The one-year anniversary of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan passed a couple weeks ago.
It's very weird, once again, to be hearing conflicting news from both sides of the Pacific. Over here, I watch grave news reports about the Japan's governments failure to help the region recover economically. The survivors aren't doing well and aren't getting the help they need. I've heard the term "wasted year" a couple times. On 3/11 itself, the height of solemnity, I went to a very solemn bell-ringing ceremony at my old university. People cried. The homestay students from Saitama I took with me (two highschool girls) cried. I cried.
On the other side of the Pacific...well, I haven't seriously been following Japanese news (I see a few headlines here and there, but that it), but I occasionally get emails from friends in my town in Fukushima (not on the coast, but 64km from the reactors) and in Sendai city (not the gravely affected part of the city)...and here's the thing: they barely mention the quake. They talk about their daily lives, job promotions and making dango and looking forward to spring. One friend from my town told me he went to a big festival in the biggest city in Fukushima on 3/11. I'll translate what he wrote:
"There was a celebration in front of the station called 'Sending Koriyama's Lively Spirit to the Country, to the World!' There were soldiers there who sang and played instruments, dancing cheerleaders, Ultraman, a show with bells, and comedians and singers, including anime singers."
And he put all his usual smiley emoticons in the message too.
I think the underlying message of the festival must have been "We want to revive this prefecture, not drown it in sorrows!" It's a distinctly Japanese way of dealing with disaster and sorrow, I think. "Move on, move on." Or maybe it's just a natural thing for people who have been cast as victims to say "Stop making us victims! Let us be people again!"
When I visited my town in August last year (did I mention that in my journal?) it was the same thing; the majority of my friends said, "We're fine! We're fine! The outside world is overreacting!" And for my town it is mostly true that they're fine, because they're not on the coast, no one died in the disaster, and the damage was not extensive. I didn't even see any of it by the time I visited in August; it was almost completely fixed by then. And they were much less afraid of radiation than I was. Even my farmer friends. They showed me maps and figures and pointed out how the fish in the supermarket was from places like Chile and Canada. I have to wonder how my friends' cucumbers are selling this year though...
There were exceptions, of course--people who did not just bravely carry on. One friend, who has children in elementary school, moved to Hokkaido because of the radiation. She's now involved in an organization that is protesting against the government for failing to adequately protect people from radiation. She occasionally sends me emails from her organization.
But, overall, the message from my friends has been a casual "We're okay. It's been hard, but we're okay."
Whatever you hear on the news about the apparent total incompetence of the Japanese government and the apparent dire status of the entire freaking nation, take it with a grain of salt, please. The media love to focus only on the bad. I'm sure the government's making plenty of mistakes, but I bet they're doing a lot of things right too.
Fandoms I'll write for:
Hikaru no Go (of course!)
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy Tactics
Secret of Mana
Magic Knight Rayearth
Shoujo Kakumei Utena
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (yep)
Slam Dunk (added Mar. 16)
Comment on this post with a prompt, and I'll write the ficlet. I won't need you to send confirmation of the donation--we'll use the honour system.
Crossposting this to hikarunogo.
p.s. My town in Fukushima is okay. I don't think there were any deaths there at all. Most of the people I've tried to contact have replied saying they're all right. There's been a lot of damage, and the town is within 100km of the reactors so it's scary, but so far they've gotten through this relatively unscathed.
p.p.s. Japanese news coverage of the disaster is so...calm, orderly and practical compared to the gloomfest of English-language media coverage. I just learned how to make a stove out of an aluminum can, some salad oil, and some, uh, toothpicks? And to wrap myself in newspaper and saran wrap to keep out the cold. Visit so-and-so in Sendai for free milk (bring a plastic bottle). Dial 171 to send/receive messages to loved ones. If you want to help, don't go to the disaster zone, you'll just eat up what little food they have. Etc.
Found these old LJ drafts I never posted. It was like, "hello, all this stuff written in the present tense is all past tense now." But I'm too lazy to change anything, so this entry is often in (temporally innaccurate) present tense.( My students, occasionally they were rather strange )
I know I have more of these partial write-ups sitting around, I just need to find them. :p
That said, the following story is not actually about me. It's actually about a friend of a friend of mine.
( Japanese indirectness is indirect )
Whenever I hear stories like this, I always wonder why my town in Japan was so darn normal. Relatively, I mean. Am I culturally thick-skinned? Was it just my poor Japanese, which prevented me from understanding most of the craziness around me? (Probably)
Anyway, does anyone else have stories like this to share?
So, it's been a month of travelling, crying, packing, crying, goodbyes and enkais, more crying. My town and my school have been really good to me--I was exceptionally lucky in my placement as a JET, and exceptionally lucky in finding great friends. I don't think it's really hit me yet that I'm leaving.
p.s. If you're ever in Tokyo, do please go to the theme restaurant Alcatraz E.R. and tell them it's your birthday. I'm sure you'll have a good time.
