I’ve been living in Japan almost half my life. I came, straight from college, to expand my horizon and experience a new culture, and never left. Over the years Japan became my home and my base. There were periods I was deeply absorbed in everything Japanese, periods I was extremely detached to the point I considered leaving, and everything in between. More recently my relationship with my adopted motherland had been more neutral. Work took me to other Asian countries, opening up new worlds – worlds that felt more active and vibrant than Japan. Japan had begun to feel rather depressed, asleep even, so for inspiration I looked elsewhere. And although Japan continued to be my home, it was more the background of my life than the playing field in which I lived my life.
Then, on March 11, the big Tohoku earthquake struck and everything changed.
Within minutes of the earth starting to shake I was reconnected with the country I’d taken for granted and forgotten to love. Crammed with other passengers in a small station office on Shinagawa Keikyu Platform 1, where we had sought shelter, my world was thrown into turmoil. Nobody moved or spoke a word. Only the rhythmic sound of 100+ fast-beating hearts and the uncanny sounds of a station threatening to collapse could be heard. Before my eyes station personnel were running back and forwards, fully exposed on the dangerous platforms, risking their lives to make sure thousands of other passengers were as safe as they could be. Not a single person in panic, and coordination all around. In those moments, in which I was fearing for my life but also feeling extremely awake and present, I remembered why I’d fallen in love with this country many years ago and fell in love all over again.
Since that notorious day my renewed connection with Japan has only become stronger. It sometimes feels as if the earthquake has torn away feelings of distance and apathy and replaced them with compassion and love.
Love is eternally present, yet we do not always connect with it. We easily forget about love in our busy and self-absorbed lives. We forget to stand still and appreciate the beauty in what is and always will be. We make the concept of love so complex that we forget about its simplicity and that, in the end, it’s really all we need to restore the connection with our surroundings and ourselves.
For me, the earthquake opened my eyes to see the beauty in Japan again and rediscover my love for a place that has given me so much.
For that I’m very grateful.
This post was written for and originally published in Embrace Transition, a facebook site dedicated to change and transformation in Japan post the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.