[all photos Lily Strauss at Tokyo Lily, post title by Jenny & Johnny]
There are disasters around the world all the time, and it’s hard to say why one affects a person on the other side of the globe more than another, but ever since the first news of the quakes in Japan broke, I’ve been feeling horribly unsettled. It could be that I’ve always been fascinated with Japan, and have always wanted to visit, but it’s probably mostly due to Lily Strauss’s Twitter feed. I met Lily in Cape Town just before she and her husband moved to Tokyo, and her alarm-filled Tweets from the first quake were coming through in an awfully direct expression of the terrifying events unfolding.
I spent Saturday ‘on duty’ at the Neighbourgoods Market at the Biscuit Mill, and in between attempting to hawk my wares with a smile, I was glued to my BlackBerry, watching Twitter and Breaking News, feeling awfully afraid, as well as kind of repelled by all the good food and good times going on around me.
On Sunday morning, I looked at Lily’s Twitter feed again, and found she’d been walkabout with her phone, and was posting a series of photos of beautiful, serene things in her Tokyo neighbourhood. With her permission, I’ve posted some of them here, and you can see more at the Tokyo Lily blog. I found these photos of cherry blossoms, washing on a line, people crossing the street quite jarring, as I’d been expecting images of mayhem and disaster. But when I read back a bit, I saw what Lily was trying to achieve: a diet of bad news creates a sense of despair and fear, but she was seeing how people in Tokyo were drawing on their culture of discipline, good form and thinking of others, and they were attempting to put on a brave, decent face in the midst of disaster.
Via Twitter, Lily also posted a link to a Google document, where tweets from people in Japan describing scenes of kindness, thoughtfulness, control and decency were being translated and posted, and reading it had me disolving in a puddle. I’ve taken the liberty of posting some of the translated tweets along with Lily’s photos, in the hope that anyone who reads this will be heartened by what humans are capable of under the worst of circumstances, and will be inspired to do the same, when our own time comes to be gracious under pressure:
Yesterday, in Gotenba city, there was no signal working, but every driver yielded each other, and the neighbors gave a hand signals at the intersection. That prevented a mess and I was so moved. I drove 9 hours, but there was no driver overtook others. Everybody yielded each other.
After all the news about trains suspending service, I was determined to walk home. I was heading west on Koshu Kaido Avenue, one of the major streets in Tokyo. There was an office building along the way, which kept its door open even around 9 at night. Who seemed to be an employee of that company was speaking aloud to those of us who had to walk long distance home, that their office was offering a space to rest and its restrooms were available. I was so moved and almost cried. Actually, I wasn’t able to cry last night because I was very tense. But now, recalling their kindness, my eyes fill up with tears.
I talked to a cab driver, a station master, and an elderly lady. They all couldn’t go home and were really tired, but showed no sign of stress in our conversations. They actually showed concern for me. I’m touched by everyone looking out for one another by realizing that “everyone is having a hard time.” This is the part of Japanese culture that I want to inherit and treasure.
A couple of my security guard friends were doing night time volunteering in Machida to Sasgamioono, so I helped them out. Despite the age difference, the people there who were basically strangers to one another were helping each other out, and it was definitely reassuring for me. I was kind of touched and I had to cry a little in the corner of the bathroom.
Tokyo Metro suspended its operation after the quake for safety reasons and resumed operation later in the day. The Metro extended its hours of operation and operated throughout the night. I thanked one of the station employees and he replied with a smile saying, “It’s our duty and we are proud to serve when our services are most needed!” THANK YOU. YOU TOUCHED MY HEART.
The earthquake hit during my shift at the restaurant. The restaurant was full but we evacuated the customers outside. We thought the customers will leave without paying their bill, but most of the customers came back and paid their bill. The hand full that haven’t paid their bill came back the next day to pay their bill. Japan is such a great country.
A man, probably over 80, was rescued in an afflicted area. “No problem! I’ve experienced the tsunami in Chile. Let’s rebuild!” he said with a smile. The reporter attempted to get comments of grief, but he returned, “Crying just won’t help the matter,” and smiled. His wife standing next to him also said, “I look ridiculous. Don’t get me on camera.” Those people who built Japan have dignity.
I will tell my kids and grandkids someday_when I have them_, “When granny was young, we had this terrible earthquake that hit east part of this country. And the whole world came together as one. Everyone did best to support each other. It was tough but we glowed with pride.” I will tell them again and again, until they get fed up with an old granny’s story. SO, I WANT US TO CHEER UP. #prayforjapan