Wednesday, March 16, 2011

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.

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  1. Well said. My family is safe as well. But I am not waxing on about it on Twitter, etc. because for some reason I'm keeping it all bottled up. Japan is one of my favorite places in the world to travel. I think that is what I will write about, for now. It's my favorite cuisine and favorite in a number of other categories, because I grew up with a Japanese mother.

    I guess I'm hedging because I actually had someone on Twitter ask me (not knowing my heritage) how I could dare think about writing about anything other than Japan. Someone who I'm sure had never read my blog because she clearly didn't know anything about me. So I guess, I hesitate. And I've seen people waxing on about the situation for pure blog traffic reasons. People that have no connection and that I'm sure have never been there.

    Sorry, that all makes no sense. It's just me trying to figure this awful situation out inside my head. :)

  2. I haven't been able to articulate my feelings, either. And I have only tenuous connections to Japan! I can only imagine what you and yours are enduring, Marsha. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family.

  3. I haven't been able to articulate my feelings, either. And I have only tenuous connections to Japan! I can only imagine what you and yours are enduring, Marsha. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family.

  4. I certainly don't wish you'd kept it bottled up. I have no particular connection to Japan, except the connection of shared humanity and horror and grief at all they are facing. I haven't written about it at all because it feels cheap for me to do so; like I'm capitalizing on their very real pain. I'm so glad your family is safe. Sorry this is sort of incoherent.


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