Friday, April 8, 2011

Under the Cherry Tree

Japanese people love and cherish the cherry blossom. Aren't they pretty?

There was another M 7.1 earthquake late last night that shook the Tohoku area. The whole Tohoku area lost power again, which was one of the only utilities that they had. Gas and water are still only available in certain areas. By late this afternoon, most of the thermal power plants that had shut down had started operating and electricity came back to most areas that had it before last night. But there are still many areas that don't even have electricity since March 11th.

What I worry about most is those people who were not able to stay in the evacuation shelters. I have a co-worker who has relatives in Ishinomaki, which is one of the tsunami-hit cities in Miyagi Prefecture, and he just got in contact with them by phone last weekend. While many of the houses had been washed away, his relatives house still stood, although the flooding reached the second story of the house. They all evacuated to a shelter but because there were so many people there, the families with houses still standing were asked to return to their homes. Not only are these houses a wreck with such things like broken windows and furniture from the earthquake but because of the tsunami, everything from dead pets to fish to seaweed from the sea are scattered about inside the house. The relatives have been living there for over a week now, with only electricity, which means no cooking or bathing as that uses gas, something they still don't have.

When my co-worker wanted to send them money, they told him they didn't need it because the banks were closed and even if they could take the money out, there are no stores open to use it. They asked for a change of clothes and undergarments, because all of their things had been washed away with the tsunami and they were still not able to take a bath, and ready-to-cook rice, so they could make rice balls to eat to get by.

My co-worker said that he's never felt more helpless than during that phone call with his relatives. And hearing his story, it made me realize that there are many many people in need who are still very far from receiving it. The news has reports about evacuation shelters in Tohoku receiving aid lately...but even though the food and clothes go to people in these shelters, there are still many who are in their individual homes who continue to wait their turn to receive help.

...I didn't mean to write so much about this, I keep having to remember this is a photo blog about Shinjuku. But right now, what is happening in the Tohoku area is very much part of our lives here, too. So I hope you'll let me share some of it with you.

On a brighter note, I was taking a walking around Shinjuku the other day and looked up to find a young cherry tree in full bloom! At first I thought they were apple blossoms but the proprietor assures me they are cherry blossoms. Whatever they are, they are gorgeous! Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.


  1. Having to return to conditions like that -- how awful. I've heard in some areas gas for the car is impossible to get, so individual families can't leave. But couldn't busses evacuate people to another city? Or is it impossible to drive in these areas, period.

  2. I appreciate your detailed update.

  3. I don't mind at all hearing about what is happening Kaori. It makes me sad but so appreciative of what I have. The cherry blossoms are lovely. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too!

  4. Aha! That is the photo I wanted to take when I walked around Cherry Woods, Tama Forest Science Garden north of Chuo Line (and Keio Line) Takao Station in 1988. Thanks to you I can finally see the photograph I imagined.

    Thank you for the update about the still tragic conditions in which many tsunami survivors are valiantly persisting, although from your description, if they could see themselves in a mirror, “valiant” might be the last word they think of, alas. We think otherwise. Their sacrifice is deeply felt. But what to do? What can we do?

    To a much less greater magnitude than your friend, I, too, feel a helplessness. I realized right away that, even though I contributed to several charities, actual, physical, needed, essential help from those contributions was not reaching people in need. And as you pointed out: it still is not.

    By staying away from the evacuation shelter are your friend’s relatives missing out on distributions of essentials such as food, and clothing?

    Why, after an entire month are there people in dire need, still lacking in basic essentials such as clean clothing and edible food? A month! These things were needed after a day.

    If the Japanese government, NGOs, (a certain power company), and other charitable organizations are at such a loss as to how to effectively deal with this continuing emergency what can we overseas people do?

    I guess something like what happened becomes simply overwhelming. But still, a month; and so many people around the world and within Japan who wish to help...

  5. Oh, Kaori, this is just so very awful. Tall Gary expresses a lot of my frustration and feeling of helplessness. Helpless about so many miseries and suffering around the world. But this IS your world... so please don't apologize for what is in your heart... it is beautiful and authentic, and I want to hear it. You are amazing for still being able to see the glorious beauty around you. Your photo of the blossoms is stunning.

  6. This must be so scary for those in that area. Peace!

  7. I continue to keep the Japanese people there in my thoughts and prayers. My daughter's father is 1/4 Japanese and his father has family in Japan. But, I don't know where

  8. Write all you want Kaori, it's good to hear what's happening since we don't get it all in our news. I had no idea and that just sounds appalling. Your photo is a lovely spot among all the news though.

  9. sending you all the strength I call my own.

    daily athens

  10. This photo is just gorgeous, with the layers of delicate blossoms and the incredible blue sky in the background.

    It's important to read about the real impact of the disaster on people. We shouldn't let it fade into the background yet, there's still a lot of help needed.

  11. You are right letting us know about these personal notes, the human side of a tragedy has always more impact of the overall waste and destruction.
    Thanks for the nice touch at the end of the post, it was much needed after the above gloomy news.

  12. Thank you all so much! I've come to realize that this blog is kind of like therapy for me. You're all very kind :-)

    Even for me, living in Japan, it's hard to understand what exactly is going on regarding the rescue efforts. But from being glued to the internet newspapers for a couple of weeks now, I know there are a lot of people ready to help and I think both government and NGO groups are rushing to assess the situation in the areas that have been isolated, in order to bring in provisions, professional health aid, and volunteers as soon as possible.

    Karin, the evacuating by bus idea does have merit. Ishinomaki, where my co-workers relatives are, was one of the last areas the rescue teams were able to get to because of major flooding, which blocked all access to the city. But from what I hear, the degree of damage varies from house to house. One could still be flooded while the house across the street is perfectly fine. And because many of the city's official workers have not survived the tsunami, it must make it harder to assess the entire situation. My co-worker wanted to go pick them up but they are involved with the relief efforts in Ishinomaki and felt they needed to stay.

  13. Wow...just wow...the resilience and fortitude of your co-worker's family is heart aches for the survivors...such a tragedy of such immense proportions...

    thank you for providing the beautiful balance of the Cherry blossoms... a lovely photograph...

    Please let us know if there are ways in which we might help internationally...I'm sure our governments and various organizations are doing some things that we may not know about, but on a personal level, if there's something we can do...please let us know...


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