Epilogue

I was a little uneasy and tired when I stepped into the crowded Tokyo Station. It was late at night. The city felt like a distant memory. I did not have time to adjust. It was not necessary. I was on my way back to the U.S. 36 hours later. I logged about 400 kilometers…

“To be able to put oneself in another’s shoes without prejudgment is an essential skill. Empathy comes when you understand something deeply through arts and literature and can thus make unexpected connections. These parallels bring you closer to things that would otherwise seem far away. Empathy is the ultimate quality that acknowledges our identity as members of one human family.”

Yo-Yo Ma, “Behind The Cello”

「先走った判断をすることなしに、他人の立場に身を置いて考えられるということ。これは必要不可欠な能力のひとつだ。共感は、芸術や文学を通じて何かを深く理解し、それによって、これまで思ってもみなかったような物事や人につながりを感じたときにやってくる。そうして何かしら自分との類似点を見いだすことによって、一見とてもかけ離れているように思える人や物事に、自分を近づけるのだ。共感という能力は人間の最も根本的な属性であり、それによってこそ私たちは、自分は人類という大きな家族の一員なのだと感じることができるのだ。」

ヨーヨー・マ、「チェロの後ろで」

Day 25, Mar 24, Namie 浪江

Katagiri and I went inside the 20 kilometer radius of the nuclear power plant. The area is closed to the public. Only residents can return during the day. Everyone has to be out by 4:30pm. The director of the Minsmisoma City Museum, Takahashi Kiyoshi (高橋清), used to live there before the meltdown. We were going…

Day 24, Mar 23, Returning to Minamisoma

March 11, 2011. I was on a flight above the Pacific Ocean. My plane was originally scheduled to land in Tokyo at around 3pm. I did not make it, though. The Tokyo flight was delayed. I was detoured to San Francisco on my way to Taipei. I barely missed the earthquake. I went to Taipei…

Day 22, Mar 21, Yamada-Toyomane 山田-豐間根

The blizzard lasted till this morning. It was late in the season, even for Tohoku. Many places had record high snow. There were reported casualties from avalanches. Over 40 thousand residencies lost power. An old lady on the news said the light was gone, water was off. It reminded her of 2011. 暴風雪は今朝まで続いた。東北地方ですら、こんな時期にこれほどの雪が降ることは珍しい。多くの地域で記録的な大雪になったようだ。なだれで死傷者が出ているというニュースも出ていた。4万を超える世帯が停電になっているらしい。ニュースで、ひとりのおばあさんが「停電で水も出ない。まるで2011年のようだ」と言っていた。 I was…

Day 21, Mar 20, Otsuchi-Yamada 大槌-山田

As I was leaving the guest house in Otsuchi, I saw a book written by a Taiwanese Dharma Master Chen Yen at the door. Tzu Chi Foundation, the organization she founded, is the largest non-governmental-organization in the Chinese-speaking world. It was very active in providing humanitarian relief during the 2011 disaster in Japan. Their influence…

Day 20, Mar 19, Kamaishi-Otsuchi 釜石-大槌

After a day of rest, my body felt great. My mind, however, got rusty. Occasionally self-doubts flashed over my head. “Why am I here?”. “Does anyone care?”. The thoughts were soon interrupted by a 1400-meter tunnel. I knew the drill and went through. I asked a high school student to film. He was walking casually,…

Day 19, Mar 18, Kamaishi 釜石

My friend, Takashi, texted me yesterday. “Radiation level around Fukushima No1 nuc plant is doubled in the last few days. Maybe something is happening in damaged reactors. I recommend you wear mask.” I have not turned on my Geiger counter for a while. I checked, and the reading was hovering slightly above the baseline. I…

Day 18, Mar 17, Okirai-Kamaishi 越喜來-釜石

I took a photo from the dining room in the morning, trying to make sense of Miyuki’s story last night. The house was indeed high above the sea level. But the tsunami can climb. Huge concrete boxes filled the sight. Constructions like this are gradually erasing the visible signs of the disaster. 朝、昨夜ミユキから聞いた話を思い出しながら、食堂から写真を撮った。この家は確かに海面からかなり高い場所に位置している。だが津波は文字通り「登る」のだ 。巨大なコンクリートの箱が視界いっぱいに建てられている。こうした建造物が、目に見える震災の爪痕を少しずつ消していっている。 I…