From the Vault: The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

[The following was originally posted eight years ago, a couple of days after March 11, 2011. This is from my old running blog and from when I worked at a Japanese boarding school in New York. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the account associated with this blog, but not for a lack of trying. This is a very personal piece, as well as several related pieces.]

How fast things can change in an instant. Friday morning, as I prepared to walk to the office, I received a text from my high school friend sending her condolences and concern about the massive earthquake in Japan. Working nights and having to usher the kids out in the morning, I hadn’t had the chance to flick on the TV let alone yank up the internet to see what she was talking about.

Then I opened Google News. 

I paled.
I was speechless.
I felt nauseated.

(image from Amazon Japan via Creative Commons)

I work in a private Japanese boarding school in New York. I lived in western Japan for five years, and the Tokyo for six months. My number of Japanese friends and colleagues matches that of my American and Western colleagues around the world. Since I was 14, Japan has been some part of my life personally, academically, socially, and professionally. Thankfully, all the people I know and love in Japan are safe and accounted for, as well as the friends and families of my students and colleagues. 

On Sunday, April 8, I will participate in the Japan Run @ Central Park. I was excited about dressing up and running with those who support the Japanese community in New York, but now it has a completely new meaning. I will wear my DC Cherry Blossom shirt, and I will wear my Japanese Earthquake Relief Band by Lady Gaga, but I feel like I need to do something more. Our school is planning to coordinate fund raising for the Japan relief effort, hopefully through our local Red Cross. Still, I feel it isn’t enough. My years in Japan are some of the best in my life, and though I am removed from the siuation by distance, I feel compelled to do something more. What can I do though? For now, if you have the money available, please make a donation to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund through the American Red Cross. (At this time, the Japan Red Cross website is overloaded, and I cannot access it!)

Looking at the Japan Day event page, there has not been any update with regard to the earthquake and tsunami. The event itself is relies on donations to help support it, so I hope that they will provide the event to the public. In this time of great need, I feel the public needs these sort of events to help raise awareness not only about the devastation in Japan, but to share something special with the local Japanese population. Ideas can be exchanged, conversations can be had, and maybe– just maybe– some people’s day could be made a little brighter by the support of the local community. Being this far away from home is never easy, moreso when an event like this occurs. 

I want to make something for the back of my shirt. The “Pray for Japan” motif is becoming very popular, but I would prefer to be different. Run for Japan? Run for Sendai? Run for Relief? I don’t feel the need to personally fund raise, as I would prefer anyone interested in giving their money to do so directly through the Red Cross. The Japan Run is supposed to be a fun and light affair, but I can’t help but feel the aftermath will weigh heavily upon it even in the beautiful New York springtime. I may not be the fastest runner on the four mile course that day, but I want to make a statement without looking ridiculous. 

UPDATE: Yesterday, I had the opportunity to help my school’s student government coordinate their statement of student initiatives and volunteer action plan, as well as assist in contacting the American Red Cross Westchester. Our school has set up a disaster relief fund. Please pass it on! ❤

Meeting Japanese Olympic Marathoners!

On May 8, 2011, I participated in the New York Road Runner’s annual Japan Run. At the time, I was working my way into entry into the NYC Marathon. This was one of my more emotional races, but one of the ones that meant the most to me.

{Original Post: Japan Run for Hope (05.08.11)}
Due to the Tohoku Earthquake in March, Japanese marathoners, Reiko Tosa & Yoko Shibui, were unable to compete in upcoming races in Japan. They were invited to compete as ambassadors of Japan, and both finished in the top four (Shibui 1st; Tosa 4th). After the awards ceremony, many Japanese participants and supports went over to take a photo with Toda & Shibui. I screwed up my courage, ran into one of my students (and her parents), and managed to get my picture taken with them! Both women were surprised when I asked in Japanese. I suspect they were bracing themselves to speak in English!

During the awards ceremony, they were also holding a raffle. The grand prize being a trip for two to Japan! I nearly died when they called out “Silver… Eighty-five… twe—-lve.” So close and yet, so darned far! Thankfully, the prize when to a young twenty-something who had never been to Japan, so bittersweet as it may be, I am happy the prize will go to someone who may fall in love with Japan like myself!

Last year, I opened up on Twitter on why this still affects me.

This year marks the eighth anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. While I elected to have social media blackout for the day as my way of silently observing the day, I wanted to share some background as to why I chose to do so.

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