For me the most enduring images of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami have not been the larger-than-life pictures of nature’s all-too destructive forces. These, certainly, are breathtaking in their scale and horror. Few will soon forget the footage of a 30ft wave, churning like an angry beast up the shore – cars, boats and even entire houses, some of them aflame, tossed in its muddy intensity. Nor will they quickly erase the image of the seaside town of Rikuzentaka in the tsunami’s silent aftermath, its wooden houses shredded into rough-hewn matchstick, a graveyard for the drowned.
But the two images that will stick with me longest are on an altogether smaller scale. The first is of a supermarket, caught at the moment the 9.0 magnitude earthquake unleashed its destructive force. As neatly stacked shelves began to writhe and wobble, staff did not rush for cover. Instead, they tried – mostly in vain – to stop bottles of soy sauce and packets of miso crashing to the floor. Their diligence is a reminder of the actions of quiet dedication one sees daily in less difficult times.
The second image, captured by a BBC cameraman, was the most poignant of all. A young woman, so confused she appeared to be blind, gazes in incomprehension around a field strewn with debris and fallen branches. She is wearing riding breeches since, not long before, she had been taking her horse for a canter. The horse is gone. So too are all the other familiar features of a landscape transformed beyond recognition or comprehension. “The things that are supposed to be here are not here,” she says, almost to herself.
When I landed this week in Tokyo – a city I know well – I too felt a mild form of disorientation. Even in the capital, far from the earthquake’s epicentre and away from the tsunami’s fearful reach, Japan presents itself in a distorted mirror. The drive in from Haneda airport took little more than 20 minutes, three times faster than usual. There were almost no cars on the road, a consequence of petrol shortages, the taxi driver said. That was the reason, he added, that, on this crisp spring day, the sky was such a glorious shade of blue.
The streets of central Tokyo are near deserted, the shelves of its convenience stores half empty. Offices are ghost towns. Each journey in an elevator – hostage to power cuts and aftershocks – is a minor act of courage.
Inside the government building that houses the ministry of economy and fiscal policy, the lights are dimmed to conserve energy. Two receptionists sit in the dark, unheated lobby, with matching blankets on their knees. Even the minister, 72-year-old Kaoru Yosano, is not in his usual attire. He wears a blue boiler suit and long rubber boots – the cabinet’s acknowledgement of Japan’s worst crisis since the second world war. Asked if this moment of desperation can galvanise the nation, the minister makes a small, defiant fist.
The grave faces of public officials cannot have looked much graver in 1945, after the nuclear bombs fell and Emperor Hirohito went on the radio to ask his countrymen to “endure the unendurable”. On Wednesday, his son, Emperor Akihito, made a rare live television appearance to ask his people to work together to “overcome these difficult times”.
A sombre pall hangs over the city. People keep half an eye on the television, watching the latest update on the melting fuel rods at the explosion-prone Fukushima nuclear plant. They are nervous about radiation, nervous about the next aftershock, and not a little nervous about whether the trains will be running to take them to their homes in Tokyo’s distant suburbs.
Yet, amid the strangeness, Tokyo remains reassuringly familiar. The taxi drivers still bow. The interior of their cabs are still decorated in white lace. Japanese toilet seats are still heated (some little luxuries you can’t do without) and shopkeepers still run to serve their customers.
Friends paint me vignettes of the past few days. On the day of the earthquake, hundreds of thousands slept in their offices, millions more marched the many miles home like a procession of ants. From Monday, many have struggled back into work despite the limited train service. Though some shelves have been cleared of toilet paper, batteries and tofu – preparations for power cuts or the next big quake – in others people limit themselves to one loaf of bread and one pint of milk each.
For anyone who knows Japan, who has seen its workers on the factory floor or its craftsmen at their meticulous business, these are heartening stories. Japan is a country with few natural resources beyond its people. These are the people who created the Japanese miracle and who maintained another kind of Japanese miracle even when the world had grown bored and disillusioned with its stagnant economy.
就在现在，在我写这些话的时候，酒店在又一场余震中晃动起来。眼下正是阴霾和令人恐慌的时期。但我想起了一位老朋友、已退休的绪方四十郎(Shijuro Ogata)本周告诉我的话。他引用了一句日本谚语对我说道：“Wazawai wo tenjite fuku to nasu”，直译过来就是“善处逆境”。在日语中，它的意思更像是：“低头接受不幸，然后把它转变为幸福”。绪方四十郎希望日本能够做到这一点。
Even now, as I write these words, the hotel is swaying from yet another aftershock. These are grim and frightening times. But I am reminded of something an old friend, Shijuro Ogata, now retired, told me this week. He quoted to me the Japanese phrase: Wazawai wo tenjite fuku to nasu. In English it is prosaically rendered: “Make the best of a bad bargain.” In Japanese, it sounds more like: “Bend misfortune and turn it into happiness.” Mr Ogata hopes Japan will be able to do just that.
2011-03-18 09:14 编辑：kuaileyingyu