Life goes on…


Spring is here. Nanohana, magnolia, violets blooming. Farmers out in the fields starting the growing season. High school couples walking hand-in-hand along the river. Asparagus, peas, and carrots… Yet, everyone is distracted and people are worried. Instead of things starting to settle a bit, uncertainty and anxiety continue to rise. The prices of gas and food are rising. But the stores are well-stocked and the panic hoarding that is happening in Tokyo isn’t part of the scene here.

Nanohana Along the River

Information about the nuclear reactors is overwhelming and it’s really hard to know whether to remain calm or to be scared shitless for Tohoku and Tokyo. I feel pretty numb at this point and there really isn’t anything I can do but contribute money and supplies. We’ve got space to house a couple people if needed. But we are over 1000 km away and don’t think we need to go anywhere. If I were in Tokyo I would definitely leave, especially if I had kids. At this point, reports are worded so carefully, you really need to read between the lines.

I do think the Western media is hyperbolizing (I know it’s not a word), but the danger is real and I think it’s always “better to be safe than sorry”. Our concern should not only be whether it will  directly affect us, but rather we should be concerned and scared and saddened because the people and environment of Fukushima and surrounding areas will certainly suffer the effects of radiation both in the short term and long term. It is no longer acceptable to be sanguine, things are bad and the news is getting worse.

Normally a week after a natural disaster hits, there is a sense that the worst is over. It really doesn’t feel like that here. We are far away and life does go on, but there is a sense of dread in the air. The rescue efforts for the evacuees in Tohoku are moving forward, and even yesterday a couple stranded survivors were found. However it is really cold, it’s snowing and there is not enough fuel to get supplies to all the shelters. There are some reports of food shortages- people all over Japan are donating money and supplies, but it will be at least a few more days until the people in the shelters have adequate supplies. If the government didn’t have the nuclear crisis to deal with, I am sure the disaster relief would be more effective. AAHH.

So I continue to be distracted and feel calmest when I have access to lots of information sources. NHK and Kyodo are the least sensational, but the focus seems to be on allaying fears. The focus of the Western media  seems to be worst case scenarios. Reading, watching and listening to both seems to provide a more realistic picture. Regardless, the situation is complex and there are no easy answers. Nothing will surprise me at this point. I have no idea how this will turn out.

Early sping in the field

My friend Suya in Oregon reminds us to be hopeful. Plant gardens and fruit trees, Japan has lost a huge agricultural area. We must all  put in extra effort now so there is enough food for everyone. It is easy to sit back and feel relief that we have been spared, but recovery will need everyone’s efforts.

General Info

Japan for Sustainability Disaster Information Portal This organization also has a space  Leave a message for Japan

Ten Thousand Things Peace Organization based in Kyoto

The Diplomat-Tokyo Notes The Diplomat’s Japan Blog has lots of firsthand accounts. Look for the ones written by Ulala Nakagawa

Nuclear Energy Information & the Situation in Japan

International Atomic Energy Agency

Union of Concerned Scientists analysis of events at the Fukushima nuclear facility

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Green Action Updates in English from anti-nuclear group in Japan

US Calls Radiation ‘Extremely High’ New York Times Article

Firsthand Reports in English I read several of these blogs regularly and many have interesting posts on the earthquake

No Nuclear Panic in Tokyo The Diplomat

Tokyo & Japan Situation, March 16 Hiko’s Blog

Pure Land Mountain Journal of an American living in the Japanese countryside

Keeping Calm When Others Can’t Japan Security Watch

To People Worried About Us in Japan Deep Japan Report

On Radiation Janne in Osaka

The Situation now in Tokyo 1000 things about Japan


Charity Navigator For advice about giving and information about specific organizations

Helping Japan Stepcase Lifehacks excellent summary on giving and list of suggested organizations


If you are in Japan:

Second Harvest is accepting all sorts of supplies. You have to pay for the shipping to their Tokyo office

Hiko’s blog listed above also has information for ways to help

in Oita:

Oita Prefecture is accepting supplies. You can drop them off at any of the local Prefectural offices. Info in Japanese

They are accepting:

Preferably boxed and labeled:

  • bottled water (pet bottle,500ml & 2 liter)
  • other beverages, especially “sports drinks” and juice (pet bottle,500ml & 2 liter)
  • sanitary napkins
  • disposable hand and body warmers
  • disposable diapers
  • disposable diapers and pads for adults
  • handwipes
  • paper plates, plastic cutlery, disposable chopsticks, plastic/paper cups)

Also new or dry-cleaned blankets (no futon)

5 thoughts on “Life goes on…

  1. Susan Tanabe March 17, 2011 / 1:06 pm

    Kate, your writing voice is clear yet full of emotion. Your love of this culture, the land and the people, is evident. I am horrified to hear from my friends and family in Kanto area and think of the places and people beloved to me…i had so hoped to see them next week.

    • katezawa March 17, 2011 / 1:26 pm

      I hope your trip goes well. It is so hard to know what to expect.

  2. Judy Miller March 18, 2011 / 5:50 am

    Kato – Thanks for the posts and attempts at maintaining normalcy in the face of chaos. Your insights are invaluable. I feel for all your countrymen.

  3. Hannah Whitehead March 27, 2011 / 5:10 am

    Dear Kate,
    What a breathtaking situation! Selfishly I am glad that you and Jiro are as safe as any of us are, but can a whole population be treated for PTSD? The next steps forward seem so huge and demand so much of people who have already been traumatized. And yet, spring arrives, and the sun rises and sets as before. Amazing.

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