How We Wait in Japan

Posted by on Mar 20, 2011 in Blog

As of this morning the current death toll for the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is confirmed at 7,197 with those unaccounted for at just under 11,000. There is a channel on television that is dedicated to listing and reading off the names of those in shelters to expedite the on-going search for loved ones. That endless stream of names is a constant reminder of the intensity with which some must monitor to see names of yet unaccounted for friends and family. I can’t imagine the inevitable horror of hope waning as the days march on.

Rocky Coast in Izu, Japan

Time is arbitrary. For those working their way through the rubble or the workers desperately trying to gain control over the power plant, the hours race by. Still others wait painstakingly in drafty gymnasiums, hungry and cold without adequate food. We all wait on edge for news about the nuclear power-plant.

Over the past 24 hours workers at the Fukushima power plant have managed to reconnect and restart the cooling pumps to #5, and #6 reactors. The fight against the clock to keep water temperatures below boiling on those reactors has been reversed. The effects of “Hyper Rescue” firefighting units from Tokyo have become clearer as radiation levels have dropped significantly in reactors #3 and #4. While the fate on #1 and #2 is not clear and situation far from resolved, at great personal risk, heroic actions have been able to effectively reverse much of the looming nuclear threat.

My wife, Asako, and I wait in slightly different ways. She generally gravitates to the stories of goodwill such as the bicycle shop owner whose house was destroyed and is still missing his family but begins voluntarily servicing bicycles so that food, water and clothing can be distributed efficiently. Asako also shared with me the heart wrenching story of the young widow left with a 2 year old and 5 month old who found the ring her husband had bought her for White Day (March 14th- click) when she went back to their house to find clean clothes for him to be be buried in. Even though he never had the chance to give her the gift, there is some sense of completion in knowing she wears it now.

I wait by, periodically but not constantly, needing information about the power plant as the most immediate threat to our safety. I have grown to realize how unhelpful sensationalized news is for those who actually need information and appreciate the dry but factual information disseminated by Japanese media or such sites as the International Atomic Energy Agency website (click). It isn’t helpful to be held captive, clinging to threads of recycled outdated information and speculation, by the major news networks.

As a couple, our different approaches to the wait benefit us in complementary ways. From Asako, our home is infused with both an awareness of the depth of the tragedy and a sense of hope drawn from how those most deeply impacted are able to rise and respond. In this way Asako’s focus helps preserve the healthy soul of our family that enables us to advance and see the future. My priority is to define the current problem and isolate the variables so that we are able to wait in the presence of a known adversary. A malfunctioning nuclear power plant has been incredibly frightening but at the same time, knowing where hope lay in the strategies for fixing it or in our actual radiation exposure in Yokohama (far less than an international airplane flight) has contributed to our sense of control and frees us from panic and unnecessary worry.

In tragic times, it is useful to wait in different ways. Rather than paste ourselves to the international news or following the endless stream of hashtagged misinformation on Twitter, we have found that by organically following that which we desire to know and mindfully avoiding that which feels unhelpful, we have been able to find solace in Japan. – AC

Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow

Gonna rise up
Burning back holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold

Such is the passage of time
Too fast to fold
And suddenly swallowed by signs
Low and behold

Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically
Gonna rise up
Throw down my ace in the hole

from the Into the Wild – Rise by Eddie Vedder

12 Comments

  1. judy castles
    March 20, 2011

    adam,

    i love your blog…….

    judy

    • Karen
      March 21, 2011

      Adam, I find such solace in your blog and I have sent it to my brother in Japan. You are such an amazing young man.

  2. Beth wonson
    March 20, 2011

    Thank you for sharing with words and reflections. Peace. Beth

  3. Audrey Brown
    March 20, 2011

    Once again, so well written Adam. Thank you. I really appreciate and fully agree with your statement:
    “I have grown to realize how unhelpful sensationalized news is for those who actually need information and appreciate the dry but factual information disseminated by Japanese media or such sites as the International Atomic Energy Agency website (click)… ” Your calm writing tone and the flow of your words is cathartic. Thank you. Audrey

    • Jamie
      March 21, 2011

      Adam, I’ve read your blog for the first time and agree wholeheartedly that the sensational news is so unhelpful. Who needs more reason to panic?! I loved the way you painted both you and Asako’s ways of dealing with the situation. All the best to both you and Asako. We’re thinking of all of you in Japan.
      Jamie

  4. Adam
    March 20, 2011

    Thanks so much, Judy, Beth, and Audrey. It is wonderful to know that what I’ve written is interesting and helpful. Let’s hope for some more good news soon.

  5. Bettina McGimsey
    March 20, 2011

    Adam – Utterly beautiful writing. All I can say. Thank you. Bettina

  6. Juli Harrington
    March 20, 2011

    Hi Adam,
    You are a wonderful writer. I loved the comparison of how you and your wife are dealing differently. We brought the kids to Oregon for a “surprise” trip and while we are happy with our decision, our hearts are still in Japan.

  7. Li-Lin English
    March 20, 2011

    Adam,
    I’m a friend of Steve Smail and he sent me your blog. I used to work with him in Nashville and I’m a teacher working in educational technology. Your writing is so beautiful and you express what is happening in Tokyo so much better than I can. I just moved here from Tucson to be with my husband who is working in Tokyo. After only being here for 6 weeks, I’m going back to Tucson because of the uncertainty of what is happening, and because I’m mostly alone when my husband is at work. I haven’t had enough time to develop relationships.

    May I link your blog to my facebook or to my blog http://lilin-tokyo.blogspot.com/ ? My friends want to know what is happening in Tokyo and with me. I love the depth of understanding you convey about “how we wait” and the beauty of your words. I would like to share that with them.

    In a very short time, I’ve grown fond of Tokyo and its people and hope to return soon to be with my husband and to develop connections to the life here.

    • Adam
      March 20, 2011

      Hi Li-Lin – Thank you for your reply. I am glad you have found something of value in my thoughts here. Please link to my site in anyway that works for you. Have a safe trip back home. There will be plenty of time to reconnect with Japan and the people who make this place so wonderful when you return.

  8. Barbara Fritschen
    March 20, 2011

    Hi Adam – I’m a friend of Asako’s from my family’s time in Yokohama a few years back. I never had the pleasure of meeting you, though I think my girls may have through school, as they were ELC-kinder and 1st-2nd graders at YIS then. We fondly remember the weekends when you set up the skateboard ramps (we lived two houses down from the YIS playground) – my girls would come over and watch in awe. :-)

    I just wanted to let you know how much I’ve been enjoying your writing (thanks to Asako for posting your blog entries via Facebook.) This entry is so beautifully written. It truly captures what the two of you are going through right now; the tragedy and the hope, the worry and the calm, and how you so beautifully complement each other.

    Our time in Japan was such an integral part to my being that I have been glued to Facebook and the Internet, feeling the constant need to check on friends and family and read the latest updates. Your words are such good advice: “It isn’t helpful to be held captive, clinging to threads of recycled outdated information and speculation . . . we have found that by organically following that which we desire to know and mindfully avoiding that which feels unhelpful, we have been able to find solace in Japan.” I hope you find it as therapeutic to write as I do (all the way in California) to read!

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflections; I will be organically following your blog. My thoughts are with all of you in Japan. -Barbara

  9. Patricia Arce
    March 21, 2011

    That you wrote is beatiful ! Good luck to you and your family!

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