My home country is well-known for the custom of gift exchanges. Getting something meaningful and useful for my family and friends in Japan is always a headache for me. This year, my souvenirs were handmade items made by my American friends. In addition, we reciprocated seasonal or local foods.
Mrs. Nakazato and Mrs. Tamura (in the photos) are survivors of the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Eight years have passed, and millions of volunteers, who stormed into the region after the disaster, have already moved onto something else. Our occasional visits to the region indicate to the local that they have not been forgotten. Their appreciation reminds me how important it is to keep in touch. They will welcome me openheartedly even if I have no gift.
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.
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