Saturday, March 31, 2018

With a little help from my friends

Sometimes you need a little help. There's nothing wrong with that; if you're in a hole, your friend's hand can always help you out. And you can pay forward the favor one day. To quote the "West Wing", 'when your neighbor's house is on fire, you lend them your bucket'. We all need a little help sometimes. And this is role a man called "Shoe" set out to fulfill. And Fukushima-ken was the friend needing a hand one day. And he reached out.
Iwaki FC - 'We Will'

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima are impregnated in the minds of the collective. But Fukushima was, is and remains, a beautiful location. And here I'm not talking from imagery, it's a place I've visited many times in the years after it was cursed with an axial changing quake, tsunami and ultimately the possibility of armageddon. But it was only a dirty bomb, leaving the land alone. Fukushima-ken is beautiful.

I once took nearly 500 people there for three days, a year after the disaster. There was a lot of fear and trepidation but at the end, all gained a little insight and illumination. But that was simply three days although it became more. Shoe built a home for 400, he built a football team and he built a destination for families. And then he took us to a baseball game. When your neighbor's house is on fire, lend them your bucket. And then help them rebuild. And then help them take their lives back. Little by little.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Guest writer - The man on the top of the Ebisu omnibus

Dr Gabriel Symonds is a long term member and stalwart of the foreign community in Japan. He's also a friend of mine. He looked after me when I was sick and he told my son he would get better when he was too. Now, in well earned retirement, he remains Tokyo based and focuses on helping people kick that nicotine monkey off their backs. And he dropped me a note asking if it would be ok to post a story of our adopted country to TenguLife. And of course it is. Oh, and he also, over lunch one day, inspired a story of street art that will make you smile.

Tokyo Travel

It’s interesting traveling on buses in Tokyo. You can tell the drivers are very well trained and safety is paramount. When a bus turns a corner there is usually a pedestrian crossing, as in the illustration. The bus will come to a complete stop and the driver will deliberately look and point to the left and right and check the front mirror to ensure the road is clear before proceeding. He may audibly say ‘Left, right, front – OK’. This is called ‘pointing and calling’. You can also observe this if you are in the front carriage of a local train, behind the driver. It’s quite a performance. The driver is alone in the compartment and appears to be talking to himself.  He points with his white-gloved hand at the timetable, speedometer and any wayside signs and calls these out aloud. The idea is to focus attention for safety, in which Japan has an excellent record. 

Though I usually travel by car on Tokyo’s congested roads – an experience in itself – sometimes I take the bus. Having reached retirement age, if the bus if full, often a young person will offer me their seat. At first I was shocked that I must appear so old! Now I just say ‘Thank you’ and take the seat – unless a very old person gets on after me in which case I offer my seat to him or her.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

So run, run uphill

So run, run uphill, don't look back, just run. And then you can tell others. Because you lived.

I'm simplifying a memorial to those who were caught by the wave seven years ago. But still I remember the moment when, walking home as the roads had choked and the trains sidelined for twenty fours hours, I saw that wave crossing the land. A store had turned a TV to the window and a crowd had gathered around. I had just spoken with my son via Skype and he'd said it was reported at an 8.4M. But the helicopter was now flying above the water. Which used to be land.

A tsunami wave isn't like another. They simply don't stop. Yes, you can surf a three meter wave on the beach of Hawaii, but how about a fifteen meter wave two miles inland? And then you can't find the ones you love, you know, or even your house or town. The trains are gone, and so are the rails, and the roads. No power or gasoline and no one to help or hold your hand. Tsunami are merciless. And we watched one that day; the world's first digital disaster. The Fukushima nuclear disaster didn't kill people. Water did that all on its own.

And I look back on that moment frozen in time. A life defining moment like few others. And all I can think is "run, run uphill, don't look back, just run".