I did not live in Japan at the time but March 11th 2011 is a moment in time that I will never forget. Two weeks prior to that I had begun teaching my students in Ireland about Japan; exploring the culture, history, traditions and geography of the beautiful country I now call home. Waking up that morning to images of the tsunami on every news channel imaginable had profound effects on me. I wondered how I would face my class, knowing that they would have hundreds of questions about the country they had just started to get to know. It completely changed the lessons that I had spent weeks preparing; instead we focused on how we could help; we made paper cranes for Tohoku and raised money and awareness for those affected by the tsunami.
|Origami paper cranes. Tarambuque.com|
I did not know it yet, but only a few months later I would find myself on a plane to Tokyo, ready to start a new life here. When I was in the decision making process, did I consider my safety after what had happened? Of course. Many people asked me why I would want to go to a country that had just been crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami. My response was quite simple; you cannot let fear hold you back from doing the things that you have always wanted to do. I was also deeply moved by the response of the Japanese people; they showed pure solidarity, coming together at a time of absolute devastation and showing the rest of the world how strong a nation they really are.
It is important to know however that earthquakes are a daily occurrence in Japan; the meteorological agency in Japan provides up to date, accurate information every second of the day. Does that mean you will feel them all the time? No, but they are common and for the most part quite low on the richter scale. Japan is one of the most prepared countries in the world; buildings are constructed to lower the impact of earthquakes, designated earthquakes meeting points are set in all areas and emergency bags can be found in many supermarkets.
Japan is still picking up the pieces two years later. Personally, I think they have done an amazing job.
|Fukushima - 2011, 2012, 2013.|
However, there is still a lot to be done and I am very proud of friends of mine who have volunteered to help in the region. I hope to one day do the same. If you are interested, there are so many organisations dedicated to helping the region most affected: Habitat for Humanity.org and Itsnotjustmud.com are two who continuously strive to help.
In the face of adversity Japan, you never gave up. For that reason, I am here, proud to call you home.