comedic relief…maru

Just reciprocated a visit to blogger friend Beneath the Tin Foil Hat…at http://tinfoilhatman45.wordpress.com . I’d not heard from him in a while so I thought perhaps he’d taken a break. I was very glad to “hear” from him.

The visit reminded me of how cute our furry friends are when they’re just being themselves. It prompted me to go in search of my favorite Internet cat…Maru.

Japanese, Maru is photogenic and loves being in front of the camera. He does whatever he wants, satisfying any urge that happens to strike his fancy.

Too, too, too cute for words. So I’ll let Maru show you himself.

…have to get my grandkitty on video…he’s a laugh a minute as well…

………hugmamma.

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“walking a fine line”

Once in a while it’s good to step away from my own blog to visit others. There are so many on WordPress that are interesting and well written. And there are as many personalities as there are blogs. Each unique unto itself.

WordPress.com

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The Worpress community repesents a microcosm of the world at large since its members are from all over the globe. The conversations run the gamut from religious beliefs to political persuasions to everyday life. Sometimes a blog includes a range of topics, like mine; sometimes there’s a particular focus, like a journal of one’s daily activities. What’s valuable to the writer, is what drives the blog. Otherwise what’s the point?

What fascinates me about the blog world is that we all coexist, side by side, with true freedom of expression, except for what might be deemed inappropriate by “management.” Except for a short period where I was mistakenly being spammed from leaving comments a month or so ago, I’ve not otherwise seen evidence of suppression by WordPress. Heck, they’ve even allowed some spams to come through for my deletion. Although they have fortunately prohibited more than 26,000, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Just as in life, bloggers can rally with others who seem like-minded. Many do. I have. I guess that’s how we form relationships as human beings. It’s comforting; it’s secure; it’s familiar. But what’s nice about WordPress is that we can step outside our comfort zone to “test the waters” without being “seen.” We can read others’ opinions, get a feel for who they are, and decide whether or not to engage in conversation. That’s not always easy to do in real life, without “getting into it” from the get-go.

I think most of us want to be part of the larger community. I don’t imagine too many prefer isolation. I know I don’t. When I first began this blog in July of 2010, I was hell-bent on writing. But I learned in time that while I had readers, most were not really interactive. They came and they left without leaving their imprint. So I worked at making connections by getting out and about. Leaving comments on others blogs, brought them to mine where they reciprocated. I’ve formed strong bonds with a few based upon respect, compassion and positive support.  

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...

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There’s a fine line between “telling it like it is” and expressing one’s opinions, I think.  Walking the line between both is difficult at best. Refusing to walk that line can mean isolation, a lone voice in the desert. I don’t think we were built to live like islands unto ourselves. Where are we when Mother Nature upends our lives like Katrina or Japan? To whom do we turn if our loved ones are wiped out in a tsunami, and we’re left alone having isolated ourselves from others?

8 12 09 Bearman Cartoon Freedom of Speech

As I’ve indicated, it’s hard to be true to one’s own self, while coexisting with others who feel as strongly about their own true selves. It’s a matter of give-and-take, compromise really, just as in any relationship, even political ones and religious ones. It really does come down to compromise. Being correct can be isolating.

Research still points to the fact that Alzheimer’s might be in my future since my mom suffered its effects for years before she died. That is an isolating disease. I don’t care to self-impose more years of isolation…

by not being open to compromise…hugmamma. 

for a mom, good therapy

Am still thinking about my daughter’s difficult circumstances to do with her broken hand. I’m sure moms can relate to the feeling of total inability to do anthing, except offer support and encouragement. If I could let her have the use of my right hand, I would. That’s a no-brainer. But it’s her hand, her life, her experience, her emotional growth and maturation.

Rather than worry about my daughter who’s beginning her journey back to recovery, I decided to devote some thought to two other young ladies, one whom I just saw today, and another whose story I read in our local newspaper.

Jennifer, my 28-year-old massage therapist, is an old soul. After seeing her for over 2 years for various aches and pains, mostly chronic fibromyalgia, I’ve come to trust her very capable hands. Her petite 5 foot stature belies the strength she brings to her massages. But as with most practitioners of alternative health, Jennifer is good therapy for my spirit as well.

In the hour we’re together, we cover many subjects of interest to both of us. They all fit under the umbrella of life lessons, it seems. Funny that she in her 20s, and me in my 60s can find so much common ground. I think it’s because she puts great stock in old-fashioned values, like working hard to achieve her goals, and prioritizing her life around her family’s health, including growing her own produce, and her love of animals, including caring for horses in her spare time. 

Cover of

Cover of The Permanent Pain Cure

At the moment, Jennifer is also working towards her certification in becoming a myofascia-release specialist. It is a form of therapy which involves the patient in the massage process. I am a firm believer in this alternative health practice after my daughter’s strained groin muscle was cured at the hands of a New York physical therapist trained in myofascia release. Ming Chu wrote The Permanent Pain Cure, which I’d read hoping it would provide the relief my daughter needed, and it did. Or rather, Chu did. 

After spending thousands of dollars toward her certification, and many hours of studying, which also includes hands-on work, Jennifer will be ble to give her clients an even higher level of relief from pain. Anticipating doing this, has her so excited. But for now she’s focused on the training that still lies ahead…an uphill climb, I’m sure she can tackle.

North Campus, Brigham Young University

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Two things struck me as relevant about the story of Rachelle Dotson. The 21-year-old is the only female from North America serving as a Mormon missionary. She requested a mission after graduating from Brigham Young University in 2008. Having studied Japanese in high school, Rachelle was sent to Japan, and was stationed 12 miles north of Sendai when the earthquake hit.

