As we move into the final month before our trip to Japan we are heartbroken to see the damage done by the earthquake and tsunami three days ago to the northeastern coastal areas of Japan. Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends in Japan.
Personally, I was alerted to the earthquake soon after it occurred by a phone call. I turned on the TV and watched the tsunami waves approaching the coast of northeastern Japan live as the events were unfolding. It felt more like watching a disaster movie rather than watching a real life crisis unfolding on the screen. Watching as the waves swept across populated areas of Japan and seeing cars, trucks, trains and boats tossed around like children’s toys, and homes toppling like they were built of balsa wood brought tears to my eyes.
Two of my sons that have gone to Japan with me these past two years sat glued to the TV. As a wave washed cars from a bridge I said “Each of those cars had at least a driver in them, probably more”. It was a horrible thing to watch, and being all the way across the Pacific made us feel all the more helpless to do anything to help. As a reminder of the power of this earthquake and tsunami, the harbor at Santa Cruz (over on the coast here in California) was heavily damaged when the waves from Japan hit our coast the next day. This is such a terrible tragedy.
The American military has bases in Japan and were responding as quickly as possible. Other countries are offering their help now. I am hopeful that the Japanese government will open their arms and accept help from around the world as the northeastern areas of Japan recover from this disaster.
As far as the status of our trip, we are proceeding with our plans until we are told we can’t go. Today the U.S. State Department issued a warning for U.S. Citizens travelling to Japan. For now they are recommending that U.S. Citizens not travel to Japan. There is a risk of a high magnitude aftershock in the next few days. There are also some power outages by Tokyo, as well as damage to roads between Tokyo and the northern area. The alert expires on April 1, and will likely be updated every couple of days. We have been assured by our friends in Kyoto that they have had no impact from the earthquake or tsunami. They are 380 miles from the epicenter. This is the same distance as from Sacramento to Los Angeles here in California. Barring any further earthquakes or other disasters affecting the Kyoto Osaka area, we plan on going to Japan as planned in April. I am certain that this crisis in Japan will change the tone and tenor of our trip.
This Tuesday we have hour long individual Skype chat sessions set up between our students and those in Kyoto. I am sure this topic will dominate all of the conversations. I am hopeful that we can complete this trip that’s been in the works for the past six months. I hope that we can reach out and help our friends in Japan to get through this crisis, a crisis now being framed as the toughest crisis Japan has faced since WWII.