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Joanne Henry: Words from a Minnesotan in Tokyo

I asked my son, Erik, if he had any thoughts to share through this blog. What’s it like to be an American who, at least for now, is staying in Tokyo? The answer will likely change. But here’s what he said today, unedited, of course.:

I asked my son, Erik, if he had any thoughts to share through this blog. (that’s Erik with me at the Meiji Shrine not far from where he lives. It was taken March 12, the day after the 9.0 quake.) What’s it like to be an American who, at least for now, is staying in Tokyo? The answer will likely change. But here’s what he said today, unedited, of course.:

From Erik: “It is impossible not to stay informed on the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Japan March 11. The TV is basically all News and public service announcements now. No regular programming, and no commercials. I guess advertisers don’t want their products to be associated with the disaster.

It’s hard to believe that it has only been 11 days since the big quake happened. There have been a lot of emotional ups and downs with the constant flow of information that seems to simultaneously shed light on and obscure the facts of the situation. As far as getting constant updates, though, I can finally say I understand the point of twitter.

I think at this point, I have gotten past panic mode and started to accept the situation as a new norm. Earthquakes used to be some interesting surprised that happened maybe once every couple months (I say interesting because all of the quakes I’ve felt before the big one have caused little to no real damage). Now, daily aftershocks are expected, and I just continue on with what I am doing as the shaking has lost its sense of novelty and danger. As I check my Earthquake iPhone app “Yurekuru”, there have already been 4 quakes in Japan in the past couple hours.

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The reactions of foreign media sources vs. Japanese media sources have been profoundly different. Although I’m not an expert, it makes sense that the Japanese media or government is trying to be informative while avoiding mass panic. It seems as if foreign sources would have less interest invested in the latter, which leads to more Hollywood-style reporting. I hear that the line at the immigration bureau in Tokyo is several hours long as foreign residents prepare for temporary evacuation abroad. Even without reading the news, it seems like every Japanese person I talk to tells me that their foreign friends have all gone back to their home countries – which of course is followed by the question, “what are you still doing in Tokyo?” I hear the foreigner population in Osaka (big city in western Japan) is also on the rise.

So why haven’t I moved yet? Maybe this is a topic for another post, but I don’t want the decision that will completely change the course of my future to be an impulse reaction based on panic – but of course, there is no bravery in negligence either.

I guess now I am faced with the slight awkwardness of getting back into my regular routine. It’s weird, because on one side there are people (and I’m not just talking about those of us in Japan) who are glued to the media coverage, but for the most part people seem to be going about their business as usual. I’ve started to notice that my Japanese twitter feed which used to be 99% earthquake related is slowly regressing to the mundane comments like when Yuki got to school and what Takeshi had for dinner. Of course this ever developing tragedy makes us sad, but we still go through our normal daily ups and downs. People still laugh, people still have fun, people go on.

Aside from the area directly affected by the tsunami, I still think Japan is a nice place to visit. The situation here is stressful, but I hope that the rest of the world doesn’t compare life in Japan to living in some post-apocalyptic warzone.”

This post was written by Joanne Henry and originally published on Joanne Henry’s Weblog.