Hiroko Yoda: The best of times in the worst of times
I’ll never forget the afternoon of March 11. It was a beautiful warm spring day when the largest earthquake ever to hit Japan began shaking my home like a doll's house.
At the time of writing, more than 10,000 people are dead or missing, with 400,000 more living in shelters. More than 500 aftershocks have been confirmed in eastern Japan since the initial earthquake.
The ongoing problems with the nuclear reactors in Fukushima have caused power shortages and rolling blackouts throughout Tokyo, its suburbs and the northeast of Japan.
Even though it has now been a week since the quake, I’m sure I’m not the only one who jumps at the slightest tremor. Big questions remain about how and when things will return to normal.
But one thing is for sure. The response to the catastrophe is a testament to the resilience of the Japanese people.
Everywhere I go, I see people helping and encouraging each other, even total strangers. The outpouring of support and sympathy, especially in a metropolis filled with people who normally keep to themselves, has been astounding.
At my local supermarkets, prices have been lowered to help customers, who politely line up and pay without panic or complaint.
Some staples are in short supply, but even those who miss out on deliveries stand in front of the empty shelves exchanging tips for making it through trying times.
Every Tokyoite knows that the inconveniences we face are nothing compared to the tragedy unfolding up north.
NHK recently broadcast interviews with students sheltering from the destruction of their town. “We want to tell everyone living in shelters like us to stay strong,” said one. “We’ll rebuild Japan together,” said another. These are words from junior high schoolers, many of whom have yet to make contact with their families.
That everybody is devastated is precisely why it’s so important to help each other out.
Thinking about and assisting others helps us ease our own pain. All around, I see a chain reaction of kindness, of people supporting each other and exchanging information on the street and online through email, Twitter, and blogs.
In the wake of 9/11, firefighters and other first responders were honored as heroes in the United States. Japan’s heroes include people involved in rescue and crisis response, especially the staff working at Fukushima, the Self-Defense Forces, the police, and the many overseas advisors and specialists who have arrived to help.
The people of Japan can’t do anything but watch and express our gratitude -- thank you, and we’re all with you.