Sunday, March 11, 2012


So today is the one year anniversary of the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.  Another missionary couple that we know had just arrived in Japan two or three days before w this happened.  They said they were in their car when the earthquake hit and it lasted for TWELVE MINUTES!  It came in waves but never really stopped.  It was so violent at times that their heads were bouncing off the inside top of their car.  Then about a half hour later at 2:46 p.m. the tsunami hit.  Almost everyone remembers the time.  In that short amount of time people were being warned of the tsunami and told to go to higher ground.  Sirens were sounding.

Today we went to Hiyoriyama Park which overlooks Ishinomaki.  We could see all around the city, to the ocean, and the river that empties into the ocean.  We were there with a few hundred others who wanted to be there when it was 2:46 p.m.  At that time sirens sounded for about 30 seconds.  There were large tents set up with dignitaries in one and a Buddhist service in another.  No one spoke out loud.  Everyone whispered.  This is a picture of part of the view that we had:

This picture above is near the mouth of the river and there is an island which was just about totally leveled.  There used to be buildings on it.  In the middle there is a statue of liberty.  Interestingly enough, that statue is about all that made it through the tsunami.  The water was up to the top of the statue.  The land around the river was flooded a lot.  The main downtown area is to the left of the picture and it was hit hard.  Most of the buildings are gone.

Yesterday we had a service project south of us near Sendai.  We went to a school which had been damaged, probably not fixable, to make some paper lanterns with candles in them to float down the river there today in memory of those who lost their lives.   We made 3,000-4,000 lanterns.  Altogether about 12,000 died in the tsunami.  Here are is a picture of that service project:

And here are some pictures from the school.  Notice how the fence which is made of iron or steel is all smashed down.  Also there is a clock on the school which has stopped at 2:46 (when the tsunami hit).

This next picture is a boat which is in back of the school.  There were three boats in back of the school.  We could not even see the ocean and there were still boats in the back yard.

This picture below shows the area around the school.  There is nothing but a lot of foundations from houses that used to be there.

The rest of these pictures are random photos of what we have seen:  huge heap of garbage (several stories high), concrete building on its side, building with a car on top of it, rubble, and what is left of a cemetary:

Whenever we go to these places it seems like we are on hallowed ground.  It is like there is still a spirit there of these people.  Everyone we talk to talks about the tsunami.  Many people are still haunted by it.  Today there are 340,000 people living in the three hardest hit prefectures (kind of like states) that are living in temporary housing units.  They are allowed to live there for one more year.  No one knows where they will go then.  Some may rent their units but they are tiny.

Today I realized that I thought of the events as a remembrance of what happened.  The people here think of it as a life-changing event in their lives and a day of REMEMBERING.  I also came to realize that I have a long way to go in learning humility, compassion and charity.  These people are way better at it than I am.


This has been a pretty serious blog but I wanted to tell you a few lighter moments we have had this week.  Last week I think I mentioned about how sometimes things are lost in translation.  This week a few more things were said that I thought were funny.

Today in Sunday School we were talking about "feasting" on the words of Christ.  The teacher asked what the difference was between a regular meal and a feast.  Here are a couple of responses (the Japanese can have a great sense of humor):

           *A feast has a lot more calories.

           *You can eat a regular meal with chopsticks.  A feast involves a knife and fork.

After church I approached one of the women and volunteered to bring some food to our Relief Society (women's group) social this Saturday.  They were very excited and said yes could I bring a dessert?  I then said (in English) "I can bring chocolate cake and ice cream."  They jumped up and down and clapped.  Apparently chocolate cake and ice cream is universal language.

Yesterday I was talking to one of the younger sister missionaries from Utah.  She was paired with a companion from Japan.  She was saying how they were teaching each other their own language and that sometimes it became a fun experience.  Her Japanese companion had had a problem and she came to this sister and said, "I had an accident!"  This American sister stifled a laugh and said that was probably not the best choice of words.

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