Rachelle reminded me of 3 nephews, Mormons, who served as missionaries when they completed high school. The eldest, James, spent a couple of years in Costa Rica; Tyler was in Mexico the same length of time, and the youngest, Logan, did his mission in Mongolia. I am in awe of these young people who dedicate their lives to serving others for a period of time. They don’t proselytize about their faith. They live alongside the village people doing whatever they can, and demonstrating their Christianity by example. I can imagine my sister and brother-in-law’s concern for their sons while they were away from their family. They did not, however, suffer the anxiety that befell Rachelle’s parents as they waited to learn their daughter’s fate following Japan’s natural disaster.

Kelli and Robert Dotson watched their TV in horror as events in Japan unfolded before their eyes. I can only imagine what ran through their minds. I know I would’ve been a basket case. So I was moved to read that as an after-thought, Kelli wished she’d gotten an address when her daughter had sent a brief message the week before indicating she had settled in after moving from Koriyama to Sendai. All they could do now was wait for news from Rachelle, which took 2 days to arrive.

“I’m well,” her note began, comforting her family. She then recounted her experience.

She and her companion (a girl from Tahiti) were riding their bikes when they heard the earthquake. Dismounting, the earth then shook beneath them.

“Cars beside us were bouncing and the canal on the other side was sloshing 10 feet,” she wrote. She and her companion “crawled into a field, hugged eath other and prayed.”

 

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Damage (03RTR2JTXC)

Image by Kordian via Flickr

Waiting for further information, however, was agonizing for the Dotsons. Thoughts of her daughter suffering were especially difficult for Kelli, “until she was inspired by memories of Rachelle on her fourth-year girls’ hike.” They brought peace and comfort to her mom remembering how her daughter had “carried her 40-pound pack on her back, and her partner’s on her front, so that they could continue on without rest breaks.” Kelli realized that Rachelle “was a strong woman–physically, emotionally and spiritually,” and that she would not be a victim, but would be helping the victims instead.

Evidently Rachelle had grown very fond of the Japanese elderly, loving them as family. So she was understandably distraught at not being able to reach her dear friends, and remain to care for those in need. Although the missionaries have been evacuated from the area, Rachelle continues her work in Japan, not scheduled to return home until December 22. Meanwhile, she assures her parents she wants for nothing. But she has learned one thing as the result of her experience.

“She carries a lot of food and water with her wherever she goes…and has a bag packed of clothes ready to go at any moment.”

Rachelle told her mother she knows it’s not necessary, but she can’t help it.

So when I think of my daughter and her misfortunes, I’m reminded of others like her who are wending their way through life, with their own challenges. They’re all learning, and growing, and gathering life experiences that will serve them as they grow older…and wiser. That brings me some measure of serenity.

in the eye of the hurricane…calm…hugmamma.

 

postaday 2011 challenge: has japan’s crisis effected a change in your life?

 

Misawa Air Base Personnel and Family Members h...

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The challenge by WordPress was for bloggers to think of topic ideas, since the staff feels it’s been a one-way street, with them coming up with the 99 ideas thus far. So I suggested the topic that’s in the title of my post. Here’s the comment I left on WordPress Daily Post Challenge blog.

Have the natural disasters in Japan made a specific difference in your life? If so, what and why? If not, why not?

Living in Washington State, one of the places in the “Ring of Fire,” I’m preparing myself physically, including learning CPR, and mentally, by figuring out what to do…in case. I’m also trying to appreciate everything about the present, loved ones, memories. I’m also reaching out to connect with others in my community…while I can. In the final analysis, people are more important than stuff.

that’s my suggestion for a topic…in fact i’ll be writing about it…hugmamma.

 

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Last night Father Brian hosted our “neighborhood” dinner. In attendance were probably 75-80 people who contributed appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts to the potluck meal. We took a favorite Hawaiian meatball dish, as well as a sliced tomato, mozzarella balsamic vinaigrette seasoned salad. Both were gone by night’s end… except for a couple of meatballs which I devoured at home. They were so good!

From the get go, another woman and I immediately connected. I overheard her telling an acquaintance something about ballet. My ears perked up. Stepping forward I asked if someone was involved with ballet, to which the woman replied that her 9-year-old grand-daughter was taking lessons at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Explaining that my daughter dances professionally, our conversation continued in earnest.

My husband and I shared a table with my new friend, her husband, acquaintances of theirs, a young couple, and another gentleman with whom we were already familiar. It’s not often we dine with new people, but my communication skills never fail me. I’m sure readers of my blog have discovered that for themselves. I can talk, and some.

Downtown Seattle, Washington and the Bainbridg...

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Having moved west 3 years ago from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Marilyn and Rich were happily settled near one of their daughters and her family, including 2 grand-children. Another daughter resides in Portland, Oregon with a couple of other grand-children. A very lovely couple, we spoke of life on the east coast, where we’d lived before moving here 13 years ago. We also learned that they had actively participated in their church community, and felt inclined to be a little more laid back now that they were retired.

Looking around at the other tables, I observed that everyone was engaged in lively conversation. Father walked about, chatting, laughing, very comfortable in his role as host. While expected, the transition to business was done without the usual moaning and groaning. In fact, people actively participated in discussions about making the church and its community more relevant in the lives of the church-goers. Some in the group volunteered to form a committee to move this neighborhood gathering to the next level of involvement.

Post church fellowship

Image by Tojosan via Flickr

Funny thing is, my husband and I were at the wrong neighborhood dinner. Our zipcode gathering occurred last week. But, of course, we weren’t turned away. We enjoyed ourselves, and those we met. Now we’ll just have to find our neighborhood community, and work our way into their midst.

leave it to me…hugmamma.     

