A Year Later

Today marked one year since the Tohoku earthquake. Over the past few weeks, most of us in Japan have been rethinking all that has happened in the days since, and all that remains to be done to try to bring a sense of normalcy back to the people of Tohoku. As much as those of us in the rest of Japan have resorted to our routines, there still remains a great deal of physical need in many communities, and the emotional turmoil will continue to take its toll for many years to come.

So this sunny and calm afternoon, we gathered in our neighbourhood seaside park to observe a moment of silence and reflect upon all that has been lost and the hope for what might become. At 2:46pm, a hush fell across the park as the gathered crowd turned to face the sea and bowed its collective head.

But after only a few fleeting seconds of silence, the Hikawa Maru, a former ocean liner that sits permanently moored beside the park as a tourist attraction, blasted its horn loudly across the harbour. Far from a moment of silence, we had a moment of loud reverence for the power of nature and its ability to change and erase lives in an instant. Although I’ve lived a couple of blocks away from the Hikawa Maru for several years, it was the first time that I had ever heard its horn put to use, and it was an appropriately blaring reminder of the violence and torment that was unleashed on so many one year ago. As the horn sustained its scream, I thought of the images and stories that I have born witness to over the past year, and thought about how quickly life can shift or disappear altogether. Above all, I thought about perspective, and the quiet resolve and incredible human spirit of the Japanese people in the face of such enormous and loud catastrophe.

As the ship’s horn finally silenced, a school choir from Sendai began singing a song called ‘Arigatou’ or thank you. Humbly, and not too loud.

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