Takadanobaba JR station,
Tokyo afternoon 3/11/11
(credit: Michael Lara)
“Now i can see you wavering, As you try to decide. You’ve got war in your head, And it’s tearing you up inside. You’re trying to make sense, Of something that you just can’t see. Trying to make sense now, And you know you once held the key. But that was the river, And this is the sea!...” from “This Is The Sea” by The Waterboys.
What transpired in Tokyo in the afternoon hours on March 11, 2011 and unfurled beyond in Japan is most daunting. To put it in appropriate terms is not possible because the devastation is immeasurable. Alas, Mike Scott’s expansive title and final track of THE WATERBOYS’ 1985 release This Is The Sea is one track that poignantly encapsulates the enormous, dizzying emotions of those who have taken the brunt from this quake and the following mercilessly engulfing tsunami.
Living in greater Tokyo since April 2000 and being an historian who has always been fascinated and impressed by the land, culture and people of Japan, what went down that day and since is a true testament to the collaborative strength, resourcefulness and resolve of the Japanese people, a people used to rebuilding their lives and their country in the face of huge obstacles.
Within the last one hundred years, Japan has had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of numerous calamities, both man-made and not, that have duly shaped its populace and personality. Admiringly, the Japanese people do not panic or linger in despair or apathy, but they are resolute to come out better than before, as one can see by their multiple returns of hard serves sent their way.
In this past century, Tokyoites have lived through the 1923 Great Kanto quake that killed and/or left homeless over 100,000 people and the devastation as most industrial areas were leveled during the final years of World War II.
Somehow a silver lining has always been found in the subsequent redevelopment of this nation, my adopted home. From the ingenuity of the bullet train to the successful bid to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to giants like Sony, Toyota and Honda, an era of robust inspiration, creativity, confidence and more have helped to fuel Japan’s own economy and the world’s.
Cherry Blossom season, Inokashira Park, Kichijoji, Tokyo
(credit: Michael Lara)
Mother nature’s test in 2005’s early morning hours of the Great Hanshin earthquake, centered in Kobe, that took over 6,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, failed to break Japan’s sturdy, flexible back. And yet, all here in Japan knew something bigger was coming.
Never wavering, again embracing the famed Japanese saying of “Shouganai,” which means “It can’t be helped” in English, Japan didn’t waste precious time in playing the blame game, and quickly went to work to rebuild, restore and rejuvenate itself after the horror on March11th.
These tragic events have drawn the world closer to Japan and its people, all in the hope of seeking a swift reclamation of the privileges taken for granted in this wonderful nation.