Saturday, 8 December 2012

MEMORY LANES -- 2012 Japan election diary: Day 22

Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.

At 5:18pm today there was a nasty earthquake. If you want numbers, it was a 7.3 on the Richter scale and Shindo 5 in Iwate if that means anything to you. All I know is the house started rattling and swaying and didn't stop after a few seconds, as it usually does in the little quakes that grace our consciousness every week or couple of days if we are unlucky.

But this one was worth noting. We had six kindergarteners over and while they scrambled as my wife shouted "Under the table!" I held the front door open with one hand to secure our exit should the house subside, and with the other checked twitter on my phone.

I felt like I was surfing, the ground moved back and forth in waves, I felt drunk, but not a comforting tipsiness, instead the distressing feeling that things had slipped beyond my ability to control. Dejas vous.

Skyscrapers shaking in Tokyo. Trains delayed and workers evacuated from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Yes, they still haven't made that safe yet. What an unpleasant reminder. But we were safe here. Oh, but tsunami warnings from Chiba Prefecture, where Abiko is, all the way up along the length of the Pacific coast of Tohoku to the tip of Hokkaido.

Massive earthquake. Gonna run away to be safe.

It was a tweet from post-tsunami volunteer Jamie El-Banna who was up in Ishinomaki where thousands were washed out to sea on March 11th, 2011. He was still there. Seeking higher ground, while I just stood holding a door ajar. Social media at once connects and disconnects.

This blog series
 is now a great
 book. Honest.
Cleaned up and
 all presentable,
Guts Pose: Diary of a
 Japanese election
 gone bad
features a previously
unpublished afterword
 by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.
Later, my wife tweeted a teenage boy she knew up in Rikuzentkata who had lost his father to the tsunami. He was still stuck at high school at 7pm, a precaution against being caught in a tsunami, and he had no food. "Tweet him a sandwich!" I said, at least half seriously and my wife grabbed her Phone before realising the impossibility. Connected and disconnected.

I thought of a Churchill quote from 1916: "I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can't help it — I enjoy every second of it." And at once, I thought I felt how he must have felt. There is nothing like shared calamity to bring out the best in people. But it's not even that. The presence of disaster turns all things not directly pressing on life or death into mere frivolity. As tweeters elsewhere bemoaned the slights from rude commuters, late buses and overpriced coffees, Winston and I cared not. We were alive and if we are truthful to ourselves, we admitted a guilty pleasure of reflected glory from sharing in the perils of survival, even though the ugly truth was all we were doing was holding open a door with one hand and tweeting with the other.

I had one other clear feeling that I'd successfully suppressed in the absence of fear: how glad I was all the nuke plants had been shut down. Yes, yes, I know the bark of nuclear disasters is worse than their bite, and I can rationalise with the best of them why nuclear energy is a necessary evil in the fight against global warming and peak oil, and yes it is the tsunami victims who deserve our attention not the panic-mongers of the world... but still I was glad Japan was nuke free for now, I can't help what I feel. How could anyone feel pro-nuclear right now?

 Connected and disconnected.


Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Only, it wasn't JFK doing the asking today, it was Koji Yamamoto.

Koji is the Your Party candidate for Abiko and he saw fit to put JFK's quote on the policy page of his website. Stirring words from one so young (41, his election poster proclaims). But then like the young Kennedy, Koji is not averse to a little conflict in his life. Right after the Kobe Earthquake, the Todai graduate didn't hesitate to join the Pro-Bowling League in 1996, and never looked back.

In the year of the Tohoku earthquake, of which tonight's quake was merely an aftershock, he commentated on TV from the front line of the Ladies Open Bowling Tour. Like Churchill too, he is a published author with four titles to his name. And Churchill never wrote one --let alone four-- books on how to bowl. This justifies the guts pose he displays on all his campaign posters. But I don't feel like writing anymore about him on this day.


It was 71 years today since Pearl Harbor.

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