A week from today the world learned about the unforgiving earthquake and tsunami that struck the northeastern region of Japan.
To reassure everyone, Shimane Prefecture is located on the opposite side of the country–I actually wasn’t aware of the 9.0 earthquake until I came home to an inbox full of worried emails from friends and family members. As for the tsunami, the coasts of Shimane were also unaffected–and even if the ocean did act up on the western side of Japan, it would take an unimaginably large wave to reach my mountain town, Kawamoto. Overall, I feel a strong sense of safety in my current location.
With that said, recent reports of possible nuclear meltdowns, large amounts of radiation supposedly traveling in rain clouds, and word that embassies are encouraging ex-pats to return home make it difficult to feel safe anywhere in Japan.
What complicates these issues even more is the media–I’m trying not to get sucked into it all, but I get the sense that the American media is sensationalizing the nuclear disaster to its maximum, whereas the Japanese media may be trying to do the opposite. Is the Japanese media downplaying the situation to hide the real dangers and avoid nation-wide panic? Or is the American media trying to blow things out of proportion because it grabs viewers? Who should I listen to? Should I be worried? Do I need to terminate my contract and come home?
It’s a confusing time–but for now, despite only some slight feelings of apprehension, I feel safe in my prefecture and have no plans to return home before my contract is up. However, maybe I would feel differently if I lived in Miyagi Prefecture or near the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Despite the grimness of the situation, I have been deeply moved by the way the Japanese are reacting to the disaster. Donation boxes can be spotted at all establishments–schools, stores, community centers–and people are collecting what they can (blankets, batteries, heat packs) to send up north. Additionally, moments of silence and prayer have been incorporated into morning meetings, graduation ceremonies, and party toasts. You can see the disaster is heavy on everyone’s mind, but all are making their best efforts to help in any way they can.
It’s frustrating to feel helpless in such a difficult situation, but I’m doing what’s within my power at this time: donating money. I try to put a few bucks in every donation box I see and am hoping to make a larger donation after my next paycheck. I encourage anyone and everyone (if possible) to do the same–even if it’s just a few dollars! It really makes a difference in the end. Here are a few quick ways to donate:
JET relief fund (for JETs only)
Thanks for all your concern in the past week–I assure you, all is well in Shimane! I’ve got a lot of posts to catch up on (it’s been a busy week!)–will hopefully get to those sooner rather than later.
My thoughts and prayers are with those in affected areas. Hoping for the best : )