Friday, March 11, 2011

Thinking of Japan

I've written a bit about our experience with Japan and our friends. Rick discovered this beautiful country first, and made many friends on an extended Rotary trip about 15 years ago.


Through him, I met many Japanese friends, many of whom were part of our Sister Cities program. We spent wonderful evenings cooking together, enjoying fun times. We showed Yukari and Atsu our lake and introduced them to Northern Michigan. I think fondly of the things I learned to appreciate from them.

At the Pigeon River Forest in Michigan, with Yukari and Atsu

In 1999 Rick took me to Japan. After the first few days of culture shock and jet lag, I too, became entranced by this country -- exciting, forward-thinking, electric, and yet calm, beautiful and ancient. A place steeped in tradition, yet with technology that put America to shame.

Chigasaki (Mt. Fuji in the background)

I'll admit, Tokyo wasn't my favorite spot. Perhaps I was still too much in transition. It could have been I didn't understand the language or the ways of the country enough to feel confident.

But the wonderful party of Rick's friends we met with outside of Tokyo made me feel so very welcome, so much at home. Even though everything was new and very different, I could tell from our smiles that we were really much the same. And while we could not understand one another, those smiles spoke volumes.

At Apple Restaurant in Chigasaki

There was tremendous peace in Kamakura as we visited Diabutsu.


The "Big Buddha" was so massive, magnificent. I feel quite sure that even if he was in the path of a tsunami, he alone would survive.

Rick, with Yuka

Our friend Yuka took us to see Diabutsu. She lives not far from Tokyo. I suspect she was far enough to not experience too much damage, although I am sure she would have felt the quake. I hope she and those she loves are fine.

Yamagata was high in the mountains, and it seemed like Shangri-la as we climbed higher and higher at Yamadera, a temple.


It felt as though we were at the top of the world.

At the top of the world

Along the way there were altars such as these.

I can't help but wonder how many more such altars will appear as Japanese honor their dead, killed from the debris of the earthquake or the ravaging and uncompromising waters of the tsunami.

Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima could tell you a little bit about the dead. The Peace Park attracts visitors at every time of the year -- even on a cold and rainy February day.

The children from elementary schools throughout the country bring their paper cranes to the memorial -- asking for peace.

It was in Hiroshima I met Rick's friend Kiyo and her family and good friends, who introduced me to a wonderful dish called "okonomiaki" and rice balls. Once again, the smiles were warm, the laughter jolly and the companionship simply perfect. They are far from the epicenter. I hope their friends afar are all right.

(Several years later, Greg stayed with Kiyo's family for several weeks in the summer. When he returned, he brought Hikaru, who is holding the little girl in the photo, with him.)

The people in Shiga, Michigan's "sister state" (actually, Shiga is a prefecture) and in Otsu, Lansing's Sister City, are probably safe and worried about their friends and colleagues who live closer to the disaster.

Naoki and Kanako are probably quite secure in their home far away from Tokyo, Sendei and the other cities touched.

But we're not sure about the Shirai's. We went to a place where we could make our own soba noodles -- then eat a wonderful lunch -- with them. Since then, we've lost touch, but last I heard they had moved to Tokyo.

Fumio lives in a suburb of Tokyo, too. Rick met him years ago when Fumio was at MSU and his children and Rick's were in pre-school together.

We toured part of Tokyo with him during our visit and I treasure a deck of cards he gave me. (The Japanese are very big on giving gifts -- omiage, I think it is spelled -- oh-me-ah-ge.)

There is much in my house and in Rick's that reminds me of our time in Japan and our Japanese friends.

I think of them all the more these days as we see the terrible effects of the earthquake, aftershocks and the tsunami. While we are hopeful they are safe and have sustained little if any damage to their homes, we worry.

And yes, pray.

Praying Hands, Daibutsu


jet1960 said...

Hope all is well with your friends. Such a tragic event! Hard to even comprehend. Hope you are doing well, too. I am behind on my blog hopping and blogging.

Joanne Huffman said...

Beautiful photos. I cannot imagine the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami. The pictures on the news are horrifying. I hope your friends are well and that their loved ones are safe.

Herzblatt said...

Absolutly terrible .....and now the core meltdown.....I don`t want to imagine what will happen then....
I am very very sad!!!
I really hope that all the nice people you`ve met in Japan are okay and safe!!!

Janet said...

