Today is the anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster, a series of events that began with a big jolt at precisely 2:46pm. Conor, who was 10 at the time, huddled under a table in his classroom in Tokyo to wait out the shakes. He says he'll always remember that as "a moment of pure terror."
We are in Tohoku this weekend, skiing, in Yamagata, west of Sendai, far from the coast that still bears so many reminders of the tsunami's destruction. The resort is called Zao, and it's famous for its mountainside of trees that turn into "ice monsters" for a couple months every winter. We are too late to see them in peak form. In late January-early Feb they were entirely covered in snow, but now they're not. Branches and pine needles are visible, but it's all fantastic as far as we're concerned. We just feel lucky to be here.
It's a shame that the name Tohoku has become synonymous with so much suffering and loss: some 20,000 people dead, another 340,000 people displaced. According to this article, 263 fishing ports were destroyed. It will be several years before these communities come back, if they come back at all. For a good summary of where things stand and the difficulties going forward, read this article in The Japan Times.
Today, for us, Tohoku is a place where the four of us can be together as a family, and a reminder that we should never take anything for granted, least of all each other.