“preparedness,” japan’s lesson

Salmon Days

Image by Jeff Youngstrom via Flickr

People in our community volunteer. This is tremendously apparent during the annual Salmon Days Celebration which happens the first weekend in October. And with the increase in floods in recent years, neighbors have been helping neighbors stave off damage, or dig out from under. So it was no surprise when the town established a program where hundreds of citizens were trained to assist “nine firefighters and a handful of police officers and some public works people,” according to the local newspaper.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) i...

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Our town is very forward-looking, especially in terms of preparing for natural disasters. Besides CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, where members “give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, help suppress small fires and perform light search and rescue,” our city “has spearheaded lessons in Map Your Neighborhood–a program to coordinate disaster recovery on a block-by-block basis and identify special skills, such as medical training, among residents–for dozens of neighborhoods…” With assistance from CERT and Map Your Neighborhood, catastrophic recovery is enhanced. Japan is considered “the most-prepared country with the most-prepared citizenry, and despite that fact, the government can’t reach everyone…”

JogjaEarthquake27Mei2006-4

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Mental preparedness is as crucial as being physically ready, according to the experts.

Stockpiling supplies is crucial, planners said, but residents should also create a plan to reach family members and know the steps to follow if a disaster strikes.

“You can have all of the supplies that you want, but you do need to be mentally prepared for the unexpected…You can get paralyzed if you don’t know what to do at first…So, if you have that plan in place that says,…the first thing I’m going to do is…then you do that…”

 Information regarding a complete emergency kit checklist is available at www.3days3ways.org. General consensus among experts is that the best thing to do to “reduce injury and death during earthquakes” is to “drop, cover and hold.” They find  alternate methods of “standing in a doorway, running outside, and searching for a potential ‘triangle of life‘–as dangerous and not to be recommended.”

Preparing is as easy as 1-2-3 

1. Make a plan – establish an out-of-state contact for all family members to call. Texting can help. Establish meeting place if home is unsafe.

2. Build a kit – 3 day supply of: ready-to-eat food, water (a gallon per person per day), medications and personal hygiene, radio (battery or hand-crank), extra batteries, sturdy shoes and warm clothing, blankets, flashlight, whistle, dust mask

3. Get involved – get to know neighbors. Give key to trusted, nearby friend to watch your property, care for children and/or pets in your absence.

4. Learn CPR.

5. Volunteer in community efforts.

Mt. St. Helen's Eruption 2005

wishing safety in emergencies…hugmamma.

“the ventures,” music link to japan

Classic lineup of the Ventures in Japan in 196...

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The Issaquah Press, a local newspaper, carried another “small story” with ties to Japan. This one has a unique twist. It tells of an American rock band from the 60s era that has had an enduring love affair with the people of Japan. “The Ventures, unlike perhaps any foreign musicians before enraptured Japan in the early 1960s and have remained popular in the decades since.” Member Don Wilson makes his home here on the eastside in the Sammamish Plateau. Japan’s largest public TV network requested that the musician extend a message of encouragement to the inhabitants of the island nation who continue to revere Wilson and the other band members.

Hawaii Five-O (1969)

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If you’ve no idea who The Ventures are, like yours truly, think the musical theme to Jack Lord’s “Hawaii Five-O,” and surf-rock anthems like “Pipeline” and “Walk, Don’t Run.”  Or other great numbers like “House of the Rising Sun” and “Tequila.” While their sound may have resonated sunny, southern California, the band originated here in Tacoma, Washington. Wilson’s home shelters “a Fort Knox of framed gold records,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame statuette bestowed upon the group in March 2008, and a medal from Japanese Emperor Akihito. The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, has been conferred on only a handful of foreigners. In June of last year The Ventures were honored with the decoration at the Japanese consulate in Seattle, and were cited for having contributed to the “development and enrichment” of the country’s music culture, as well as “fostering ‘cordial relations’ between Japan and the United States.”

An instrumental rock band, The Ventures reshaped Japan’s pop music scene. They succeeded in part because there was no language barrier to overcome.  Scoring 20 no. 1 hits, the group also outsold the Beatles for a time, “in the electric-guitar crazed nation.” But in the days before screaming audiences, the band encountered audiences unlike those in the U.S. “You could drop a pin and you could hear it–while we’re playing …After we played, it was an eruption of applause.” According to Wilson’s son, Tim, “Japanese fans ’embraced The Ventures like no other.’ ” 

“The band continues to tour in Japan each year, and usually sells out a 3,000-person venue in devastated Sendai. …’The band played in the city almost every year for the past half-century.’ ” according to Wilson. Having played in Japan last summer, they planned to return at the same time this year. Those plans are now on hold. In the meantime The Ventures will do a benefit concert here in the U.S. to assist disaster-relief efforts.

“I’ve been doing a lot of praying for those people,” Don Wilson said. “But, actually, those people are pretty resilient, amazingly so. They’re very compassionate to each other. You know how organized they were after the disaster, lining up for food and water and things like that.”

“It’s such a cliche to say, ‘Hang in there. You just have to get through it.’ And I’m sure they will,” he said. “I’ve never seen harder-working people in my life.” 

and here for your listening pleasure………………………………………..and mine

brings back great memories of island life………………………………..hugmamma.

street newspaper: japan’s “big issue”

Street newspapers are a phenomenal, global network. I was touched to read that even in the midst of Japan‘s devastation, a street newspaper struggles to survive, its vendors dependent upon its existence, for their own meagre livelihoods. What strikes me as macabre in the aftermath of Mother Nature‘s triple threat, the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear disaster, is that Sendai is now home to thousands more homeless. The following article ran in the Real Change. It gives a first hand account of the people’s attempts to recover from the horrific blow dealt them. 

