I actually have a lot of articles planned right now, all lying dormant due to a momentary dip in language-studying momentum and real-life happenings. Yet all those things pale in face of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami which has rocked northern Japan.
Last Thursday I went to bed at a decent time, for once. At that point, all I had heard was of a relatively light earthquake in Japan a day or so earlier, which I hoped to be the most of it (I thought something big had already happened). I would wake up and see a frantic Twitter and news of a much bigger earthquake at hand, destruction in Sendai and nearing areas abounding; friends worrying about family; movie-like images streamed and posted on Youtube which were, in fact, real.
Japan is basically on one giant fault, so they're pretty prepared for things like this, but STILL.
Nature was taking a big toll on Japan, with aftershocks left and right, and even a volcano erupting, and in the meantime some seriously idiotic things have been said (I just want to be clear — I don’t tolerate this; these people should be branded for life for their brazen stupidity). In the wake of it all, nuclear happenings at the Fukushima nuclear plant as a result of the quake/tsunami are getting everyone tense; some say it’s really bad, and others say it’s not nearly as bad — no one’s quite sure who to believe. (Though, I think since I began writing this, the Japanese have kind of gotten angry with the sensationalistic news reporting.) At this moment, the nuclear topic is still being discussed fervently. It has even gotten the Emperor to address the people directly on TV for the first time.
I didn’t blog about all this right away because honestly, I have no idea what to say — many Japan bloggers, news outlets, and others have been relentless in their coverage and are doing the best they can for it, and amazingly so. The news gets out there, quickly and in a big way (dominating all top trending topics on Twitter on the 11th), and surely I can do no better to spread news or add anything than English speakers in Japan themselves. All I could do was sit at my computer gawping; here I was making sure some of my newly-acquainted friends residing in Japan were okay (they are, for the most part), which didn’t take long, and watch various news streams throughout the day on Friday and parts of Saturday, checking in on them whenever I could afterward. Others were panicking about friends and family, JETs and others in Japan. Though, for my own reasons, I, too, was very shaken. I watched Obama address the situation on TV, wondering how it would all pan out.
My main Twitter account’s dashboard is still abuzz with news, for which I am thankful; the Twitter dashboard for this blog’s account is still running with news, so much so that it’s hard to discern immediately what is accurate when something is immediately reported (many tweets without source links). I had never seen information roll out quite like this before, and especially not for a country like Japan.
I don’t like making reactionary posts. It’s against my nature, and doesn’t fit with what I do (I could never be a news reporter). So, I’ve been sitting on this article for over a week. I feel as though I can’t continue blogging until I at least acknowledge what happened. And I wanted to do that justice.
One good thing is that this earthquake really isn’t as bad as it could have been…but it’s still pretty awful. I actually admire the preparation involved and the resolve of the people over there. Even more, another good thing is how forthcoming people have been in donating, even in hard economic times. I feel I owe a lot to Japan; besides just loving the culture, it has shaped a good chunk of my life, even indirectly. I was playing Japanese games before I even realized it, games which made an impact on my life and the way I think; Japanese comics opened me to a world where comics were, in fact, not niche in and of themselves. Such creations, culture, and more have inspired me in a powerful way, as they have many others. It’s undeniable, something I embrace openly. It’s really the kind of inspiration I certainly can’t shake off and leave neatly in a boxed past. So, I feel as though I should do something.
What I can do, at least, is link to some of the best sources of news/resources/visuals that I keep referring to over the past weeks.
Resources relating to this incident
How to help without donating (Tofugu)
Google Person Finder
KeyHole TV for live Japanese television
Al Jazeera English
Also, my lists on Twitter follow accounts with lots of information still coming up.
How to give DIRECTLY to Japan
GlobalGiving caught my eye early on, both because it accepts Paypal as a payment method (a big factor for me, as I avoid using credit) and because its founder is Japanese. It has given updates on how the money’s being used so far.
Art for Japan, in which I will be participating, and will probably make another post about soon.
Aftershock: Artists Respond to Disaster in Japan
CFSL Tsunami Project
Al Jazeera English
I would advise against watching the American all-day news networks. Any of them. Ever.
Artists of JUMP send messages of hope
Badass of the Week – Hideaki Akaiwa (for diving into a tsunami to save his wife)
Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival: now the Nashville Cherry Blossom Japan Relief Event, where you can donate directly to Japan through the Tennessee Tomodachi Fund. It’s this weekend, and I’m going to it. (More info here, too.)
