The natural disasters in northern Japan have captured most of my attention this week. Although I could avoid watching news media on the television or bypassing stories online, I find myself drawn to the images and feeling so powerless, shocked, and very sad.
The devastation is overwhelming; I sit here watching from thousands of miles away, in the northeastern USA. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for people who are in the midst of the situation - in shock, hungry, cold, terrified - surrounded by destruction and death.
In a former life and career more than 15 years ago I traveled to Japan twice on business as part of small e-publishing consultancy team. Our travels landed us at Narita airport where we took a train into Yokohama and then walked to our hotel. We stayed in a hotel that was not far from the sports arena and main shopping district; it was also not far from the busy Chinatown neighborhood.
All our local travel was by train, tram, subway, or on foot and I had many opportunities to see how ordinary people lived, worked, went to school and spent leisure time. On both trips I spent much of my free time (after dinner and on the weekends) exploring the busy streets of Yokohama shopping, touring the waterfront and parks, jogging and people watching. I made one trip to Tokyo with another team member where we toured the Royal Garden where we caught a glimpse of the Royal family as they passed by, and we visited the peace shrine and outdoor market in the city center. It was a beautiful place filled with history, culture and families.
As days go by there seems to be no end to the human suffering from Friday's earthquake and tsunami and the ongoing danger this week from the damaged nuclear power stations. The Japanese were very prepared for earthquakes, but no amount of planning or preventative action could have kept the wall of water from doing its damage. It's sobering and sad; I spend time every day just thinking about Japan and saying a prayer.
I took lots of photos; I'll try to share here or on Facebook in the next few weeks.
NHK World Television (English)