school students in Tohoku. Each and every event donated something. Undistributed funds got to a new level. On the news, the Japanese Red Cross looked puzzled. Foundations prioritised catastrophe-related artworks, events and workshops. Artists took advantage. Every single installation crap was meant to be for them, the victims.
The rest, you can figure out.
I wish I have done more.
Last year’s letter:
Japan 11 – 18 March 2011 : A Brief Insight
There is not much I can say in a few words about what happened in northern Japan in the past week. I know that the international press is speculating a lot, and scaring you plenty. No, not all you read is true. Yes, according to what I have read, more than 25000 bodies are expected to be discovered under debris along the Pacific coast, mainly elderly people and babies, both Japanese and non-Japanese. Thousands of survivors are trapped right now in schools, and basically, freeze. Electricity is down, food and drinks scarce, each blanket is shared by 7 people on average. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces have been struggling for a week to find more survivors and help the ones in need. Yet, things are quite overwhelming. After the 8.9 earthquake (with over 150 aftershocks, and a little one of over 6.0 shaking Shizuoka a couple of days ago), well, you already know, the rubble caught fire and a lot of inhabited places burnt to scratch. Within minutes, the tsunami came, sweeping away towns. Many people have drowned - many means thousands. 4 bullet-trains are still to be found (they could be on the bottom of the ocean or in collapsed tunnels). Then 2 days ago the snowstorm came. All in the same area. Now, about the 4 stricken reactors at Fukushima and the radiation leaks, and all people stuck in their homes with windows closed and heaters off, they need tremendous help, too.
I do not know what to say about the international help received, but I have a hunch that it is not enough. The French and British embassies in Tokyo are showing, to my disappointment, the greatest panic and very little concern with the issue of helping. On the contrary, discussions across the world seem to have already shifted towards the politics of who gets most out of this disaster.
My plea is, if you can and wish to help, then do not hesitate to help.
For those of you who can and wish to do so, please check out the following links. If you know any others, do not hesitate to pass on the information.