herald

Thursday 26 April 2018

So dignified under stress, I'm proud of my country

IN the aftermath of Japan’s biggest recorded earthquake, the residents of the island nation are trying to come to grips with getting their lives back together and with what lies ahead.

My friend Naoki Wantanabe, who had been waiting desperately to hear about his relatives in the tsunami-hit area of Sendai, has reported back that he’d finally heard from his aunt.

“My uncle is injured and in hospital, but they are all alive,” he said. They have been staying at an evacuation centre in Sendai for the past several days and, as soon as the roads open, his father will pick them up and bring them to the family home in Tokyo.

“It will be tight quarters for a while but they are just happy to be alive and together once again. It is a miracle they all survived,” said Naoki. “They were in the centre of it all.”

I, too, have heard from all my family and friends that they made it through the quake physically unharmed. But, having survived the quake and subsequent tsunami, now they are dealing with the growing threat of radiation exposure.

Horrified

My friend Kayo says her cousins in Fukushima – about 35 miles from the power plant – are “horrified” about possible radiation poisoning and are staying indoors.

“I’ve never been scared like this before, but the feelings for those further north and those working at the nuclear sites makes me feel I have to be strong,” said Yoko Ayukawa, a translator in the seaside town of Kamakura. But despite her fear, she – like many Japanese – is not passing blame.

“We can’t forget those nuclear plants have provided us electricity, we had that privilege for a long time so we cannot blame them illogically,” she said. Still, there is no denying her concern.

Quietly

“Until the nuclear situation settles, I cannot decide what my outlook on the future is. For us now we are trying to spend as much time as possible with family and friends to beat the fear,” said Yoko.

Even with the uncertainty that lies ahead, the Japanese people continue to show grace and calm under immense stress.

Everyone I’ve spoken to in the country says there is no looting, no mass hysteria and residents wait patiently for hours to get petrol and other necessities.

Instead of complaining about what little they have, they are quietly and diligently following instructions to conserve food and water.

“Witnessing how everyone here is working together, I am proud to be Japanese,” said my friend Ayumi Nakano.

I am very proud as well.

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