JAPAN’S STREET NEWSPAPER STRUGGLES AMID DISASTER

THE BIG ISSUE JAPAN / ビッグイシュー日本版

Image by jetalone via Flickr

Vendors and staff at The Big Issue Japan are struggling in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the nation.

Miku Sano of The Big Issue Japan said in an email to partner newspapers that in Sendai, which bore the brunt of the tsunami, vendors survived but are unable to sell the magazine. “Things are not easy and will not be the same, but we are not defeated,” Sano wrote.

“The vendors and people in Northern cities are fighting for their lives and for the loved ones. We are trying the best we can to support them.”

Distribution of the magazine is impossible in northern cities, “hence, the vendors in Sapporo have nothing to sell,” Sano said. There are plans to re-start football practice in Tokyo, as “many of our vendors said that they want to play football to feel better.”

(If you want to contribute to the efforts of The Big Issue Japan, there is an English language site for donations: http://www.jcie.org/earthquake)

Night View of Sendai City, Japan

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Diary of a disaster
The Big Issue Japan works with the Sendai Night Patrol Group to help the homeless in Sendai City. Staff members have been providing free meals for anyone sleeping rough as the city attempts to recover from the disaster. Aoiki san, head of the patrol team and magazine distribution in Sendai, allowed us to publish extracts from his diary about the relief effort:

March 14: In Sendai, the supply of water and electricity was restored in some parts, but it will take more than a month to restore gas supply. In the Wakabayashi area, the worst affected area within Sendai city, I saw a very long queue of people trying to get half-rotten oranges and only one banana. A thousand dead bodies are left unattended in a gymnasium, and there is no information about those unaccounted for. We are planning to provide free meals of curry rice for everyone from 11 a.m. The death toll is too big to comprehend, and many people seem to know nothing about what to do.

Sendai Airport in Natori and Iwanuma, Miyagi p...

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March 15: Roads, airlines and trains are not allowed to run except for emergency vehicles, and there is the dire prospect of a shortage of goods. More than 1,000 people queued for a motorway bus. I joined a queue for Daiei Supermarket before its opening at 10 a.m., but 30 minutes after the opening, major goods had already gone. There is a shortage of gas cylinders, noodles, tinned food, batteries and rice.

March 16: Public administration is completely paralyzed. Sendai City Council opened a help desk today, four days after the earthquake. Hospitals in the city are only able to provide a partial service due to electricity shortages. Without a battery-powered radio, people are getting no information at all. Many citizens don’t know about the accidents at Fukushima nuclear plant. Local radio stations help people to find out about missing persons. Strong aftershocks at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

March 17: Today the local radio announced about the food at Wakabayashi City Hall, so we had to make 1,000 meals. We gave out curry, miso soup and rice for about 800 people and it was gone in a second. Some hadn’t eaten for three days and queued for the food in the rain.

I am worried becuse there’s no information about what’s going on at the nuclear power plant. I am worried about the radioactive contamination for the north Kanto region because of the north winds. There are thousands of people sleeping in the elementary schools, city halls and public halls. I will do my best to provide free meals tomorrow, although we may run out of stock if we do so.

(Translated by Mayuko Hida and Yushin Toda – University of Glasgow)       

another “small” story, japan

I love retelling “small” stories of people going about the task of daily living, like you and me. Found another one about a Japanese family trying to do what they would do under normal circumstances, in today’s Wall Street Journal. Seems to me that’s human resilience at its best. But, truthfully, what else can survivors do…but live. To stop is to die. And why would they choose to do that, when they’ve been spared. Instead they’ve taken the gift of life and moved on, vowing to remember those who have fallen.

Greater Tokyo Area is the world's most populou...

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A Tokyo Reunion
by Michael Judge

American Airlines flight 153 from Chicago to Tokyo was nearly full and pleasantly mundane–young mothers bounced infants in the aisles, businessmen worked in the glow of their laptops, elderly couples stretched their legs near the restrooms. In the wake of the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, with the number of dead or missing surpassing more than 20,000, the ordinariness of the 13-hour flight was a comfort.

Given the fear of aftershocks and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant some 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, my wife Masae and I had joked that we’d be the only ones on the Saturday flight. Shortly before take-off, the Associated Press ran a banner on their mobile site saying that traces of “radioactive iodine” had been detected in Tokyo’s drinking water. Spinach and milk were also “tainted.” Foreigners were already leaving in droves–a mass exodus from the world’s densest metropolis was feared.

Indeed, when we told friends and acquaintances we were planning to return to Tokyo, my wife’s hometown and the city where we met 17 years ago this spring, some treated us like characters from Albert Camus‘s “The Plague.” Didn’t we understand the risks involved? Why subject ourselves to possible contamination if it could be avoided? Many governments were sending planes to evacuate overseas nationals. Washington warned against all “nonessential” travel to Tokyo.

Nonessential–a strange word. Was it nonessential to attend a family wedding we’d been looking forward to for months? When the wedding was eventually cancelled, was it nonessential to be near loved ones at a time when so many had lost theirs? My wife and I had chosen to live in America–we hadn’t chosen to abandon our family in Japan.

Nippon Professional Baseball

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Friends in and around Tokyo assured us that life here was continuing as close to normal as possible. To save electricity, trains ran less frequently and some businesses closed earlier. There were long but orderly lines at gas stations. After much debate, opening day of Nippon Professional Baseball, the equivalent of Major League Baseball, was delayed–by four days.

