Strange Place To Be

April 10, 2011

One month has passed since the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and after initial confusion turned to gut-wrenching realization turned to immense sadness turned to even greater, media-induced confusion turned to frantic pleas from relatives to come home turned to “well, at least by some iodine pills” turned to an accepted confusion regarding the workings of nuclear power plants turned to trying to donate whatever spare change one has on their personage when leaving a convenience store, life where I live finally resembles…the same as it ever did. Despite seeing the most significant event in Japanese history since World War II unfold a scant 500 miles away, life in the Kansai region of the country looks just the same now as it did minutes before the initial quake struck.

Of course, things have changed. Donation boxes exist in every store, school and train station around my city. Japanese unity has gotten a big boost, resembling America after 9/11 save for the fact it seems many Japanese people have rallied around the flag despite not trusting a word coming out of the government. Cherry blossom viewing parties have been canceled because, as an older friend explained to me, the Japanese unaffected by these events don’t want to go around having fun while so many up north suffer. Commercials have taken on a sympathetic edge. I’ve read some people are trying to buy Geiger counters off sketchy Russian websites.

Yet for the most part everything seems normal in Nabari. It’s disconcerting to watch videos of waves destroying entire cities and reading stories about the challenges the survivors face before going about your day, especially during the first week when e-mails and Facebook wall postings from people I’ve failed to talk with in years poured in wondering if I was OK. If only I could live broadcast my day, a trip to the gym followed by clothes shopping capped off with a viewing of Jersey Shore. Though even that wouldn’t project just how strange it is to be doing said activities before remembering what’s happened again.

It’s this perpetual normalcy that has stopped me from writing about this event thus far, as I honestly have absolutely nothing to say about it because frankly, I’m lucky as hell. The day everything happened, my train home from work was delayed five minutes. After staring at the footage for five hours, I tried distracting myself by going to the supermarket. My nearby Jusco seemed as normal as it usual does at 8 p.m. on a Friday. No adverse effects, thankfully. The only thing I can really write about what’s happened in Tohoku is the same thing nearly everyone I’ve talked to around town agrees on – it’s weird to be so near yet so far.

I’m not going to even try to make any sweeping generalizations about what any of this stuff means for Japan’s future or some life-affirming message best suited for the “inspirational literature,” all I can really muster is “this is immensely sad and still sorta hard to fathom” and “my life in Mie has barely been altered.” That and it helps put things in perspective while I’m currently debating what to do with my future, a topic that sometimes gets the best of me and causes me to not go to bed until way too late (one such instance of this resulted in this semi-meandering post, written ten minutes before midnight while I try not to get too down about inevitable disappointment while this plays on loop, because it oddly comforts me). So this exists to simply state…my life remains the same, though you think it shouldn’t be so static considering what you see on the news

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One Response to “Strange Place To Be”

  1. Dan Camp said

    I’ve actually been really curious to see how you’d handle this first post after the quake, since I heard through the NU grapevine you were a-okay, that your region was barely touched. Just because life is pretty much business as usual doesn’t mean it’s *actually* business as usual, that you have no input on the situation, you know? You’re in one of those rare, terrible-yet-enterprising once-in-a-lifetime “calm” before/during/after the storm situations, with a journalism degree and a knack for writing — novels have been written, pulitzers won on less!

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