Remembering Japan

The horrific images coming from Japan this morning are positively heartbreaking to me. Japan was our home for three and a half years. In that short time we fell in love with a country and a culture unlike anything we've experienced anywhere else. We are forever infected with a love of simplistic living amongst fast-moving chaos that is Japan. So much of Japan is a conundrum, with high-speed trains and neon lights mixed in with mom and pop noodle shops and ancient shrines. We were fortunate to live in a suburb of Tokyo, so a 30-minute train ride east took us into the heart of one of most lavishly modern cities in the world, while a 30-minute drive west took us into lonely and wild hills with idyllic mountain streams tumbling through gorges of towering rock down to tiny little villages hanging perilously on the edge of time. So as I watched scenes of shear devastation and destruction flash across the tv screen this morning, I wanted to cry. The big cities, like Sendai near the quake's epicenter, are built for "the big one". We lived in a 9-story apartment tower built to sway back and forth in the event of a quake (and it did!). But all those little villages are simple wooden houses and buildings. For those coastal towns that might have withstood the shaking, the tsunami has most likely done them in. Not much can withstand the power of a tsunami. Lives and livelihoods forever lost. Simple lives of rice farmers and fishermen. Gone.

Processing photos from our time in Japan has been on my list for several months now. Our collection of images from there is overwhelming in size, which has made it hard to start. But this morning I sat down and started looking for those images that spoke to me about the simple life. I found a few.

A number of the images I stumbled across this morning are from a road trip we took to the western part of Honshu, the main island in Japan. Few tourists visit this area, so my blond hair and blues eyes were quite the novelty in some areas and we couldn't count on someone to speak English to help us read a menu like we could around Tokyo. But we really saw rural Japan...a part of Japan that is quickly dying with its aging, negative-growth population. The brunt of the devastation happened on the opposite coast on the opposite end of the island from these images, but the scenes are similar--villages tucked neatly into coves between a wall of mountain and a relentless ocean, and wide plains squared off into rice paddies.

Our thoughts are with you Japan.