Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tragedy in Japan

We are all seeing the coverage.  I feel like I am in shock.  It is difficult to get my head around the devastation affecting the people and the nation as a whole.  Entire towns have disappeared, washed away by the tsunami.  4.4 million houses are without electricity.  1.4 million houses without water.  Humans cannot survive longer than 3-4 days without water.

I encourage you to consider a donation to the American Red Cross or Samaritan's Purse to give some much needed aid.  Both of these organizations have been helping on the ground in Japan since last weekend.

Forgive me for some personal reflections here.  I know that some people hate it when people add their personal experiences to external tragedies, but I am going to do it anyway.

I lived in Japan for about 6 months in 1987.  I was an exchange student in college and majored in Japanese.  Then, between 1990 and 1998, I travelled extensively throughout Japan for business by train and even private plane.  I really had a good time in Japan, making many close friendships there during my college days.  Over time, I have lost contact with those friends and now I wish I knew if they were okay.

I remember being in Sendai, the largest city hit by the earthquake and tsunami.  It is a beautiful area with an easy-going vibe.  It felt to me like a cross between Seattle and the dairylands of Wisconsin.  I wonder if it will ever be the same.

One of the characteristics of the Japanese people is customer service, service to others.  They are an island-nation, accustomed to taking care of each other.  I keep thinking of how all Japanese people, even those living in the far southern regions are going to be devasted by this tragedy in the northern half.

Finally, I just wanted to share a haunting image that is likely the most famous piece of Japanese art.   It is called Hokusai's Great Wave Off Kanagawa, published sometime between 1830 and 1833.  I had a poster of this in my house when I lived in Japan.  It depicts a huge wave, overcoming boats of Japanese people with Mt. Fuji in the distance.

Hokusai's Great Wave off Kanagawa
An art critic described it this way:

The drawing of the wave is a deification of the sea made by a painter who lived with the religious terror of the overwhelming ocean completely surrounding his country; He is impressed by the sudden fury of the ocean's leap toward the sky, by the deep blue of the inner side of the curve, by the splash of its claw-like crest as it sprays forth droplets.


Bruce said...

No need to apologize. Thanks for the personal insight. It is hard to comprehend the devastation that has occurred.

Kovas said...

One interesting thing I read was that, even amongst all this chaos, the Japanese people remained polite to each other. That is truly amazing.

Big Clyde said...

Thanks, Bruce.

Kovas, I agree with you. I recall one reporter asking a Japanese person if there were concerns about looting. He seemed stumped by the question for a few seconds and then responded with "no concerns at all...we don't do that here".

TRI714 said...

no looting !!! selfish greed is apparently not as global as one might think.

RockStarTri said...

I have a team in Tokyo. While all and their immediate families are currently safe and sound, communication is difficult with phone systems unstable. Rolling blackouts (that aren't supposed to end anytime soon), commuting woes, and fear of nuclear meltdown are constant reminders. I lived through 9/11 and this is one of the only things that I can imagine being worse.

I feel we need to help all we can. Thanks for posting this.

tahoegirl said...

This whole thing just makes me sad.

Kimberley said...

It is very hard for me to comprehend. The whole situation is so surreal. The only thing I can do from here is donate and I am giving to the Canadian Red Cross.

Thanks for sharing the story of your time in Japan.

Alan (Pounds Off Playoff) said...

Clyde, I appreciate your personal concern and powerful art reference. I toured Japan for three weeks with a wind ensemble in college and it was a beautiful and deeply humbling experience. Beautiful in how people treated us. You could literally approach any person on the street and they would assist you, even walk you to your destination. Humbling in that we played a concert in Hiroshima and I have never, ever felt more conspicuous to be an American. My heart goes out to them and we made a donation to the Red Cross. Proudly, my sons also did, without hesitation, even dipping into their "personal" money, in addition to their "share" money.

Michele said...

I am glad Alan pointed me to this post. I am so saddened by what continues to be a tragedy for the Japanese, but also for all of us. It hits very hard for me; juts so hard to understand the devastation and the toll it is taking on the people, who are no different from us. Thanks for your poignant words. Michele