The devastating earthquake that occurred last Friday, March 11, and the tsunamis that followed have affected millions. What has gotten to me the most though, is how the foreign media has blown this nuclear crisis out of proportion. The U.S., France and Great Britain are strongly advising their citizens to leave the country. Even those who live and work in Tokyo are fleeing to countries that their governments deem 'safer' for the time being. I don't want this to be a negative rant...but it irks me to see that the attention on the nuclear crisis has taken focus away from the woeful plight of those in the Tohoku region. It worries me when the foreign media can't differentiate the Tohoku and Kanto regions. It aggravates me to see people begging their friends in Tokyo to come back to wherever they're originally from. If you didn't know this, understand this now: TOKYO IS SAFE.
Please let me take this opportunity to share a little story.
My grandmother lives in a small town in Miyagi prefecture named Shiogama. As you all know, Miyagi prefecture was hit the hardest by the earthquake and tsunami. When the earthquake hit, my dear obaachan was outside, on her way to the local clinic. The ground began to shake violently, yet she thought she was just feeling dizzy. Then she heard people on the street shouting at her "Run, run home, run now!". So she ran. Ran past swerving cars, ran down her gravel walkway, ran to her beautiful house. My 84 year-old obaachan ran two blocks in the 9.0 magnitude eartquake, unscathed. Then came the rushing ocean water. It swept away much of her town, her neighborhood. The supermarket she likes to frequent is under water. The hospital where I was born is destroyed.
My grandmother lost many things over the last 60 years. She lived through WWII, but saw many of her loved ones leave this earth. She lost her husband, my grandfather to lung cancer. She lost many of her belongings in this earthquake. But she did not lose her spirit, nor her strong faith that the Japanese have the wisdom and power to rebuild the country. She finds joy in little things everyday, even at a time like this, even when she has no running water, electricity or gas. She was happy that a young Japanese Self-Defense Force officer helped her carry home her daily ration of three bottles of water. Her 74-year old friend who owns an electric appliance store in her neigborhood lost his store. All the brand-new TV's he was planning to sell were washed away in the tsunami. Yet they hold on to hope, and faith that he will re-open his store, and sell the same TV's someday.
I would do ANYTHING to go back to Shiogama now. But the roads to her town are under water or demolished. So until I can reach her, I can only call my obaachan and cheer her up. Not that she needs it...before I hung up last time I called, she said happily, "Aya-chan, tsuyoku ikiru no yo!" It means, simply, "Live strong!"
That's what we can do. Be strong, continue praying for the people in Tohoku. If you have a little bit of money to spare, please donate to any of the following charities (all links from National Geographic News Watch http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2011/03/japan-needs-our-help.html) :
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
According to the IFRC: "Your gift will support the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Funds will be utilised for the on-going provision of immediate relief and for eventual recovery support to the affected population."
Save the Children: Emergency Relief for Japan Quake
Toll free: 800-728-3843
Text JAPAN or 20222 to donate.
The American Red Cross: Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief
Text REDCROSS or 90999 to make $10 donation by text message.
Toll free: 800-SAL-ARMY
Text QUAKE or 80888 to donate $10
International Medical Corps
Text MED or 80888 to donate $10
Doctors Without Borders
Toll Free: 888-56-CHILD Text 4JAPAN to 20222 to donate $10