Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan Quake

Photo Source: National Geographic

It's been ten days since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. I just saw a special footage on NHK which showed the stark reality of the situation in Japan after the earthquake hit. As I was watching, I couldn't stop thinking how little we are in front of the fearsome power of nature and how grateful we must be with every second we have with our friends and families, in comfort of our home. Some of the scenes captured on video were just too painful to watch. In one scene, I spotted a man stranded on a roof top of a building and then the camera turned away to capture the approaching tsunami nearby, and when it panned back there was only a tall tide of black water to be found where the building had been, as if the scene was taken from a different location... In an interview, an old hospital worker mumbled in teary eyes, that she saw a patient lying on the bed in a hospital with his eyes wide open, and then engulfed in water shortly after. Those who are fortunate enough to survive are devastated emotionally and physically. They pleaded for help as they are in dire need of food and water and warm shelter. Thanks to international relief efforts, there are many ways we can help.

We feel even more close to the Japanese people now since it's been only four months since our first visit to Japan last November and our memories of Japan are still vivid. Memories of kind hospitality we received from the people of Japan always make us want to go back. And I am heartbroken to see the people who lost so much in this terrible disaster. While there are many ways to help the Japanese people now, in a long run I want to encourage people to visit Japan especially if you have never been there.

In this post, I would like to share some of our experiences from our travel to Japan last Fall.

What I liked about Japan the most during our trip was their appreciation for traditional assets and their efforts to preserve them in their most original forms. Unfortunately I find this is something that many countries often neglect as they advance fast towards the state of modernization. And yet Japan sets a very good example to follow in terms of historical preservation.

This includes not only physical assets but also social values such as moral integrity and respect for others. I read somewhere that if you leave a laptop on the street in Japan, it is likely you could find it in the same state the next day where you left it. When I read it, I almost wanted to test it myself. Having lived in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 10 years, I really wished American cities could one day post such a headline on newspapers, too.

During our trip, we particularly enjoyed staying in a Japanese traditional ryokan in Hakone, a small and quiet hot spring town located about two hours southwest of Tokyo. The ryokan we stayed named Taisekikan, was situated along a creek that runs between picturesque mountains that were fully wrapped in yellow and red foliage. Our room was almost void of any furniture except for a low table in the middle of the room. After we changed to yukata, a casual traditional Japanese lounge wear, we were served a traditional Japanese course meal, kaiseki, which was delicately prepared using fresh seasonal produce. After the dinner we took a traditional bath in the outdoor hot spring attached to the ryokan. The hot spring literally sat next to the creek surrounded by mountains on the side and the starry night sky on top. It was an amazing experience. We really loved this unique experience of staying in ryokan and I strongly recommend to anyone who is planning a trip to Japan.

As a Korean, I want to point out some historic relationships between Korea and Japan. As a matter of fact, Korea and Japan had rarely stayed in good terms in the past history. Japanse colonization of Korea took place in 1910 and lasted for more than 30 years until the end of the Wold War II. During this period, the Japanese colonial regime oppressed Korean human rights and many Korean people suffered or died helplessly. Even today, there is a territorial dispute over Dokdo Island between the two countries. And they are the fiercest rivals in international soccer games, and Korean people go all "Red" whenever there is a game against Japan. Nevertheless, both countries are inseparable neighbors who share many popular cultures, through Korean Wave, J-Pop, Anime, Manga, etc. There is, and will always be this love-and-hate relationship as far as I can see -- I doubt if there is any country in the world that does not have, or has had, any dispute with its neighboring countries. But it's nice to see that Korea is actively lending helping hands to Japan after the disaster. Korean government was quick to send a rescue team to Japan, and civilian supports/donations are flowing in from Korea as well as from the Korean American communities around the world. I too, sincerely wish for the safety and swift recovery for Japan and the victims.


Anonymous said...

Well said. Very generous, given the history between these countries.

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