I'm not really sure what to say in the wake of the tragedy that Japan has been dealing with for the past week. The last funeral I attended saw me smiling a lot at the relatives that I hadn't seen in years before realizing that smiling probably betrayed the thoughts I had of sadness and loss and was not the most appropriate face to showcase at such an event. So here I am, trying to make sense of the incredible losses that the Japanese people are suffering right now, and my only response is to say nothing. Tomorrow, I'll be participating in the Blogger's Day of Silence out of consideration for the multitudes of losses the Japanese have suffered and in support of some of the ongoing disaster relief efforts.
I will say this. On two occasions while living in Korea last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Japan. I found the country beautiful and the people incredibly warmhearted. Friends of mine that worked in Japan often remarked on the kindness of their Japanese coworkers who made them feel welcome and made an incredible effort to share with them their culture.
I'll never forget arriving at Kawaguchiko Station near dark on July 1st of last year. The previous day I had taught my last day of class and packed up my apartment to move out. Earlier that day I had scrambled to get the rest of my belongings out of the apartment and to a friend's house for storage while I got out of town for awhile, rushed to make my afternoon flight, frantically walked around the overwhelming Shinjuku Station (the busiest train station in the world) looking to catch the bus to the Fuji Five Lakes area, and finally found myself walking alone in a dark, quiet town searching for the hostel where I was to meet a friend. Tired and still unwinding from the stress that had accumulated over the past month, I passed a man on the side of the road near his apartment building and asked if he could point me in the right direction. Instead of pointing down the road, he pointed to his car and insisted that I accept a ride. It was only a short ride, but it was a really nice thing to offer. His wife and adorable kids were there, and I'm sure that everyone had been eager to get home for the night before some random foreigner arrived. It is the kind of thing that I wouldn't expect many people to do in the US-- and I think we have been conditioned from a very young age to think that accepting such an offer from a stranger will ultimately lead to a ghastly demise-- and yet in Japan, it seems really normal. People really are just that nice.
I send Japan all my love, and for the next 24 hours may you hear the sound of my silence.