A rundown of of what I've been up to:
I find it charming that they can't decide whether to call this place "Witch Cat" or "With Cat" and so they call it BOTH
On a completely different note, did not sign up for fifthmus despite really wanting to. Have too much going on next month, cannot deal. Also, writing giftfic from a prompt with a deadline scares me.
Also, have recently been taking medicine for the weird spots that have erupted on my torso. Medicine has been making me sleepy and stupid--but what else is new? ZZZZzzzzz....
Anyway. Kyushu was lovely, seemed to be an area swimming in history and culture and refinement (and money). Well, except maybe Beppu.
But seriously, Kyushu was great. I'm just too lazy and headache-y to write about it.
I can choose the morning classes (9:00am-1:00pm) or afternoon classes (1:30-5:30pm) for the course. I'll pick the time that's most convenient for my gracious host, of course. But if no one wants to put up with me, the matter I shall not force. There shall be no remorse from any source!
My first year junior high students also asked me to teach them a bunch of mildly unpleasant words today, like stinky and gross, but eh. I'm more worried about the kids who were saying "five hundred まんこ!" really loudly during class. I'm getting flashbacks to my beastly little third years from last year.
What's more, I'll be leaving Japan in August, so there will be even more goodbyes soon. :( I love Japan, but my family misses me and I miss them, and ze boyfriend is leaving in August too and Japan just wouldn't be the same without him.
Le sigh. But I still have several more months before I leave and a batch of new students to look forward to (but I want my old students waaaaaah!), so I shall try to be positive about the new school year! Starting now!
( Here's something that my favorite 2nd year class did today )
cienna and their lovely but anxiety-filled cat Yuki. I met the equally lovely ai_ling and juin for the first time and a lovely time was had by all. I was able to eat many wonderful foods that are unavailable in my town, such as Pizza Hut and Wendy's and TGIF's.
Qu'est-ce que nous avons fait pendant ce weekend について que je parle? Le samedi etait plein de francais...a l'apartment nous avons fait un kanji quiz en francais for some reason. そのあとで Renoir 展覧会を見に行った. Renoir est un francophone, n'est-ce pas? Apres ca, karaoke et Le Lockup restaurant de Shibuya に行った. 楽しかった. Mais je ne peux pas parler le francais ou le japonais, donc je dois まもなく arreter this farce.
On Sunday we watched ze movie American Gangster. Yo. I managed to not realize that one of the main characters was Russel Crowe until the end credits rolled around. He had a major wig/pimple thing going on. Oh, and the movie was very good.
After that ontogenesis took me on a grand tour of the Go Institute. She should get a job as an official tour guide considering how many times she's had to bring people there. It was tres interessant and tres similaire to the series. After that I hopped on the train to go home and found out that the shinkansen was running an hour late probably due to the massive winds that had been blowing stuff into our eyes all weekend. But the trains all worked out and I got home pretty much on time. Yay!
( A Very Siwious Guide to Surviving Winter in Japan )
Giri choco (義理チョコ), literally, "obligation chocolate" in Japanese. Giri choco is chocolate given on Valentine's day to someone whom the giver has no romantic feelings for. This is often given to co-workers, casual acquaintances, etc. This is generally reciprocated on White day.
From my own brain:
Giri giri choco (ぎりぎりチョコ), literally, "just-barely-adequate-got-it-at-the-
Now we just need a word for the chocolate you buy after Valentine's Day because it's all on sale. And then we need a word for the chocolate you bought on sale after Valentine's Day last year and which you are trying to pass off as fresh stuff.
That said, I had a very nice Valentine's Day, even if it had like almost no chocolate in it. :)
P: It was so traumatic.
Me (coming back from the bathroom): What was?
P: Oh, I knew there was someone I hadn't told yet.
Ze Boyfriend: You're going to like this story.
P: I was sexually harrassed by a male teacher.
Me (bursts out laughing): That is the best thing ever.
P: It was at our end of year party. We'd been talking all night, and when we went back to our room we were alone. He started rubbing me here (demonstrates rubbing of thigh right next to groin) and saying stuff to me. Eeyugh.
(note: end of year parties usually happen at a hot spring hotel where people can stay over for the night in a big shared room)
Me: What kind of stuff did he say?
P: Gross stuff.
Me: This is awesome.
S (other male friend): I've had students try to feel me up.
P: Yeah, they used to do that to me too, until I made it clear that I don't like it. Now they just chat me up.
Me: Like how?
P: I dunno...they ask me things in a particular way...sometimes they just stare at me a lot...there's one boy who I know is definitely gay who does it.
Me (to Ze Boyfriend): How about you? P and S seem to get hit on a lot...
Ze Boyfriend: Oh yeah, I've had that.
Me: Best. Conversation. Ever.
The best thing about this is that I get to make fun of P forever about this. P is an interesting guy...he's got a lot of girls who like him, including a Japanese model, but he's never had a girlfriend during his 3.5 years in Japan. He's too in love with studying kanji. So now his entire school thinks he's gay. It's awesome.