As the world now knows, on Friday 11 March, the forces of nature conspired to wreak havoc on Japan’s main island of Honshu. A nation known for its technological prowess, the stoicism and legendary work ethic of its gentle-natured people and a strong sense of community and social obligation is testing the limits of all these areas in ways unimagined as the Japanese grapple with the aftermath of one of the strongest earthquakes on record and the effects of the subsequent tsunami that wiped out entire regions and populations on Honshu’s north-east coast and has left the nation facing a possible unthinkable nuclear scenario.
This is a time of heartbreaking stories and statistics, of dramatic news headlines, minor miracles and major acts of heroism and selflessness. While the nation’s engineering genius helped Japan avoid the destruction that the quake would’ve caused in other, lesser advanced technological countries, it’s the same technological wizardry that has ironically given the nation its most frightening crisis: a possible meltdown of one or more of its Fukushima nuclear reactors.
The nation’s vast financial resources together with its efficient systems and the typically generous assistance of the international community have helped the affected to better cope with their injuries, grief and displacement, but the Japanese are witnessing first hand mass devastation; food, water and gas rationing and shortages; power blackouts: things not seen since in this advanced nation since the war.
And yet, knowing the Japanese gambare spirit, it’s possible even in the current situation to believe that this nation will work harder than ever to overcome the tragic circumstances in which it finds itself; to pick up the pieces and put its cities and town right. For the lucky residents of Tokyo and Osaka, life continues almost as normal save for the regular seismic jolts, sporadic business closures and a more conservative use of lighting. For the rest of Honshu, things are vastly different. For them, this is a time for compassion and a time for optimism.
When events of this magnitude occur, life’s concerns are put into a more realistic perspective. For those of us who still have to contend with the stresses of work, the complaints of minor ailments or the inconveniences of blackouts and transport irregularities, we consider ourselves lucky. Recent lusty thoughts of new iPads and game consoles are now seen as absurd. Witnesses to the devastation north of Tokyo have said that words and even pictures don’t begin to convey the scale of what has happened on Honshu. Our hearts go out to those whose former lives have been shattered and we can’t begin to imagine the tragedy of the many, many lives lost. This is not a time for frivolity, for simplistic media analysis or for the superfluous.
We wish to express our deepest condolences for the lives lost; our sorrow for the lives shattered; our confidence in the Japanese authorities and people to overcome the current tragedy. We wish to announce that map : : tokyo will suspend regular posts on this site for a – hopefully brief – time.
This is a time for compassion and for optimism. It’s also a time for giving. The link below leads to information on donating to the Japanese Red Cross. Gambare nihon.