Today I am heading for a town called Nobiru 野蒜 in Miyagi Prefecture (a google map of the location attached below). No Internet connection will be available at an elementary school where I will be staying for the next two and half months, but I will try to find a way to update this blog periodically.
I am attaching a YouTube video of Nobiru Train Station where I'm arriving by bus this afternoon. The train line has yet to be resumed. The scene was filmed by a TV crew shortly after the Tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Here is a clip of Nobiru Elementary School, my accommodation, filmed on the day after the Tsunami. When I arrive there, I intend to film the vicinity of the station and the school and post it on this site. I expect to be impressed by the reconstruction efforts.
Akita: After the nuclear power plant disaster, the government asked the citizens to conserve electricity drastically. Without collaborative efforts of every single person, East Japan could have run out of electricity during the peak heat of summer when people ran AC's day and night. However, the government's worry was unnecessary. The people readily responded. They turned on AC's only when absolutely needed. Imagine sauna-like conditions in public buildings and transportation, but complaining would be a shame in comparison to the hardship that the victims of the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami were trying to overcome.
More than 7 months after the triple catastrophe, the efforts were still in effect even though the threat of energy shortage had far passed. The local food store in the photo was dimly lit. The hand drier in the bathroom was turned off with a sign of apology for the inconvenience. A banner on the entrance said, "East Japan, Let's Make Collective Efforts for the Same Purpose!"
Kyoto: Solar generators and solar water heaters (photo) have been popping up on the roofs of private homes. The nuclear plant catastrophe made the people realize the importance of self-reliance and accelerated the trend forward even during the persistent economic recession. A nurse told me that she had spent ¥2,000,000 ($26k) and had installed a solar generator at her house. I asked her if electricity was very expensive in Japan. The monthly bill was under ¥10,000 ($130), but she added, "I did it in order to be kind to the Earth."
En-route by bullet train to the north, Mt. Fuji revealed its elegance. I was disturbed by the fact that snow was yet to be seen on top of the highest mountain of Japan. I felt as if the national symbol were advocating the nation to be much kinder to the Earth. Smoke from the tall chimneys appeared ironic.
Kyoto: I shadowed a veteran nurse, Mrs. Iwamoto, while she made home visits. After the self-arranged one-day training, I learned that no matter where it is, good nurses carry caring attitudes and the willingness to take time for the patients and their families. The essence for the excellence is certainly not in technical skills. For example, in the photo, Nurse Iwamoto accompanied the client in his hour-long walk. Respecting his discomfort in walking side by side with a female, she was always a few feet behind. His steps were stable enough to walk without any assist, but he would never do it without her. Her presence was the silent persuasion to make him carry on the physical activity that his health would tremendously benefit from.
By the way, I had arranged for this informal training in my preparation to serve as a volunteer nurse at the earthquake/tsunami devastated area. I plan to head there on Oct. 19.
The second clients that Nurse Iwamoto took me was a 93-year-old WWII veteran, who had spent his youth as a POW in China. While the fellow POW's had been dying of starvation, he had survived the captivity because of his farming background and industriousness. As an appreciation for his diligence, Chinese farmers had allowed him to eat some harvests. In addition, he had had the knowledge of edible weed. After he shared the painful memories with me, this war survivor repeated to me, "There is nothing good about wars. You got to swallow your discontent, and put your efforts in getting along with one another." 『戦争なんて、何もいいどごね。我慢して、みんなで仲良く生きねば。』
We often hear the word "gaman" in Japan. It means endurance or to put up with the situation. If everyone pushes his/her ways, peace will never be achieved. Instead, do "gaman" and find the ways to live peacefully with one another. His pleading is still echoing in my heart.
Raccoons are believed to bring business success.
I visit my home country, Japan, every two years. However, before this routine return trip, the prospect of learning new perspectives excited me far more than usual. In my youth, I felt suffocated by the conventional characteristics of rural Japan. I wonder if the very things I hated would now awake my sense of appreciation for the people. It has been 26 years since I left Japan, and I may be able to see their life more objectively. I am looking forward to learn about my own country from the new point of view.
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