Still, on the train into the city on Sunday, we were relieved to see kids playing baseball and soccer in the parks. Laundry hung from clotheslines outside apartment buildings. Restaurants and cafes were busy outside the Nippori train station. Tokyo was full of life and open for business–even as cities as far away as Los Angeles sold out of potassium-iodine pills over fears of trans-Pacific traces of radiation.

Puburiba, the public bath run by my wife’s parents, was bustling late Sunday afternoon: Elderly men and women and families of all sizes and ages sought out the communal comfort only a sento can provide. But before we could settle in, we jumped into my father-in-law’s car and drove across town to dine with our nephew Tomo and his fiancee Yurie. They’d decided to postpone their March 26 wedding plans until September, but they remained in high spirits. Over ice-cold beer and the best Korean barbeque I’ve ever had, Tomo, Yurie and a handful of relatives and friends gave thanks for our being together, no matter the occasion.

Ryounkaku before and after Great Kanto earthquake

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On Wednesday we plan to visit the grave of my wife’s maternal grandmother, Makino, in the town of Noto on the Japanese Sea. She died last year at the age of 100. She was 13 when the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 struck, leveling Tokyo and surrounding cities and killing between 100,000 and 140,000 people. My wife’s paternal grandmother, Kaneyo, and her two youngest children died after fleeing the firebombing of Tokyo. The bombing commenced on Nov. 17, 1944, and didn’t stop until Aug. 15, 1945, the day of Japan’s surrender. More than 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, nearly all civilians, died in those nine months.

But the three didn’t die in Tokyo: They died in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture, 220 miles north of the capital. Weakened by the journey, illness and starvation, they couldn’t digest the rice they were finally given in Yamagata, and they died of “burst stomachs,” according to my father-in-law, Yasumasa. Miraculously, he was the only survivor.

Nakamise-dōri

Image by midwinterphoto via Flickr

Yesterday, while we were shopping at a crowded Ikebukuro department store, news came that gray smoke was rising from two of the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, forcing workers to pull back momentarily. Shopping continued apace. News that an 8-year-old woman from Miyagi Prefecture and her 16-year-old grandson had survived for nine days in the wreckage of their home–which had been moved one kilometer by the force of the tsunami–filled the television, and was on everyone’s lips.

Mr. Judge writes about culture and the arts for the Journal.

“small” stories…big impact…hugmamma.

one family’s story, japan

TV news reports are jam-packed with videos of the destruction in Japan, including snippets of interviews with those in the midst of it all. Somehow viewing the catastrophe on such a large-scale makes it impersonal, like it’s happening over there, not here. We breathe a collective sigh of relief, and go about our business. I pause every now and then unable to wrap my brain around the fact that under the same blue sky, someone in Japan is desperately trying to hang onto any visible shred of hope that she, and her family, will once again live a normal life, and here I am, living a normal life. “There but for the grace of God…”

Rather than try to retell the story of Hideo Higuchi and his family, I’m giving writer Eric Bellman that privilege since he authored “Winding Road to Reunion Bridges Three Generations,” which appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal

Ishinomaki city miyagi pref

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ISHINOMAKI, Japan–Hideo Higuchi and his wife sat in their truck, staring at the long lake in front of them. Beneath was the road to their daughter’s home.

The Higuchi’s hadn’t heard from her since Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. Water and debris had blocked the road into town. Phone networks remained down. So when floodwaters receded enough Tuesday to let them through, the couple rushed to Ishinomaki on Japan’s devastated eastern coast, where their daughter lived with her husband and three sons.

“I am not from here,” said the 70-year-old rice farmer, as his bloodshot eyes tried to measure whether his boxy white truck could make it through the knee-deep water. “I don’t know any other way around.”

Flag of Ishinomaki, Miyagi

Image via Wikipedia

“What is the damage like in Ishinomaki?” his wife, Sayono, 68, anxiously asked a stranger. The Higuchis live 15 miles inland from Ishinomaki, in a small city shaken by the earthquake but unaffected by the tsunami.

The Higuchis turned their truck around. The bed of the Isuzu, emptied of the usual farming equipment, held a cardboard box of food and drinks. They were for their daughter’s family, if the family could be found.

The couple decided to try to find the primary school of their three grandsons–Ryo, 12, and the 10-year-old twins, Chihiro and Masaki. In many small towns like this one, schools are often the tallest buildings and likeliest emergency shelters.

But the Higuchis weren’t sure of the school’s name. Pointing to a map, Mr. Higuchi asked people on the street. “Is there a grade school around here? Is it an evacuation center?”

Port ishinomaki miyagi pref

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They wound through the narrow back streets of Ishinomaki, a town of 164,000 people. On the roadsides were sights rarely seen in Japan: men in military fatigues directing traffic, girls with plastic bags taped over their sneakers, old men grilling a fish over a fire in an oil can. A middle-aged woman, bowing with a particularly Japanese shame at the thought of inconveniencing a stranger, held a sign: “Please give me a ride to Watanoha.”

Mr. Higuchi stepped out of his truck and adjusted his baseball cap as he talked to some neighborhood boys. The grade school was underwater, the boys said. People there might have been taken out by helicopter.

The couple found the middle school. To search the four floors of evacuees, they split up. Each room had a roster pinned outside the door, naming the people who slept there and their age. Mr. Higuchi, with thick glasses and poor eyesight, went through more than 10 rosters.

“Oikawa…Oikawa…Oikawa,” he said repeating the married name of his daughter, Miyuki. There are a lot of Oikawas here, so his crooked fingers paused often as he went down the lists.

When Mr. Higuchi asked a cluster of kids sitting near a third-floor window if there was a grade school nearby, they answered obediently. “See that yellow building with a green roof? It’s behind there,” one boy said.

