March 11th Anniversary

This Sunday marks the first anniversary of the terrible 9.0 earthquake and tsunamis which caused so much pain and loss of life in the Touhoku region of Japan. The quake was the strongest ever recorded here, moving the country 2.4 meters towards North America and slowing the Earth’s rotation slightly. Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, and if it had only faced the quake, it would have come through with flying colors thanks to its excellent building codes. It was the unprecedented waves that did the real damage, an unstoppable wall of water that reached as high as 40 meters (133 feet) and stretched 10 km inland in places. Now the names of towns like Kuji, Ofunato and Namie live in infamy as regions which were greatly damaged by the disaster — in the single hardest-hit area, half the town of Minami-sanriku’s 18,000 inhabitants wer e carried away by the waters.

While March 11 marked a terrible tragedy, there were bright spots, too. Television images of people calling out for loved ones, fearing the worst yet being reunited with their family members in the end. A baby, found alive and unhurt in the midst of so much destruction. One happy tale was the “Miracle of Kamaishi,” a town in windswept Iwate Prefecture that had strictly adhered to a regiment of disaster preparedness drills in its schools when most other towns were lulled into a sense of security by their offshore breakwaters. As a result, 98.8% of the town’s 2900 children were able to evacuate safely. The aftermath of the destruction was touching, too, as the entire world moved to help Japan get back on her feet, from the U.S. military’s “Operation Tomodachi” relief mission to the huge amount of help from the Red Cross and people like you. The popular Japanese picture sharing site Pixiv  was filled with images  of support by artists from Japan and all around the world. Although the new Japanese tourism slogan of “Japan. Thank you.”  is somewhat cryptic and odd-sounding, the country is very thankful for the help she received.