All the people of Japan are in our thoughts and prayers. They definitely have a challenge facing them in the aftermath of such a huge disaster.

Vagabonde said...

This is a lovely post on Japan and great pictures. What a tragedy for the people and their beloved country. I hope all your friends are safe. You see, we are all dependent on the planet, rich or poor when terrible events come like that it does not distinguish. I hope we won’t stop Tsunami aid as some in the government wish, it is important to help during these terrible times.

I read that you have written 700 posts. That is incredible to have written so many. It will take me a decade to write that number. Congratulations.

Linda said...

Heartbreaking. I am praying.

Mae Travels said...

Beautiful way to think about the Japanese and the terrible events.

anno said...

If a post can be a prayer, this feels like one... beautifully expressed, Jeanie. I hope your friends are safe and well.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

What a beautiful post filled with beautiful pictures. I hope that your friends were not impacted and am praying for all those who live in Japan. What a terrible tragedy. :(

Oh said...

This entry is far more alive than the repetitive (and tragic) footage on TV. Seeing your friends and acquaintances and the altars and the Buddha - it is so much more real, and I am thinking of all of them and hoping/praying for the best. This tiny island country "takes" so much that the world and Nature have to dish out.

I have acuaintances there, too, from a job I had in NYC working for a Japanese company. We were talking about them the last night. These are the things that knit us all together in universal hope and prayer, these connections to one another, no matter how many degrees of separation between us!

And the Buddha pictures are magnificent!

Ragamuffin Gal said...

Such wonderful moments ~ thank you for sharing ~ makes my heart heavy for the all of those afflicted and touched through this tragedy. My hope is that blessing will come from the crisis and light will break forth through the darkness.
Much love to you ~ Katie

Bella Rum said...

The world has become a smaller place and posts like this share a responsibility in that. This was a wonderful post.

It's more difficult to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others when you see their smiling faces and hear their stories. Thank you for sharing with us. I hope all your friends and their friends and families are safe. The people of Japan are in my thoughts.

Retired English Teacher said...

You thoughtful post honored both a place and a people. They are in our hearts and we see the shock on their faces after the tragedy this place and these people have suffered. Thank you for sharing your photos and your memories of a time that was special to you when you were able to visit this amazing place.

Becca said...

Jeanie, you brought the tragedy of that earthquake and tsunami home to all of us with this post. I hope your friends are alright, and that some day you'll be able to visit them again.

ds said...

I'm here via Oh, who mentioned you on my blog. You make the generosity and spirit of the Japanese people palpable here.I taught English to some housewives a while back, and definitely learned more from them than they could ever have learned from me! I hope your friends are safe and well.

Shelley said...

Such beautiful photos jeanie! I've always wanted to go there. These love,y people of Japan have been hit so hurts to see it. My family is a multicultural one and we've been blessed with a nephew who was stationed in Japan and met the love of his life, Mayumi, and they were married a have a little family in the Houston area. We were relieved to find out that Mayumi's family live way outside the affected area and are very safe. However we will keep all of Japan in our prayers. It will be a rough recovery for them, and they will need a lot if help from the entire world.

Anonymous said...

When I was in grade school, my dad had an engineering student from Japan as an intern. He was my introduction to the country and culture - I still remember the lovely lady in a kimono he helped me draw.

Years later, when my dad died, he sent a woodblock print to my mother. Somehow it disappeared, but that single gesture seemed to contain all the graciousness and dignity of the country.

Despite the horror, my admiration for the discipline, preparedness and willingness to cope shown by the entire nation is boundless. Should such a thing happen here, I hate to imagine how much of our country would respond. I don't mean that as a criticism of the US as much as an acknowledgement that the Japanese people have some very special qualities.

There's little to do but pray - and be reminded by posts like yours that it is a beautiful, complex society being affected.

Marilyn said...

Thank you for sharing your stories of Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and seeing your friends. So many people lost, so sad, so many worries for those still missing. Sending hugs.

Karen Owen said...

Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful photos and your thoughts on Japan. I pray that your friends are all okay.

Bree said...

I don't know why but I never think of Japan as having snow. I always think of it as being summer and hot in Japan.

Wrightboysmum said...

Lovely post and a nice way to honour the country as it struggles to move on from this tragedy. I'm thinking positive thoughts for your friends and their loved ones. I would love to visit Japan it's on my list of things to do.

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