Since coming back from Japan, I’ve been trying to keep a finger on the pulse of the country I left by reading the news on the internet. In the midst of my own personal whirlwind of home-coming, I was shocked to realize that this past Sunday was not only the anniversary of 9/11 here in America, but also the six month anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake. I was so lucky in both cases – I didn’t lose anyone in the terrorist attacks and was lucky enough to live in a part of Japan that was not directly affected by the earthquake either. I still felt the terror, though, in both cases and in full measure. When you’re from the Tri-state area, there’s no way that you could not be shocked at the vulnerability of your country and not feel the shadow of death pass by you that day. In Japan, there was not a single person I knew who wasn’t connected to the tragedy in Tohoku in some way, and though I was an outsider, I felt that pain with them.
I will never forget either of those days, and the world won’t either. For people of my parent’s generation, the question that defined them was “Where were you when John Lennon was shot?” For the grannies and grandpas of Japan it was probably “Where were you when Hiroshima happened?” As a wanderer of my generation, I bear the memories of tragedies of both sides of the world, and can answer to questions that define the youth of 2 nations: “Where were you on 9/11?” and “Where were you on the day of the Great Earthquake?” There are also many others who answer the same question. Sugiyama Taichi, whose banker father was killed during the attack, came to read his father’s name and represent the 24 other Japanese who were killed during the attack. The Daily Yomiyuri Online reports that he thanked his father and asked him to continue watching over his family, and then asked people to think of and pray for Japan in its current troubles.
These tragedies are a hard burden for the world to bear. But it is the nature of humans to continue living, and no matter what we persevere. So I think that there was as much hope in September 11th this year as there was sorrow. The whole country, and other countries as well, were united in sorrow but also in hope for a new, peaceful world where people won’t have to be united in tragedy. And through this the JET Programme continues to act as a way to unify countries and spread global awareness through the people who live and work in Japan.
Canada’s CBC reports that “months after the March 11 disaster, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs put out a call to alumni, offering to send a limited number back to hard-hit areas where they’d worked to see the progress for themselves.” Many have
gone back to the towns they once lived in to see the destruction, and the recovery, with their own eyes, to be carried back as words, memories, and pictures to the people and media of their home countries. I hope that these visits will prevent the disaster in Japan from fading in the world’s memory and that people will continue to think carefully of the price that we might pay for using nuclear power. I hope it will also assure people that the area outside of Tohoku is safe for travel, and that people won’t cancel the trips that bring them and badly-needed tourism-generated money into the country.
In the end, I’d like to share with you an interesting piece of music that was posted on Over a Hedge, a blog “dedicated to Japan and writing, among other things…” I like to think that music is a language that transcends words, and no matter where you are from, what culture you are most familiar with, or what language you speak, you will understand music. This song is called “9.11″ and was performed by Kakushin Nishihara on biwa, a kind of ancient Chinese lute, and Gaspar Claus on cello. Although it’s difficult to understand the lyrics, you can hear the word “hikooki” or airplane, through the song. I think that the music really says it all – communicated through a skillful combination of something so ancient and Eastern, the biwa, with something so modern and Western, the cello. When I listen to it, it evokes both tragedies that occurred on the 11th, and hopefully the healing and unity that will come after them.
~MS the Younger