Since nobody has put up any maps showing where Osaki City is in regards to where the recent earthquake hit, I made my own. I hope you can see Osaki. It's got a red square by it. It's not Osaka, which is what Google asks if I mean every time I try to search for it. Osaki is a newly created city established in 2006 by combining several smaller cities into one administrative district.
Osaki City is where my ex-wife Yuka's family lives. Their town used to be called Kashimadai. They are all safe. But her brother and his wife and two kids have been sleeping in their car. I'm not clear on exactly why. I don't think their building collapsed. But they might be concerned about going back inside until it's all checked out.
If you look on the map you can see that they were very close to the epicenter of the earthquake. Since they were pretty far inland, the tsunamis did not reach them. But I'm sure a lot of stuff got damaged in the area. I have not seen any photos at all from Osaki City, which is good news. If there was anything dramatic there I'm sure the news guys would've gotten a picture of it.
My friend Norman England lives in Tokyo in the Shimokitazawa district. He wrote a very clear piece about his experiences in Tokyo during the earthquake. Norman's been in Japan a long time and I respect his perspective. He's not full of dreamy nonsense about "the Japanese character" and all that stuff.
A whole big bunch of weirdness has cropped up since the earthquake. Lots of people have posted this list of supposed comments from Facebook users in various places. It's purported to be a bunch of people posting that the Japanese deserved what they got as some kind of karmic retribution for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I thought it looked a little suspicious. So I looked up 3 or 4 of the more unique names in Facebook and none of them came up. I'm calling this one a hoax. Do people think this is funny? I don't get it.
Some of my friends are into so-called "alternative news sources." I find I have even less faith in "alternative news sources" than I do in the mainstream ones. I really don't trust the mainstream news 100%. I doubt that we're being told the whole truth about those atomic reactors, for example. But I also doubt the shrill screams I hear from the "alternative news sources" who seem to have even less access to legitimate information than the mainstream news. My friend Ren in Tokyo posted an article titled Why I Am Not Worried About Japan’s Nuclear Reactors by a guy who seems to know what he's talking about. I hope he's right. He seems more sensible than most of what I've heard elsewhere.
A Japanese guy on my Facebook page posted some stuff about Jews leaving the World Trade Center before the attacks there and wondered if anyone had heard anything about Jews leaving Japan. The things people believe are often unbelievable to me.
I lived in Japan for eleven years. Earthquakes are like a form of weather over there. I also lived in California where people worry about earthquakes. But in my five years in Los Angeles I never felt a single one. Whereas in Tokyo you'd get them every couple of months, it seemed. They were usually just little ones. Some you'd barely even notice. Others would shake your stuff around a bit. I never experienced one that even knocked anything over. But you get used to them.
I worked for a company whose stock in trade was making simulated natural disasters as a form of children's entertainment. Check out this example:
The fake tsunami begins at about 0:43 into this clip from Ultraman Leo made in 1974. The earthquake/tsunami footage from episode one of this series was so good it was used as stock footage in other programs of ours for almost ten years. Some of it looks a lot like the real stuff we're seeing on the news lately.
These TV shows were a way for people to cope with the constant fear of this kind of disaster. Everyone who lives in Japan knows that it is a disaster prone country. You just hope for the best and prepare as well as you can. I had all my bookshelves anchored to the wall when I lived there and a stock of food and water under the sink where I thought it might be sheltered if the house collapsed. You were always aware that things were pretty precarious.
I understand why the Americans were unable to make a decent Godzilla movie. They didn't understand what Godzilla movies are really about. Godzilla is not an animal. He is the embodiment of natural and man-made disasters. This is why weapons are ineffective against him, the same way as you can't fight an earthquake or tsunami.
I spent a lot of time in Miyagi Prefecture, where the worst of this occurred. I can recognize some of the places I liked to go in Sendai in some of the videos and photos I've seen. I've been to some of the seaside areas that were devastated by tidal waves. It's pretty shocking to see that.
I guess as a Buddhist writer I'm supposed to post some thoughtful meditation on the fragility of life like this one from Shambhala Sun Space. But I'm not that kind of person. So this is what you get.
Life is fragile. You and I are living lives just as precarious as those people who got swept away into the ocean last week. We just fool ourselves into believing otherwise.
But that's not a reason to live in fear. Life is a terminal disease. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said that life is like going out on a boat that heads off into the sea and then begins to sink. Yet somehow he managed to find a kind of joy and beauty in that. In fact, it is the precariousness of life that makes beauty and joy possible.