Select a primary language to get the most out of our Journal pages:
English 日本語 Español Português

We have made a lot of improvements to our Journal section pages. Please send your feedback to!

Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

On March 11, 2011 still another catastrophe (not close to home in America but 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean) defined our lives. On a world-wide stage, Japan reacted to the force of nature and the devastation left in its wake. We who are Japanese by ancestry can understand (and be proud) of the courageous spirit of our relatives, friends and counter-parts in Japan. The human emotions of losing loved ones, homes, and businesses have no ethnic differentiation. But the surge of nature not once by the earthquake but by the intended finishing blow of the Tsunami still could not “take out” the Japanese people.

The way Japanese people handle tough times comes from within the Japanese spirit. Instead of analyzing and trying to rationalize what happened, everyone went to work to “fix things.” The people unified and gathered what little they had and went to shelters. They stood politely and patiently in food and supply lines. Those that could lend a hand helped their neighbors. The government and scientists immediately implemented plans to analyze and react to the immediate nuclear threat. These actions were already underway as world assistance was on its way. I am sure the global assistance teams were surprised to find that the Japanese people were already doing what they could to “stop the bleeding” and taking the initiative to stabilize critical needs: locating people under the rubble, providing health care, shelter and eventual settlement for the thousands of people affected. The Japanese people were not interested in doing well before the global audience. They would have done what they did and are continuing to do without NHK or CNN coverage.

What can we learn from what is going on in Japan? As Japanese we have a vested interest in Japan because we are Japanese. But were we as interested in the earthquakes in Haiti and Asia? Myself included, probably not as much. I felt very emotional and thankful when the news indicated that President Obama had directed several U.S. ships to steam toward Japan as soon as the Tsunami hit to provide relief. It was the emotion of the audience in a movie when the U.S. forces appeared on the horizon coming to help in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is brother helping brother and jubilation felt whenever a distressed person or country sees a blanket or food supply being extended by a rescue person with a reassuring smile and big hug: “How are you doing? We’re going to get past this!”

Planet Earth is our home. When neighbors had problems, our forefathers in America helped. As Americans do, we should not forget prayer and pray for Japan. Despite its technology and financial resources, Japan will hopefully begin to build its spiritual fortresses. The future will unfortunately bring more disasters beyond Japan. We must learn from hard lessons that we are not just Japanese, we are Earthlings!

© 2011 Wayne Tada

2011 earthquake Japan JPquake2011 tsunami

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.

* * *

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.