Journey to Japan: Through a KSU lens

Thomas Song

I began planning a trip to Japan when I heard about the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit the northern coast March 11. Having been to Japan before, I was confident I could safely photograph the aftermath.

When I arrived, I immediately tried to head north, but I found the buses heading that direction were full, and the trains were stopped due to earthquake damage. Two days before I was scheduled to fly home, a seat opened up on a bus. After thousands of miles, hours of traveling and a little bit of luck, I found myself in Sendai, Japan.

When I arrived, I had no place to stay for the night and only an acquaintance, Michael Tonge, to help me out. We found ourselves walking through a snowstorm for the next hour, stopping at more than a dozen hotels trying desperately to find a room.

In the end, Michael graciously allowed me to stay at his apartment with him and his family.

Ultimately, my trip boiled down to a $100 taxi ride during the last hour of sunlight with a driver who didn’t speak English. After trying to communicate through hand gestures, my taxi driver took me to the most damaged areas near the city.

Downtown Sendai was not heavily battered by the earthquake and tsunami. The residents appeared to be going on with their daily lives, despite the lack of hot water, low food supplies and rolling blackouts.

Conversely, the inhabited coastline areas, about 20-30 minutes away, were totally wiped out.

I was amazed at the lack of chaos and that there were no signs of looting. Some of the debris was even organized into recyclable categories. The cleanup efforts by the Japanese people were and are truly remarkable.

I hope the focus of the disaster eventually switches from the nuclear crisis in Fukushima to the thousands of people who are without homes and have lost everything. Even though there is a lot of work that needs to be done, I believe Japan will ultimately be stronger than before. The people of Japan have set a high standard for how citizens should act in the face of true loss and disaster.