Friday, 20 May 2011

Tohoku

After the Earthquake...

I last posted a month before the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant melt down. 3 months later, things on the surface appear calm in Tokyo. Food is back on the shelves, there are fewer aftershocks but gradually news about the seriousness of the TEPCO fiasco seeps out.
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Pictures of Tohoku seem to have all but disappeared from the International news pages but Japanese news continues to moderately cover relief efforts and updates. Meanwhile in Tohoku people are feeling the struggle of days spent trying to survive, to grieve, to keep going, to think ahead when, in may cases their security has been ripped away. During a recent trip I was struck by the endless views of rubble and destruction. Like apocalyptic scenes houses were floating in the river, or just not there at all, apart from a staircase. To be constantly faced with this as the "image" that you see everyday must be taking it`s toll.




Despite these circumstances the people I met there were amazing -  kind hearted, looking out for each other, steady, hopeful but also in a lot of pain. Old people and children were clearly traumatised by the tsunami. I listened to many stories of how they escaped and what they saw. For many the daily reality is one of living a day at a time. There was much talk of the possibility of another quake, and in Ishinomaki the water at high tide was extremely high. This is an aftermath that will take years if not decades to recover from and re-build.


But in the middle of all this pain and destruction I think about the process of grieving, of growth, of recovery. Before something new can be born the old must be laid to rest, and in this case there is a lot of work to be done. My hope is that the government will support those "supporting". Japan does not have a great record for either people speaking out against things, or an environment where emotions are readily shared. I would love to see more openness and people sharing their experiences and being encouraged not only to "ganbate" but to give their pain a voice.

While the CNN news feed gave us many pictures of despair there are also some amazing stories of courage and joy.

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. One man scuba dived through the water to rescue his wife and mother.
and in terms of the arts community (in the broadest sense) many artists and musicians are getting involved in projects raising money for the many many needs.



Art Action