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Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

Japan Quake: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I know the title of this post is “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” but it’s been really hard to find anything good about the disaster unfolding in Japan. Truth is, words seem so trivial and I don’t even particularly feel like writing about the quake, or the tsunami or the nuclear crisis that’s changing by the hour. And you know I don’t do sentimental or sad very well—I prefer to keep those thoughts bottled up inside and express them by yelling at the cat or slamming doors like normal people do. But so many people have inquired about my relatives there, and I wanted to give everyone an update. It won’t be well written, or profound, or even make sense. By the end of it, you may even say to yourself, “You know, I sure wish she had kept that bottled up inside.”

Here’s the good—my family members that live there are all safe. They are all in southern Japan and besides some rattled nerves appear to be fine. The bad, as you can imagine, is that any good news is being tempered by the fact that they have friends and associates who haven’t been located, the numbers of human casualties constantly being updated on the news, and the graphic images showing the horror of the devastation. My cousin Hiroshi, who like a few of my other cousins commutes into Tokyo for business, has been giving me regular updates via Facebook and email but you can sense the uneasiness in his words, especially when he talks about the uncertainty of the situation with the nuclear reactors. I’m seriously concerned and afraid for all of them.

Coincidentally, three of my aunts were here visiting when the quake struck. We had dinner with them that Friday night, hours after the event and my aunt was overcome as she talked about how she was unable to reach her best friend that she’d known since childhood, who lived in the town of Sendai. As far as I know she was never able to contact her. We should have been comforting them, but instead they ended up cooking us an amazing Japanese meal that was no less than eight courses. This is so characteristic of the Japanese culture—such grace and selflessness in the midst of personal grief. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of how orderly and compassionate the people of Japan are being during their crisis—standing in line patiently for food, relinquishing their own rations to the elderly and the more needy—it’s a lesson in civility for all of us.

We took them to the Getty Center on Saturday. They seemed to enjoy themselves, but I had the feeling that, being unfailingly polite, they were putting on a brave face for us while they were so stressed and worried about what their families were enduring back home. I felt like an idiot when I started freaking out when I thought I lost my wallet—because really, how could I go on without those five dollars and my driver’s license? I fail at perspective.

There certainly has been a lot of ugly, most of it in the form of anti-Asian racism that seems to have reared its ugly head. Because really, what better time to unleash hate-speak and make crude jokes than when tens of thousands of people have lost their lives? It’s incredibly disheartening, disgusting and inexcusable to me. And since I really don’t want to make it just a footnote to this post, I’m going to save my thoughts on it for another time. Expect lots of cursing and angry jabs at the air with my finger.

*This was originally published on the blog Sweatpantsmom on March 16, 2011.

© 2011 Marsha Takeda-Morrison

california earthquake family Japan JPquake2011 Los Angeles southern california

About this series

In Japanese, kizuna means strong emotional bonds.

This series shares stories about Nikkei individual and/or community reaction and perspectives on the Great Tohoku Kanto earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the resulting tsunami and other impacts—either about supporting relief efforts or how what has happened has affected them and their feeling of connection to Japan.

If you would like to share your reactions, please see the “Submit an Article” page for general submission guidelines. We welcome submissions in English, Japanese, Spanish, and/or Portuguese, and are seeking diverse stories from around the world.

We hope that these stories bring some comfort to those affected in Japan and around the world, and that this will become like a time capsule of responses and perspectives from our global Nima-kai community for the future.

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There are many organizations and relief funds established around the world providing support for Japan. Follow us on Twitter @discovernikkei for info on Nikkei relief efforts, or check the Events section. If you’re posting a Japan relief fundraising event, please add the tag “JPquake2011” to make it appear on the list of earthquake relief events.