Archive for March, 2011

Close To Home: Part 2

After nearly nintey-six hours of waiting in uncertainty, I finally got word from Japan. And it’s all good (or at least as good as it can be): my relatives in Fukushima were inland far enough to escape the tsunami and are all alive. A cousin in Tokyo had a better stroke of luck in contacting people by phone, then called us with his findings.

I cannot even begin to tell you how relieved I am that they’re alive. Over the weekend I kept my attention focused on the news, getting frustrated when no new information was coming forward. I had to limit my exposure to just what I found on the internet because I couldn’t stop crying whenever I watched television. One of the pictures that’s been floating around the internet from Japan pretty much sums up how I felt over the weekend:

Sunday night was spent at my grandmother’s house. Originally we’d planned to get together to celebrate belated birthdays (and we still did), but we couldn’t help but keep our eyes glued to the screen: my grandmother has NHK (a family Christmas gift) and it was on the entire time we were there. Pictures of our relatives were on the coffee table and my grandmother was pointing out the ones she hadn’t heard from. It was surreal: potentially a quarter of my heritage had been completely destroyed by a natural disaster, but all we could do was wait.

Monday night we’d finally heard from most of the relatives in Fukushima, which was a relief. The only one we hadn’t heard from was Fukui-chan, my grandmother’s cousin, who lives in the Sendai area. She’s probably the same age as my grandmother (who just turned ninety), and all I could think of was what I’d seen in pictures: old people being carried out on the backs of soldiers (best case scenario).

Last night we got a call around 9:30 on the landline. Usually that means something bad has happened, but this time around it was good news: Fukui-chan is okay and is currently staying with her daughter. With that, I felt like I could finally stop worrying about a small part of the tragedy and start worrying about my country of culture as a whole.

Japan has a very, very long road ahead in the recovery process. If the threat of nuclear distaster wasn’t in the air, I’d recommend that they burn the debris and try to start from scratch. There’s too much damage everywhere to even start picking things up and disposing of them properly. How any of those people have the willpower to go back to where their house stood to look for something to salvage is beyond me. And since I can’t go over there and phsyically help, I’ve sent donations through Red Cross and World Giving (found via this link on CNN).

Of course, there’s a very big THANK YOU to everyone who sent good vibes and well wishes during this whole thing. There’s a huge comfort in knowing that I’ve got support from the internet, especially when I’ve done little more than interacted with you through Twitter. I sincerely believe that this helped me find my family safely, and that if we keep sending positive thoughts, the other missing people will be found as well. (At the very least, the dead will be found and identified so that they can rest in peace.)

My only bit of humor at this point is that the nuclear crisis may bring Godzilla into being and that he could save Japan. How, I’m not sure. But he’s done it before.

Close To Home

Like many of the major disasters that have happened during my short stint on Earth, I was a little bit late in finding out about the tragedy that struck Japan on March 11th.

My friend Sherry sent me a text at about 7 AM, asking me if I heard about what happened in Japan. The last thing I’d seen in the news was the resignation of a cabinet member because he accepted foreign money during his campaign, and I thought that’s what she was referring to.

She told me that there was an 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

My first thought was that large cities collapsed, similar to what happened in China back in 2008. It wasn’t until I turned on my computer did I realize it was much worse.

Footage of the tsunami showed waves wiping out homes, cars, entire towns like they were crumbs on a tablecloth. Fires were consuming buildings like they were kindling. Crowds of people trying to reach higher ground, watching the wreckage float past them.

It’s horrible for anyone to look at.

Being as American as I am, I can’t help but keep at least one foot in the country of my cultural heritage. I scan the LA Times and Wikipedia for news. I watch NHK when I have the chance. By birth, I’d be the cousin once removed from the lineup. Two-thirds of my name is Japanese. You’d better believe the earthquake had me concerned.

My concern turned into high-level worry when I heard about the power plant in Fukushima. My maternal grandmother’s family is from that area, and we still have cousins who live on the family land. The pictures I had seen of the place showed little more than your basic Japanese country house, complete with a small scale vegetable garden and a convenient trip from our ancestors’ graves. (If I was asked to spend the night during a visit, I’d do the bare minimum stay.)

I stopped watching the news as of yesterday. For one, the lack of information is incredibly frustrating. For another, the images of the wreckage and the survivors leaves me in tears. It was enough to see small children being scanned to see if they had any radiation contamination and to hear that iodine tablets were being prepared for distribution.

We finally got some news about family today. A cousin of my grandmother has lost her house. We’re not sure how the others are faring; we can’t get through on the phone. Another cousin in Tokyo managed to call us to let us know he and his family are okay; my grandmother gave him a list of numbers in Fukushima to try.

I’m trying to lose myself by following Tweets and posts on Facebook, but I feel guilty. I’ve got power, food, water, and a relatively solid roof over my head. I don’t know if my relatives have even that much right now.

I know I haven’t been a bundle of joy to be around these past two days, but I feel so helpless.