One Year Since the Tohoku Earthquake - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One Year Since the Tohoku Earthquake

Now it has already been a whole year since the Tohoku earthquake with the following tsunami that killed nearly 20.000 people in the northern part of Japan’s main island Honshu. My travel buddy Adaora and I were on a round trip in Asia when the earthquake happened, and I remember the shock it was to sit in Taiwan and seeing the the disaster unfolding back in my host country on TV.
As an exchange student in Japan I had already lived in this beautiful country for half a year, and my thoughts immediately went to all my friends in Japan. I knew my boyfriend had gone to Tokyo for some job interviews a day or so ago, and I was so worried that something might have happened to him that I could’t hold my tears back.
It turned out that my worries had been ungrounded though, he had gone back to Kyoto by the night bus and was safe, like the rest of my friends. Although they had felt the earthquake also in Kyoto it did not cause any big damages, and of course there hadn’t been any tsunami either.
But the drama wasn’t over for us. First it was the worries about the tsunami; it was being predicted that a big tsunami would hit Taiwan, and with the capital Taipei being situated in the north not far from the coast all we could do was to stay inside and hope we wouldn’t be washed away by the giant wave.. Outside the wind was gathering its strength, and the rain was pouring down. It was a pretty scary evening. But again we were lucky, and the tsunami never stroke after all.
Although we never experienced the earthquake nor the tsunami directly, the following month was strongly influenced by the situation in Japan. We followed the situation closely, which wasn’t hard since wherever we went people were worrying about the situation in Japan, and I remember seeing posters in Thailand urging people to help the Japanese by donating money.
As the days went by the situation in Fukushima also got more and more serious, and both Adaora and me were faced with a difficult decision: When our trip through Asia was over, should we take the chance and go back to Japan, or rather return to our own countries? In Japan the term Flyjin had been created, describing how the foreigners (gaijin) were escaping out of the country by plane in fear of radiation. Fear was spreading through the foreign mass media, describing how the end was near for Japan, and although our friends in Kyoto told us the city was physically unaffected by the catastrophe there was a lot of pressure from outside urging us to give up on going back to Japan.
When the earthquake happened we had only spent a few days abroad, and luckily we had planned to travel for a whole month. Although the happenings in Japan certainly had a negative effect on our moods throughout the whole trip the fact that we had a whole month on our hands gave us time to consider the situation more carefully, to consult our schools and friends and in the end make a choice. When the month was up we both made the decision to go back to Japan and continue our studies at Ritsumeikan University.
Looking back at it now I do believe I made the right choice. It has been a year full of new experiences I wouldn’t have been without, and despite the crazy picture painted by the media we were never in danger in Japan. In November I even went up to Ishinomaki-shi to take a look at the situation there myself, and my plan was to travel back to this tsunami-stricken area by night bus this evening and spend the last couple of weeks of my spring-break volunteering. However, I was a bit unfortunate last week when I broke my shoulder while surfing in Bali, so I had to give up those plans.. If I get the chance, however, I hope to go back to Ishinomaki-shi once my shoulder has become usable again and contribute if just a little to the recovery of the area. What happened a year ago was terrible, and I have to say that I deeply admire the Japanese for the strength they have showed each other and the rest of the world. At the same time I hope that we have gained some knowledge from the disastre, so that we can take measures to avoid such a catastrophe ever happens again. Only the future can tell..


Flowers and teddybears in front of an elementary school in Ishinomaki-shi

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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