Children in Kimono, circa 1960s. In Ishinomaki...

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Beyond the yellow building was the grade school. It wasn’t underwater. It was eerily quiet. There were evacuees on the third floor, the Higuchis were told. The couple quickly walked up the steps, moving faster than they had all day. Before she finished sliding open the first classroom door, Ms. Higuchi gasped. “Ryo!” She waved her hand, apparently reluctant to enter the room. “Ryo, come here.”

It was her grandson. In the room, also, were their son-in-law’s parents. “You’re all right!” they shouted at the Higuchis.

Three adults, in a display of emotion seldom seen in Japan, jumped up and down holding hands, hugged and cried. The three grandsons were then dragged into the group hugs.

The Higuchis learned their daughter’s home had been ruined by the tsunami shortly after their daughter, the only one home at the time of the earthquake, evacuated and met the rest of her family at the school. The daughter and her husband were there now, seeing if any of their belongings were salvageable. “Thank God, thank God,” the four grandparents repeated, wiping away tears and smiling.

Mr. Higuchi brought his eldest grandson down to the truck to give him one of his favorite drinks. Ryo, wearing the bright blue gym uniform he was wearing when the earthquake hit Friday, started to sip.

“We will go meet our daughter now,” said Mr. Higuchi. Asked if he knew the way, he said, “I’m OK now. My grandson is here.”

twice in one lifetime, memories of hiroshima

 

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

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Weighing heavily upon the minds of elderly Japanese are memories of that infamous day when the atom bomb was dropped on their country, in the hopes of bringing an end to World War II. Success in achieving that goal, brought agony beyond words for countless Japanese. 

Today’s Wall Street Journal articleHiroshima‘s Legacy Heightens Fears” by Mariko Sanchanta makes the case for one who has now known the unbelievable devastation of his country, not once but twice.

Mikiso Iwasa was 16 years old when the atomic bomb struck Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. He was in the backyard of his house, a little less than a mile away from ground zero. He was smashed onto the ground by the force of the bomb.

Mr. Iwasa escaped, but the effects of radiation caught up with him later. He suffered from skin cancer twice as well as prostate cancer. He lost his hair. His nose and gums bled. He developed rashes all over his body.

Victim of Atomic Bomb 003

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For the only country ever to have experienced the atomic bomb and the horrific effects of concentrated radiation exposure, the nuclear crisis escalating in Japan has had a crippling effect on the nation’s collective psyche. 

Panic and confusion swept through Japan on Tuesday after a fresh explosion at one reactor and a fire at another at a damaged plant in Fukushima.

In Tokyo, 150 miles away, people lined up waiting for bullet train tickets to Osaka, Kyoto, Kyushu–anywhere to get as far away as possible from the northeastern coast of Japan.

The crisis comes on the heels of last year’s 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in which the U.S.–in a poignant move–for the first time sent a representative to attend the annual memorial.

In a country famed for stoicism, there is a quiet, mounting sense of anger toward Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the nuclear-power plant. Mr. Iwasa, now 82 years old, accuses the government of playing down the risks. “They’re saying there was a leakage, but that it won’t affect the human body. They’re just fooling us.”

Even for a generation that didn’t experience World War II–two-thirds of the country’s people were born after 1945–Tuesday’s events were enough to send young people scurrying for cover. Reina Kudo, 19, a college student in Tokyo, said her parents have been imploring her to come home to Kansai. “Now I really want to go home,” said Ms. Kudo, at bustling Tokyo station

Japan’s confidence had already been on a decline during a decade of economic malaise. More recent blows have exacerbated this sense of despair: China this year eclipsed Japan as the world’s second-biggest economy; political infighting has resulted in five prime ministers in as many years; a record proportion of college graduates can’t find full-time jobs.

The devastation from the earthquake and the tsunami, and rising nuclear fears are now deepening the gloom as businesses close plants, foreign nationals leave and rescue efforts have only just begun in earnest.

Hiroshima in ruins, October 1945, two months a...

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Despite the latest setbacks, some say the Japanese will persevere, as always. This catastrophe is “showing the resilience of the Japanese people,” says Jon Tanaka, a real-estate investor in Japan. “This is not so palpable to the outside world until you see it.” 

I cannot imagine another people, except maybe the Israelis, more resigned to their fate and yet never relinquishing the hope that they will overcome. The only part of the Japanese culturethat gives me pause is their code of honor. In the days of the Samurai, dying to “save face” was a given. I hope the traditional practice of “hara kiri” is left to the history books, and the movies, and tales handed down from one generation to the next. Except for that ancient commitment to suicide “if all else fails,” I feel a kinship with the Japanese in many ways.  

hoping the “other shoe doesn’t drop”…hugmamma.

(note: for results from a Japanese study about the practice of hara-kiri in contemporary society, visit http://www.nci.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20427155. )

japan, different perspectives

www.army.mil

Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

Saw my physical therapist today. As with other alternative health practitioners, I find my sessions with Dieter and Jody mentally therapeutic as well. Perhaps it’s because they, along with chiropractors and massage therapists, are in “my space” as they work to heal my body. I find it easy to express my thoughts and feelings about a whole host of topics, especially about life’s ups and downs. Because these practitioners look to getting at the root of the problem, rather than prescribing drugs for the symptoms, their solutions are more organic. They resolve to get my body back working for me, not against me. I cannot recommend them enough. Carrie, Rachel, Jennifer, Dieter and Jody are my pit stop team. Whenever I need retooling, they’re on hand to service my “parts.”

