- Posted February 15, 2012 by
Kitakami-shi, Iwate-ken, Japan
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Japan one year later: What’s changed?
Sometimes it's what doesn't change that is important.
- zdan, CNN iReport producer
It's been really hard for me to report on this story. To this day I think about how lucky I was and how little I have to say. So many people want dramatic stories and pictures of destruction. I'm happy to have been so close to the epicenter and have neither of those. I will never forget the feeling of the earthquake and what damage it did do to my area, but in comparison to even my friends who lived in the same town my apartment had next to no damage. I was lucky enough to get food before all the stores closed for a few days and have a warm place to stay until the major shakes died down. I was lucky enough to get power and finish most of my work on time. I was lucky enough to get gas for my car without a rationing ticket that people had been waiting all of the previous day for. (I didn't know, and they let me get gas instead of dealing with a foreigner) I was lucky to be able to still go on my planned vacation to Tokyo two weeks after the quake.
At that time Tokyo seemed perfectly normal in comparison. The convenience stores were mostly stocked. Activity on the main streets and trains seemed to be the same as the last time I visited. It was so surreal at the time.
Seeing empty shelves at grocery stores and closed 24 hour convinis was something I had just gotten use to. Something like this disaster just made me accept that things had changed. Everybody around me seemed to know it too. Nobody was demanding anything. People knew there would be lines at stores and that things would slowly turn back to normal. Even if I didn't know it at the time, when I look back on it I felt it. Because I accepted it, as things gradually returned to how they were it was like life was always normal.
I had many moments of what they call "survivor's guilt". I had food. I felt safe. I had my friends around me. I had so much more than even the luckiest person who lived on the coast.
Looking at the sobering images everywhere else in Tohoku on TV made me sick. When we first got power back and I saw the first video of the tsunami damage, it was unreal. We're so use to action movies and disaster footage, and I never really took in the actual magnitude of the damage until I saw the before and after shots on the Internet. I didn't wan't to go to the coast. I didn't want to see this. I felt terrible for having these feelings and being so lucky. While many others around here might say that they "survived" the Tohoku earthquake, I guess I can say I "lived" it and nothing more. I can't even remember any real difficulties I had. I can't justify them in comparison.
For some people everything has changed... family lost, home lost, town lost, history lost, security lost, safety lost. I can't speak for them and I won't even try to pretend I know how they feel or what they are going through. People are trying to compare this disaster to so many others for whatever reason, but I don't think any other country in the world could have bounced back from such a disaster like Japan did. But some say that how so many of us just continued on with our lives is a good and a bad thing, and that we are now desensitized to the victims still displaced and even the Fukushima situation.
Yes. One year later we are still dealing with this. It has not gone away. But we are still living... To me, that is amazing.
A little over a month after the Earthquake, I went to one of the top cherry blossom viewing (known as hanami) places in all of Japan, Tenshochi in my city of Kitakami. They bloom every year in the spring and its a huge event in Japanese culture. For me and many others it was something that just made us know that everything is going to be OK. It was just as much an appreciation for the flower as it was for the life we have.