text and photo by Grigoris A. Miliaresis
I gave considerable thought to whether I should write something about today’s anniversary. First, I find what most international media have been doing for the last two years, unfair; I mean identifying Japan with the Tohoku disaster and, particularly, with the accident in the TEPCO power plant in Fukushima: the former with the all too familiar (and often crocodile) tears of those who don’t experience a disaster towards those who do and the latter while indirectly wagging an admonitory finger to those “responsible”. And second, because that day remains so vivid in almost all aspects of Japanese life that after a certain point you stop noticing it; in other words, I have the feeling that the echo of what happened two years ago hasn’t yet faded enough for today to be really considered an “anniversary”.
As I wrote in one of my first letters, the one titled “Don’t give up Japan”, March 11, 2011 has been associated with countless expressions of Japanese life, small and big, important and trivial. The images both from the day itself and from the reality it left behind are been reproduced incessantly, occasionally in a sensationalistic way (the Japanese are not immune to yellow journalism) but generally as a means to promote solidarity for the people who live in the stricken areas and the healing of the wounds it left to the whole country. And with every mention, verbal or visual, comes the silent reminder that what happened that day in Tohoku will very probably happen tomorrow in Tokyo, Hokkaido or Kyushu –and it could be much worse.
On the other hand, it feels weird not to write something for this day: I know that the sirens in Tohoku will sound at 2:46 and that thousands of people, both there and and all over the country will make a brief stop at a temple, they will throw a few coins in the offertory and they will make a wish or a prayer for those taken by the black wave but also for themselves, wishing that the day the wave returns they will be far enough. Everyone will remember where they were that day, that moment and everyone will feel a chill, half of joy for not being there and half of guilt because someone else was. And then, they will go on with their day; if there is one thing that this land teaches is that the only constant is the power to carry on.
Grigoris A. Miliaresis is a journalist and translator. He has worked for many newspapers, magazines and publishing houses and specializes in the Internet, the martial arts and Japan where he has been living for the last few years.