Dieter and I spoke briefly of the devastation in Japan, as did Jody and I. What was interesting about the latter conversation is what Jody told me about a couple of her Japanese co-workers who have families in Japan. To her surprise, her peers expressed little concern about their relatives. One of them still had parents and siblings there. She seemed to feel they were fine since they were in the southern part of the island. The other staff member whose sister lived just outside Sendai, where the earthquake struck, explained that such natural disasters were commonplace. The implication was that the Japanese learned to live with them.

神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa oki nami ura (

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Needless to say, I was as surprised as Jody. I thought of American parents who were frantically seeking word of their young, adult children who lived and worked in Japan. I thought of TV news pictures showing people flocking to catch flights out of the country, hurrying to get away from the nuclear contamination that threatens to spread. As I pondered the disparate views of 2 Japanese women, and 2 American women, I realized the answer lay in the differences in our cultures.

Honor of country and oneself is what drives the Japanese. They honor their gods, but the people control their own destinies. With their hands, their minds, and their steely determination, they forge ahead. They work through and around obstacles. They seem to take no notice of the words “no,” “can’t be done,” “not possible.” Instead they seem to embrace the words “let’s try,” “let’s see,” “if not this, maybe this.”

SHOW ME THE OBI ! -- THE OSHIMA ISLAND GIRLS o...

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On NBC’s World News with Brian Williams tonight, reporter Ann Curry spoke with several survivors. A middle-aged couple seemed to epitomize exactly what the Japanese are about. In the midst of a country torn apart, they were picking up the pieces, literally. They swept and scrubbed the tile floors, and along with neighbors, they carted snow from the surrounding hillsides, melting it into water. The men were shown proudly carving chopsticks from bamboo they had gathered themselves.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Jo...

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Curry and her camera crew also visited shelters, one where young boys were seen laughing and clowning around for the the TV team. Another boy was drawing pictures, lost in his own world. The elderly were being tended to by others concerned for their fragile health. And local women sent food in the form of rice-balls, for the starving homeless. There was a general air of people helping people, as they patiently awaited their turn for help from their own government, or the outside world.

Oft-times I think we Americans tend to project our own world-view upon those of others. We can’t imagine that others would think differently. We proclaim English as the universal language, and our way of thinking as the most reasonable. Knowing the Japanese culture as I do, having been raised among them, I could guess at the reasoning behind the reaction of the 2 Japanese women who worked in the physical therapist’s office. My immediate reaction was the same as Jody’s. However, it was tempered by my knowledge of a culture that is world’s apart not only physically, but in its value system as well.

Two maiko performing in Gion.

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so perhaps they don’t worry…until they have to worry…hugmamma.

“give a damn,” architectural design

 

Architecture for Humanity - Design like you gi...

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Was puttering around when I overheard a conversation on MSNBC with a member of Architecture for Humanity.” Intrigued by the organization’s participation in helping rebuild devastated communities, I googled it. Perusing its website, I was impressed by its mission to improve the lot of those whose lives have been upended by natural disasters, including Katrina, Haiti, and now Japan. As a not-for-profit group, “Architecture for Humanity” is striving to refocus the stereotypical image of architects as being employed by only the rich and famous, to a more philanthropic one of helping those in dire need. This is a cause worthy of the donations being requested.

By showing an active interest in Architecture for Humanity, you are part of a growing grassroots humanitarian design movement helping to change the perception of the role of the designer. In most circles, architecture and design is seen as a service for the privileged. Our profession is guilty of embracing this ideal. Design should be a profession of inclusion whose talents help those who need them most. It is time for you to change the perception and design like you give a damn.

 

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

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I think they’re putting a call out to those in their profession, as well as to those of us who give a damn about the world in which we live, and the less fortunate who are trying to carve out a place in which to live. Forget mortgages and foreclosures, these people probably have no ground upon which to stand, let alone a temporary roof and walls within which to find shelter.

makes you think…about the bare essentials…and those who don’t have them…hugmamma.

 

 

japan, an editorial opinion

As if reading my mind, the following editorial opinion “Sturdy Japanwas in today’sWall Street Journal. I’ve reprinted it here in its entirety.

No nation escapes unscathed from an earthquake of the magnitude that struck Japan yesterday. At least 1,000 people have died. For all that damage, it is remarkable how well this island nation of more than 126 million people has withstood the fifth largest earthquake since 1900. Registering a stunning 8.9, the earthquake near Sendai produced a 30-foot high tsunami that hurtled toward some 53 countries.

Despite these powerful forces, one cannot help but note how relatively well prepared the Japanese were to survive such an assault from mother Earth. Japan stands, literally, as a testament to how human planning and industrialized society can cope with natural disasters.

A country that experiences hundreds of subterranean vibrations annually, Japan has been earthquake-proofing its buildings since an 8.4 earthquake in 1891. Until 1965, Japan limited the height of buildings to a little over 100 feet, but with the pressure of urban populations, the height limit was lifted. Japan’s wood residential houses were vulnerable to a tsunami on the coast, but its tall buildings seem to have held up well against the quake.

Minatomirai, Yokohama Japan See where this pic...

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In 1993, the Yokohama Landmark Tower was completed at 971 feet tall, a remarkable height in a country prone to serious earthquakes. It was only possible to erect such a building if one had the skills and wealth to access the most sophisticated techniques of modeling and engineering.

In late 2007, the Japanese completed the world’s most sophisticated early warning system for earthquakes, which was credited Friday with signaling Tokyo’s residents–via TV, radio and cellphone–that a quake was coming. The warning system gives industrial, energy and transportation facilities time to shut down before a quake hits. The biggest concern as we went to press was the ability to cool the reactor cores at nuclear power plants that were shut down automatically as the earthquake hit. The U.S. is sending some coolant materials.

