I woke up on the morning of March 11th in my hotel room in Boston. I was working, running UDON’s convention booth alongside a couple of their artists, and I was on track to get to the show for opening when I decided to peek at my Twitter, and then was compelled to turn on CNN and run my computer to find out what had happened. It was horrible, and hours later I was getting texts from the guys at the booth asking why the hell I hadn’t shown up as I tried to hold my shit together in my room, watching people be swept out to sea.
I eventually got to the booth, didn’t tell the guys what had happened and let them discover on their own as they got texts for relatives and loved ones. I spent the day numb, worrying about the people I know, the friends that I’d made, and the country I’d come to love. I’ve talked about it before, but from the time Electronic Gaming Monthly previewed the Super Famicom and Super Mario 4 (World) to my pre-teen self, Japan and Japanese culture has represented tomorrow to me, and moreso than the economic fallout, the homelessness issue, or any of the challenges Japan had had to face in my lifetime, the quake and tsunami in Northern Japan illuminated for me the idea that the future was not set, that promise could go entirely unfulfilled. Without notice.
I tweeted and blogged and donated about it at the time. A month later I helped to organize a fundraiser to support relief and rebuilding in Tohoku–we raised $20,000! I grit my teeth and knew that visiting Japan in the months following the quake would be a mistake–Japan had to deal with a number of issues before worrying about my nonsense–and I got back to the country as soon as I could. Despite the hardships and the adversity, it still was, still is, Japan, and I recommend to anyone that’s ever been curious about visiting the country to please do so; improving the tourism economy improves day to day lives, and direct donations to affected peoples directly improves the lives of those most afflicted.
Now it’s one year later, and I continue to do my best to promote Japanese culture and ideas, and to help the country rebuild. I’m not so naive as to believe there are not fundamental, institutional problems with the country that are hindering rebuilding and progress–faith in the government and/or belief in anything they say is at a spectacular low. The economy is still suffering badly, with no real plan in site to fix that either. But I look at my life and around my world and the effect that Japanese culture has on the life I live is, frankly, inescapable, and why would I want to escape it anyway? I’ll do my best to continue to give back to the country that has given me so much.
I don’t have a grand statement here–this isn’t one of my best pieces of writing. But I’ve been thinking for the past few days what I could say about this event that can still bring me to the verge of tears if I think about it too long, and I’ve got nothing more than what I’ve said above.
- Donate for relief, if you can.
- Visit Japan, if you’re able.
- Support the Japanese artists and authors who create the culture you love with money.
To my friends in Japan: I’m glad I didn’t lose any of you, and you’re in my thoughts.