Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake

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.

So there.


Anonymous said...

The End

Anonymous said...

I loved this post for so many reasons.. showed me where things took place, i LOVED knowing about Ultraman and the Tsunami episode and I loved the last paragraph.

thanks for your frankness and sharing.

Jundo said...

Hi Guys,

Apparently there has been a change in situation at the reactors, not for the better. I am putting Mina and Leon on a train to a relative's house some distance. I will stay here with the cat for now, watching ... waiting ... sitting. If need be, I will follow them by car.

Then we head into the mountains, where I build a little hut and we live off wild berries! Fight off the giant mutant spiders that inevitably follow these things. :wink: (keeping sense of humor is important)

Gassho, Jundo

Anonymous said...

Now you're talking.

Modern mythology is very interesting, people like to assume as a post-modern society we have no such things, but that is so inaccurate.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

I was shocked and disgusted by those Pearl Harbor statuses. Whether or not the people in the original images exist, however, is a moot point at the moment, as a quick search on Facebook or Twitter shows plenty of people jumping on the idiot wagon. It really upset me when I saw that. I'm generally a fairly cynical person by nature, but I never thought that I'd read something like that, on the same DAY that the disaster happened.
Otherwise, good post, I like your explanation for American attempts at Godzilla being so weak, though I think 'Broderick' might be an easier one.

Sean said...

At your comment, "The things people believe are often unbelievable to me." I would agree, however I'm not sure if it's belief or just talk being expressed, in so many petty mud-stirring things like what you give reference to. Some of it, I believe, is just for the sound of it - however irrational that may also be.

Yet, I'm sure that there are "some people" who may actually believe the conspiracy theories that "some other people" talk about. To me, it's just a lot of maya soup, though, even to comment about it - and at that, perhaps it goes better with solid croutons (until those get all soggy, then it's maya soup with soggy croutons, "you just can't win!"....)

I appreciate your sharing those insightful statements as to the symbolic nature of Godzilla. I wonder if he could be regarded as a cousin to the dragons of some elder myths, in any regards?

Hoping for a quick, effective reconstruction after the natural disaster

standpipe said...

I love how people are posting "karma" events like Pearl Harbor and Japan's illegal whaling and dolphin killing...people really like to take the blame of a few and persecute the population. If that's the case, the US is pretty screwed too.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

I read the blog mentioned in the link, and it read like a litany of fairly minor complaints. This was the worst earthquake in over a thousand years. Anywhere else in the world, and there would be hundreds of thousands dead and (probably) mass lootings.

Not that he cares, but Brad's comments about the "Japanese character" are fairly ignorant IMO.

proulx michel said...

The French are particularly distrustful of whatever a Governement official will say in such circumstances.
In 1988, they went as far as sustaining that the nuclear cloud from Tchernobyl had stopped flat at the borders. It had gone over Monaco, but not upon Menton (which is right on the border with Italy, whereas Monaco is 15 km further), and had touched Sardinia, but not Corsica. My eye!

The whole country went laughing at the government's stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for not posting a thoughtful meditation on the fragility of life, because that's all that Buddhists will do, instead of flying there and actually doing something to help people. They'll leave that to the Mormons, the Lutherans, and the Navy.

Anonymous said...
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rambo said...

thanks for sharing your perspective

Judy said...

I always thought Godzilla embodied the American occupation force --- large people who even trying to be friendly managed to knock things over.
And thank you for not drawing "Buddhist" "lessons".

oisin said...
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Mumon said...

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.

I know just what you mean. My father was in charge of the steel structural design at Fukushima and a) I don't know about the situation - I'm not a nuclear engineer and b) my father wouldn't have known either; he's a civil engineer whose expertise was steel structures.

Yet, despite the 50 or so trips to Japan my father did make, you can't believe what some folks were saying even in our little corner of the blogosphere.

There may not be a "Japanese character," but there are Japanese ways of doing things, as you know, and it's amazing the level of ignorance around.

Heck, I'm still astounded at how the CNN anchors are tripping over what must be the easiest language in the world for Americans to pronounce!

Seagal Rinpoche said...

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

Josh Makowski said...

Brad, Ive been checking on here to see if you would make mention of how Nishijima is fairing under the circumstances. Haven't seen anything so thought Id post and mention it.

Anonymous said...

I saw some of the posts that were showing up on Friday, apparently with some the folks who posted them were inundated by peoples comments and either changed their names or blocked them from search.

Anonymous said...

A person from China, a person from Indonesia, and a person from Japan were on a photo safari to Africa.

A pack of tigers was reported to be approaching their camp.

Immediately, the person from Japan started putting on her jogging shoes.

"You'll never out run a tiger!" said one of the others.

"I only need to out run ONE of you," said the girl from Japan.

Focus on the immediate.

Anonymous said...

there is SOMETHING everyone can do to help.

French Atheists do far more to help people than Mormons, Lutherans, or other Xtian Cults.

Mysterion said...
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boros1124 said...

This video really reminds me of an old movie. I think no man who does not know. Power Rangers. XD What was that laugh. He who does not know:

Anonymous said...

Regarding "alternative news sources"...

"For all anybody can tell in advance, the spilling of salt is as likely to import bad luck as the bit of a mosquito to import malaria."
- John Dewey, How We Think

niroa said...

This won't really have success, I feel like this.

putas said...

It cannot have effect as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I suppose.