It has been more than a year since a powerful earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, destroying cities and villages in the Tohoku region in the north-eastern part of the country and damaging the nuclear plant of Fukushima. The Tohoku region is now slowly rebuilding and the country is getting prepared for what will come next.
Japan is a really fascinating place with its ancient and unique culture, its sprawling cities and its delicious cuisine. But the most intriguing thing about the Land of the Rising Sun is the cult of ephemeral. The Japanese people love the transient beauty, the proof being the eagerly awaited coming of spring and the cherry blossom that last only for a week and is a symbol of renewal and rebirth cherished by the Japanese people. We could explain this fascination for fleeting pleasures by the constant threats to the country. Covered by 60% of mountains, Japan has a difficult topography but the Japanese have adapted to create this great nation. The country also suffers the wrath of nature in the form of powerful typhoons and earthquakes that shake the land and constantly threaten the population. The Japanese build their cities and make their living with the constant feeling that everything could disappear the next day because of a whim of Nature. In 1923, an earthquake devastated the city of Tokyo and its surroundings; everything was then rebuilt by adapting the city to the future threats.
Wrath of Nature
I have lived in Japan for almost 4 years and the country quickly became my favourite place to live. My wife is Japanese and I have met some wonderful people who then became dear friends. I left Japan in 2010 to work in Thailand and I was in Bangkok when the Tohoku earthquake hit the country in March 2011. I remember spending the entire week on the Internet looking at information and waiting news from my friends and family. I experienced minor earthquakes during my stay in Tokyo and it was scary, so I could easily imagine the nightmare of 2, 3 long minutes of intense shaking in the heart of Tokyo.
As some foreigners were returning home for a safer environment, Japanese people were organising the survival and the reconstruction of the damaged areas. Media coverage began to be confusing: some foreign media were too alarming and giving false information, while the Japanese media were hiding most of what they knew to keep the population under control. My family and some of my friends were still there, living with the fear of the unknown and the constant shaking from the aftershocks. The Japanese people were calm and patient, not showing any signs of panic and organizing themselves for the food and shelter. People from the North were living in gymnasium or any places big enough to welcome the refugees. Some had their entire life destroyed by the waves of the tsunami but remained strong enough to help themselves and others to survive. Many people did not understand why the northern part of the country did not flee to the south where it was safe from earthquake, but I can only praise for the strength and the courage of these people, true to their land and community.
Rebuilding for the Future
I went to Tokyo a month after the earthquake, in April 2011. All my friends and family were there at that time, healthy and safe but still in shock after the events of the previous month. Life was as usual in the city with people going to work like normal days and with most of the food back on the supermarket shelves. The only noticeable difference was the absence of electrical light in the streets at night and in the train because the government was saving electricity after the stopping of activity in the Fukushima plant.
Japan is now slowly rebuilding and showing to the world that the country is safe place for tourists. The Tohoku region need the help from everyone to rebuild from the ruins of villages and it is up to us, travellers from all around the world, to go there and show them that we care. Japan is a fantastic country, a wonderful destination with stunning landscapes, friendly and courageous people and it will be a shame to miss such a discovery because of past events.