Tag Archives: Second Harvest Japan

Aiding Japan’s Recovery

I have spent quite a bit of time over the last three weeks reassuring friends and family and readers of ten minutes hate that all was well in Japan, so much so that it now seems slightly perverse to be taking the alternative tack.

However, while things are safe and returning to a semblance of normality here in Kanto, the region of Japan that includes Tokyo and Chiba, it is a very different matter in the north of the country.  Voices from the ground is the excellent blog of the Peace Boat charity relief effort in Tohoku, the area most affected by the earthquake and tsunami.  Their photographers Dee and Trace have written of a recent visit to the region:

In the midst of a landscape now defined by trucks wrapped around traffic lights, fishing boats spectacularly moored into main street buildings, cars elegantly dangling upside down in trees or unceremoniously stuffed in houses, we find ourselves so small and shockingly helpless. There is utter despair combined with the scent of lingering death, bodies not yet found. The local cemetery so defiled, ancestors now shack-up with delivery vans, roofs and dingys.

The toxic fumes waft our way from the port and industrial area. It was here on the bridges connecting Ishinomaki with the once picturesque Nakaze island, by the now tranquil flowing Kitakami River, that we understood. All we can do is make a difference on a human level. Try and help, assist, listen to one person. Touch one. If we could all affect this, volunteer even for a day, reach out to just one person then collectively tides of survival give way to those of recovery and life beyond

In the north of Japan people cannot begin to speak of recovery and rebuilding as they are still trying to survive.  Many people are living in shelters, or in the ruins of buildings, in weather which is far colder than the balmy spring temperatures that are bringing the cherry blossoms to Tokyo.  They need our help urgently.

Quakebook is one way for you to help, with all proceeds from the sale of the book going to the Japanese Red Cross.  Second Harvest Japan are committed to sending food and other supplies as part of a long-term relief programme.  The Peace Boat group is also accepting donations. As one of my students remarked this week, ‘I hope that Japan will recover soon’.

I am sure that Japan will, but please, do all that you can to help!

Photo from Voices from the ground, 37 frames here

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Are you ok?

So how are you?  Are you doing ok?  How is everything there?  What’s happening?  You alright?

These and other variations on the same theme have been pinging around the world into the inboxes and ears of many residents of Japan since the earthquake of 11 March.  There is no easy way to answer such questions, it seems, because every time I try I come up with something different.

Just as I wrote those words, the earthquake alarms that many people have on their mobile phones sounded, before my table in the cafe shook lazily, almost soothingly, as if a giant foot was somewhere trying to rock a cradle holding Japan to send us all to sleep.  It only went on for a couple of seconds, so can’t have been very big or must have been located far away.  Once I was sure that my cup of tea wasn’t going to spill I returned to my writing.

Such complacency must seem incredible to Westerners, faced with images of the devastation in the North and worrying about us here in Tokyo.  If I stop to think I am also incredulous at how quickly I have become used to aftershocks and alarms, how swiftly I can now calculate levels of immediate danger and decide if they are worth getting out of my chair for.  Similarly, it feels as if we have all become armchair experts on all things nuclear, discussing levels of radiation exposure,  possible side-effects of iodine tablets and the relative impacts of micro- and milli-sieverts in the same way that we once engaged in more idle chatter.

Yet, in spite of the essential rescue efforts still going on in the stricken areas, continuing attempts to save the power plant from meltdown and the reintroduced programme of rolling blackouts, life is returning to a semblance of normality in the capital.  People are commuting and shopping and eating and drinking, as they were before.  I will be back at work later on today and the return to the familiar routine is soothing to the nerves, if likely to prove detrimental to the writing schedule.

The decision to stay in Japan and in Tokyo was the right one for me, I feel sure.  However, that should not be taken as criticism of anyone who made an alternative choice.  We all had to make a decision we were comfortable with, in the face of rapidly altering facts and opinions from an array of experts located around the globe.  We all had different factors to consider and it would have tested the judgment of Solomon at times to know which were the deciders.  Only someone who was here would know the agony of that choice, which is why I am saddened this morning to read this from the Japan Times:

I have seen some nasty stuff written by some (foreigners) who stayed about those (foreigners) who have left

Shame on anyone engaging in such nastiness.  Was it worth it to move a family out of possible harm’s way, to head home to give loved ones a hug or simply to sleep one night in a bed that was unlikely to be rocked by that giant’s foot?  Of course, I recognise the pull of such concerns as I was almost swayed by them myself.  Although in the end other factors won out for me, I don’t have it in me to condemn anyone who chose to answer the question ‘are you ok?’ in person instead of via email, Skype or status update.

But many people in this fantastic country that I am lucky enough to call home are unable to answer that question positively and will not be in a position to do so for a very long time.  Please send as much help as you can, the British Red Cross appeal or Second Harvest Japan are both doing sterling work.  My answer to your question?  Yes, yes I am and thank you so much for asking.


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