阪神淡路大震災(東急ハンズあたり)

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Japan now faces significant rebuilding, but less than could have been expected after enduring its strongest tremblor in 300 years. We’d now expect that similar warning systems would be developed and installed in the rest of the world’s quake-prone nations.

Contrast this preparation with poor Haiti or the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, which killed some 70,000 people. Haiti has the excuse of abject poverty caused by decades of misrule. China has wealth but a government answerable only to itself. Sometimes the hard phrase, invidious comparison, is apt. After its disastrous Kobe earthquake in 1995, Japan instituted a multitude of reforms.

Japan itself has experienced some bad press of late. Its economic growth is stagnant, and its inept political class has become an embarrassment to its great population of productive citizens. But make no mistake. Japan remains a great industrial power. Despite the destructive effects of yesterday’s quake, the self-protective benefits of Japan’s achievement as a modern nation was hard not to notice.

supports my theory that the japanese work hard to sustain themselves…through good times…and bad…hugmamma.

the japanese, a stalwart people

A bowl of miso soup

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My husband and I had dinner at Tokyo, a small Japanese restaurant. Some might call it a “hole in the wall.” Regular diners, like ourselves, use the phrase lovingly. In other words the restaurant’s appearance is nothing spectacular, but its food is “to die for,” and its prices are fair. My combination dinner of miso soup, salad with Japanese dressing, teriyaki salmon, California roll, brown rice and a peeled orange that was sweet and juicy, “hit the spot.” I love Japanese food, at least the westernized version of the more traditional fare.

California roll served in Shanghai, China. Pre...

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During dinner my husband asked if I’d thought about the next topic for my blog. I said “Yes, that I had.” The recent Tsunami in Japan had me thinking about its people. While I don’t know anyone who lives there, I’m well acquainted with their culture. Hawaii is a melting pot of ethnicities, Japanese being one of them. Historically they were enlisted to work the plantations, replacing the first wave of immigrants, the Chinese, who improved their lot, moving from laborers to small business owners.

Growing up among the Japanese in Maui, I saw them as a quiet, soft-spoken, hard-working people. Family and honor were important in their culture. They were leaders, for sure, but they led by example. Children knew what was expected of them, because they did as their parents did. And the adults seemed to do whatever was necessary to provide for themselves and their families, by simply doing. They grew their own produce, they fished, they opened small mom and pop grocery stores. From what I observed, the Japanese seemed a very self-sufficient people. Moreover, I never heard them complain. It seemed they felt anything was possible, if they just worked hard enough.

When learning of the devastating losses it has suffered in the wake of the Tsunami, I could only think that Japan will re-emerge strong once again, like the mythological phoenix which arose from its own ashes. It is not a nation that cries out in desperation. Instead its people will put their noses to the proverbial grindstone, and rebuild their country from the ground up, making it even better than before. If God ever imbued a people with the gift of everlasting hope, in my opinion it would have to be the Japanese.

for a country of hard-working people…hugs and prayers…hugmamma.

tsunamis, on maui

Growing up on Maui in the 50s, I can remember a couple of instances when the island was hit by tsunamis. I don’t recall, however, that they were as devastating as the one which hit Japan today.

Coquillages à Fadiouth, Sénégal

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As a toddler my family rented a large house in Waiehu, across a one-lane road from the beach. The land was flat, hills looming tall behind our home. As kids, my siblings and I spent a good amount of time playing on the beach, pocketing sea shells, chasing one another along the shoreline, and yelling our fool heads off when the cold water splashed against our bare legs. We enjoyed frolicking in the sand and the surf, while the heat of the tropical sun warmed and tanned our bodies.

I can recall one specific, sun-drenched day, when an eerie quiet hung in the air. And yet, there was a faint, far-off ringing that pierced the stillness. It seemed to come from the vicinity of the horizon. Over the period of a few hours, the entire ocean had withdrawn until it loomed ominously across the horizon line. After surveying the ocean floor, devoid of water, our family quickly withdrew to the hilltop, and awaited the inevitable.

A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krab...

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The ringing grew louder as the sea came roaring back toward land, wave upon wave seeming to consume all that lay below us. And that’s where my memory ends. I’ve no idea what we salvaged, for we kept rabbits and chickens. Perhaps we released them to run for their lives, and went in search of them in the aftermath. I’ve no idea. I’ve also no recollection what damages befell our house. Those things don’t figure into a toddler’s mind, at least not mine.

I remember another time when I was older, my mom was driving a few of us kids along the road that ran past the pier that bordered Maui’s capital city, Wailuku, and the neighboring town of Kahului. Traffic crawled as those in cars gawked at people who had abandoned their cars alongside the road, running to scavenge fish that lay on the exposed ocean floor. They thought little about the risk to their lives, for it was certain they could not outrun the thunderous waves that would come crashing down upon them, when the sea rolled back in from where it stood along the horizon. The police seemed helpless in their efforts to corral those who would sacrifice everything for a few fish. My mom didn’t linger to witness the sad scenario that was destined to become even worse. We read of the fatalities the next day, in the local newspaper.

Though these events are distant memories, my fear is still palpable. As I watch TV news programs showing the terrible destruction in Japan, I can feel the despair that must have overwhelmed those who were unprepared for the onslaught, and the dread of those who could only watch as fellow Japanese were bandied about like Mother Nature‘s playthings.

Kahikinui coastline, Maui

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Tsunamis, like other natural disasters, leave little to the imagination. They’re here, and then they’re gone. What’s left in their wake is of little consequence to them. Humankind is left to refashion its environment, after Mother Nature has had her way. Is there any doubt then, who is the true master of this earth we call home?

reflecting upon our smallness…keeps us humble…hugmamma.