Collected Works, History, Memoir, Non-Fiction, social commentary, Various

#165 2:46 Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake by Various


This book is a collection of stories concerning the very large Earthquake in Japan over a year ago. This is close to my heart because I was in Japan when this happened. I wasn’t anywhere near where any of this happened, but I was still there and felt a lot of the emotion that was traveling around during the time.

The main force in creating this book got the idea from looking at a Twitter feed on the days of and days following the Earthquake. I think it’s nice to hear from the people who lived it what went on.

I started reading and repeatedly I read stories about people walking home from work for miles and miles. I read stories about the phone services going down. I read stories about children having to spend the night at school. I read stories about not having anything to eat but rice balls. I read stories about families worried about other family members.

Some of the authors were very close to where everything happened. Some were further away. This was not an earthquake that kept to one location. I have several friends in Japan who teach English and all of them were directly affected by this earthquake even though they weren’t that close to the epicenter.

What I liked: I liked reading stories about what happened. I liked knowing that the people of Japan were sticking together during this time of crisis. If this disaster had happened in the United States you would not belive the chaos it would cause. We are not as orderly or as polite as the society of Japan. Say whatever you want, but it’s true. I lived in Japan for a while, I know. I think it’s amazing how so many of the people decided to stay. Many of the people affected by hurricane Katrina decided to leave and not go back. Why go back to a place that was a disaster? Why go back to a place that was trying to kill you?

Japan definitely has its share of earthquakes. It is on what is called “the ring of fire,” no, I’m not talking about a Johnny Cash song. The ring of fire is around the pacific tectonic plate. English please? The Earth’s crust is made of plates. The one that forms the pacific ocean is very large. Whenever plates collide there are mountains, but there are also volcanos and earthquakes. The plates never stop moving. Whenever you experience an earthquake or a volcano it is because the plates underneath you are still moving around.

The largest earthquake I experienced in Japan was a 6.0 on the Richter scale. I was half asleep when it happened and thought my husband was being a dork and shaking the bed. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience an earthquake that was a 9.0. That is huge. For the most part people in the United States are free of earthquakes, unless you live in California, which is going to fall off into the ocean one day…not really. There are tremors on the east coast every so often, but they are few and far between.

It’s hard for us in the United States to imagine what this would be like. To top it off Japan now has to deal with nuclear radiation. Ok, short aside on radiation people…radiation is never good for you. There are people who will say, “Hey it’s ok to get some radiation.” No, it’s not ok to get some radiation. Your body can handle small amounts without much of a problem, but you don’t want to constantly expose yourself to the stuff. Something else, there are all kinds of different radiation. There is nuclear radiation, there is solar radiation, there is microwave radiation, there is electromagnetic radiation, and even your cell phone puts off radiation. In short bursts you’re ok. That is why it’s fine for a person to get an x-ray every now and then and be ok, but it’s not ok to get x-rays all the time. I’m looking at you TSA.

When something like a nuclear leak happens, you are receiving more radiation in a shorter amount of time than your normally would; this is what makes the whole thing dangerous. Sure being around, let’s say, Tokyo right now, may only give you the amount of radiation you would receive in six months from the sun or whatever, but in a much shorter amount of time. You’re probably not going to get sick from this. You may not notice anything. It’s only if you are closer to a larger source of radiation that you might get radiation sickness.

Ok? It’s important that you understand radiation is never good.

What I didn’t like: I wish there would have been more Japanese natives contributing to this book. There were a few, but for the most part the authors were ex-pats of American or Canadian origin or ex-pats from Japan living in the states. I really wanted to hear more of what actually went on. How did it relate to the culture?

I also would have liked to read more stories from closer to where everything actually happened. These stories are mild compared to what others went through. I don’t want anyone to read this and think as a whole this was what went on. No, things were terrible for the people who had to leave their homes because A) they lived in the evacuate zone around the nuclear power plants or B) their homes just weren’t there anymore. People lost family members.This was a terrible, terrible, thing and I don’t think this particular collection of stories really conveys how awful it really was.

I don’t like how people have forgotten about this. That whole radiation thing is still happening. Japan is going to have to deal with this radiation leak forever pretty much. There is no magical solution to make nuclear radiation just go away. I’m glad Japan is chosing to go without nuclear power plants because of what happened, but I’m not glad that every other country isn’t following along. Do you even know how many nuclear power plants we have in the United States that are close to fault lines and/or oceans/rivers? You would be surprised. I’m within range of at least three nuclear power plants. If something happened to one of them, it would probably be a good idea for me to get the heck out of dodge.

I don’t like how we’re not hearing about the bravery and sacrifice that the people who are at Fukushima power plant now are exhibiting. Those people are going to die for what they are doing. There is no question. They may not die right away. It may take years, but those people will die because of the work they are doing trying to stem the leak from Fukushima. Those people are heroes. Do we hear about them in the news? No. It’s the custom in Japan to not draw a lot of attention to yourself. It’s a custom to exhibit honor. It’s a custom to be brave even when you don’t want to be.

This is something that shook the whole world. It’s something that we should remember. Things like this book only go so far to help us in our remembrance.