This year marked the 10-year anniversary of the series of disasters that struck Fukushima: The earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent meltdown of Fukushima Dai-ichi’s reactor. There were and are many events going on in Japan and online that can help you to better understand and contextualize what exactly happened and how it has impacted Japan. I wanted to share a few resources that I’ve found impactful from my own life about this topic, in case anyone was curious or wanted to get more information on 3/11.
Book: Ghosts of the Tsunami
First published in 2017, this book follows one tragedy from the tsunami: Okawa Primary School, where several students died, but who was to blame? The prefecture? The city? The school? Richard Lloyd Parry goes through the before, during, and after of the tragedy as the town of Okawa was swallowed by the devastating tsunami that followed the massive earthquake that terrible day. It’s a challenging read in that it lays bare the unbridled tragedy of it all. I still think about this book, even though I read it over two years ago. If you’re ready to face the tragedy and the humanity that experienced it directly, then this book is a good place to start.
Podcast: This American Life (Really Long Distance)
In 2016, after the five-year anniversary of 3/11, the podcast This American Life put out a segment as part of one of their episodes, which they titled “Really Long Distance.” The segment focuses on the phone booth set up by resident and tsunami survivor Itaru Sasaki, who first put up the phone booth as a way to process the grief of the loss of his cousin. He soon invited others to come and use the booth, their conversations sent on the wind to those they lost during the disaster. It’s a visceral look into grief, coping, acceptance, and moving on. I first heard this on my commute to work in 2016 and I was on the verge of tears on the light rail. It packs an emotional punch and gives you a different perspective than the usual facts you see about 3/11 and Fukushima.
Video: Found in Shichigahama
Warning! This video contains some pretty intense recreations of the disaster. If you don’t want to see that, please don’t watch this video!
The video is all in Japanese, but it plays well. It follows a young woman and her experience in the disaster, leaving said disaster area, and returning years later. It had me choking up at a few parts and is worth the watch even if you don’t understand Japanese. It was made by a town called Shichigahama, which was destroyed nearly completely by the tsunami back in 2011. They had assistance from professional anime industry professionals to put it together, and boy is it an emotional 20-minute watch.
Webinars and Presentations
Some talks are upcoming (if you are reading this in the future, hello! You have most definitely missed these) that take a look at what has happened and how it has affected modern Japan.
Grapee English has a full list of the events that you can sign up for, but here are two I plan on going to (assuming I don’t have anything else come up):
An event put on by the Japan-America Society in Fort Worth, Texas. They have a whole host of events in addition to this one, so check them out if you’re available during those times!
This event is a two-part discussion centered around lessons learned (or potentially forgotten already) from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. It looks to have some pretty prominent figures speaking, so I am hoping for some good discussions to come from this event!
It’s hard to comprehend such tragedies. Despite the discomfort I may have facing and learning about these events, I feel I should so that I can understand others a bit more, their suffering, their resilience, in the face of disasters no one can prevent.