I will be graduating from the Japanese language school I've entered 2 years ago. Today, we went to Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Centre (人と防災未来センター). It was my second visit, and as expected from my experience during the first visit, I did tear up.
A lot of people will ask me, why did I choose Japan, and the simple answer I will give, is that I like the cultural here. To me, Japanese language isn't just another language. It is a language that has meaning hidden underneath, feelings hidden underneath that one has to find out by himself/herself.
I'm not here to say about what I am in Japan, why I am interested in Japanese language. Rather, why I'd choose Japan over any other countries, and even Singapore.
Singapore is safe. There are no earthquakes (other than those shakes from Indonesia), no tsunami, no natural disasters. Life is peaceful, and we don't have to worry about anything maybe except financial, relationships and world peace. People may say to me, why make things difficult? What's so bad about having a safe place to stay? But to me, I feel that being in Japan makes me feel really alive. Everyday, every second is important. And everyone is connected. Even if there are foreigners, strangers, different customs from different areas, we are all still connected.
I guess when we mention about disasters, there are the Niigata earthquake (16 June 1964), Tohoku earthquake and tsunami (11 March 2011 and Great Hanshin Earthquake (17 January 1995), just to name a few. I'd say, during my stay in Kansai, I feel closer to the Great Hanshin Earthquake. I've seen the movie (featuring Arashi's Sakurai Sho - if anyone's interested to know) 神戸新聞の7日間 (7 days of Kobe Shimbun - to roughly translate it). Full title in Japanese is 阪神・淡路大震災から15年 神戸新聞の7日間～命と向き合った被災記者たちの闘い～ and I'd totally recommend this documentary drama.
And as to why I'd mention the movie, too, is that during my trip to the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Centre today, scenes from the movie just came inside my head. The tour around the building starts from the top floor, and is one-way down to the first floor. At the top floor, we first experience the earthquake from the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It was loud, it was dark (earthquake was 5:46AM), and everything was flying around. The highways tilted 90 degrees, the roads cracked. There were no electricity no water. There were scenes of what happened in the homes. Everything were breaking all around, flying all around the room. A floor of a hospital collapsed. Ceiling to floor. A shopping street practically disappeared. The roof collapsed, the wall collapsed. Glass was breaking everywhere. Trains couldn't move. Everything was shaking. Train tracks disconnected and car crashes were everywhere. I was told later that the shaking lasted 7 seconds.
And within that 7 seconds, life and death were decided. Family members were separated. There were people who could crawl out of the debris, and siblings who were stuck underneath the debris. Fire started breaking out, but there was no water coming out. Priorities were given to save those who were alive and easily reached. Victims who were quiet and location unknown under the debris had to wait. The feeling that you couldn't do anything, that you couldn't save your family member, the elderly, and all you could do is just wait. That hopeless desperation was unimaginable.
The movie I mentioned wasn't based on the earthquake itself, but the newspaper agency's side of the story before, during and after the earthquake, and struggling to spread information around to the people who don't know anything, and had no method to get any information at all. To make matters worse, they had to abandon their office, that they have used for a long time. They left a bottle of sake there for co-workers or anyone who came for information, so that they can warm themselves up. It was also a gesture of appreciation to the office that they had been working in. A place they made articles, gather data, putting newspapers together. Their computers couldn't be used, pictures couldn't be printed and newspapers couldn't be formatted. However, because beforehand they had a contract with Kyoto Shinbun, to help one another if they couldn't produce newspapers, a handful of journalists headed to Kyoto to use their office. Along the way, they saw their town in fire. Everywhere was burning. And fire-fighters could not put out the fire because water couldn't come out. The highway collapsed so they had to travel by the mountains, and they weren't in their best shapes. The journalists desperately had to gather the best photographs with the most helpful news. But they didn't have enough time. The first newspaper they produced after the earthquake was put together by Kyoto Shinbun (Kyoto Newspaper Agency) and Kobe Shibun journalists were vexed because it wasn't enough to convey how bad the earthquake was, how bad the situation was.
Feelings that I didn't know, that I've never had when I was in Singapore, I felt them here in Japan. I felt how it was like to be alive, how everyone was trying their best. It doesn't just end there. Everyone aims beyond it. Nothing is unimportant. Everything has a meaning.
However, I don't think words can convey these feelings.
5 years ago. 2011. March 11.
I was in NYP. With classmates in the studio.
I was on Twitter.
I was following Japanese people.
I had limited use of Japanese language at that time.
But pictures showed how bad it was.
The one picture that hit me the most was a picture of the huge crack in the pavement.
And I said to my classmates. "There is a huge earthquake in Japan right now."
Well. No one really paid attention to me. Someone said "Must be the supermoon" and everyone was joking around.
And while we were fooling around, people were trying to stay alive in Japan.
I happened to watch later on a documentary, about people shouting from the mountain, to people stuck on the rooftops of their homes unable to escape from the high water level.
I don't expect other people to feel like how I feel.
I know that I am more sentimental than others.
But I'd just like to convey.
That while you are buzzing in your peaceful lives, there are people fighting everyday. Looking out every single second. Making living even better for others.
There are towns still recovering, and it will never be the same.
The towns may seem new, energised, but it has once fell.
I know people will say "Why are you comparing your own country to Japan."
But isn't it my choice to choose the life I want to life.
And I still want to continue walking down my life here.