Information about how radiation works to help quell fears related to any lack of knowledge/rumors you may have
Video (under cut)
Mushi! Bugs! They’re all over the place! And the Japanese variety are just as abundant and cool. I’ve always been a fan of bugs, but sometimes people in Japan have a different kind of fandom going on…
(First things first! This is an entry for the August Japan Blog Matsuri, specifically Through Eyes From Afar’s Nature and Japan entry! Thanks, Lands From Afar Embassy! You should see what other J-bloggers also have to say about nature!)
If you’ve got any familiarity about Japan or even just anime, you already know about the Japanese rhinoceros beetle (甲虫 ~ Trypoxylus dichotomus) and the exciting fights they often engage in for money. That’s right, two males are pitted against each other, and people bet on which one will push the other off of a log or table first. Apparently it’s very popular to do in Ryukyu. (For some reason, I couldn’t find any video of this. Figures.)
The closest thing I found. How can you tell when a certain one will win, anyway? (I mean, when one isn’t robotic.)
They also make good pets. I WANT ONE.
Rhinoceros beetles are short-lived, but bright stars burn briefly.
Something you might not have known: The beetle has a fan page on Facebook. Only 18 people are fans as of this posting! C’mon people, these beetles are awesome. I actually owned the shell of a similar-looking beetle when I was a kid, but I lost it in a move. It was pretty awesome, though. It was as big as my hand. (I used to keep giant bugs’ shells after they died.)
Oh God get it away
Another much more horrifying mushi is the Japanese giant hornet (大雀蜂 ~ Vespa mandarinia japonica). Like the rhinoceros beetle, it looks pretty awesome, and I’m pretty sure there are some vehicles themed off of its appearance.
I'll admit I only knew these existed because of FLCL
I say they’re horrifying only because they are awful mass-murdering bastards, and on the off-chance you get stung by one you’ll probably be hospitalized.
OH MY GOD RUN
What happens when a terrifying killer engages my favorite insect? It’s not pretty. (This saddens me, as I only just found out that praying mantises can eat snakes…and I think birds, too. Holy crap, nature.)
Apart from being the enemy of bees, they’re a fine part of the balance of nature… I guess. Hey, who am I to question how nature works?
Some Household Mushi
Here in the US, bugs + indoors usually don’t mix. Me, I can’t get enough bugs, personally, but in Japan there are a handful of good-luck bugs that actually enhance the home. Bugs such as…
The huntsman spider (Sparassidae), which is actually harmless to people, and comes in varying levels of cute and fuzzy.
To this day, this is the only thing I think of whenever I hear "huntsman". Yeah...anyway...
Looks like something that could kill you, right?
And this gejigeji bug, Scutigera coleoptrata, the household centipede. Every kid is informed at a young age that centipedes (or was it millipedes…?) can freaking kill you, so I guess it becomes ubiquitous that avoiding them is necessary. However, these things are also cleaner-uppers for homes and actually won’t kill you. I love giant bugs that won’t kill you! Yay!
Miscellaneous Things About Mushi
Those insanely popular and/or infamous mushi, as well as others, are constantly featured in Japanese media.
The manga series Mushishi obviously takes its influence from little things crawling around in the ground, with its ubiquitous supernatural spirits (also called…”Mushi”) that have existed since time’s dawn.
Pokémon, great game series and childhood favorite of many, was originally inspired by bug-catching. Pokémon executive director Satoshi Tajiri-Oniwa enjoyed collecting bugs as a kid, as did I! Specifically, in an old TIME interview, he said,
The place where I grew up [in Machida, a western Tokyo suburb] was still rural back then. There were rice paddies, rivers, forests. It was full of nature. Then development started taking place, and as it grew, all the insects were driven away. I was really interested in collecting insects. Every year they would cut down trees and the population of insects would decrease. The change was so dramatic. A fishing pond would become an arcade center.
If you recall how the original two games played, there were always a lot of simple bug-catching kids in the beginning, and to this day there’s still lots of wading around in grass, looking for things… even if the pocket monsters these days have grown to ridiculous proportions.
There are several tokusatsu series with bug-themed heroes, such as the Kamen Rider series.
I was into American tokusatsu when I was 10, but I missed out, oh I missed out
Anyhow, bugs are awesome, and they’re a big part of Japan. Should I ever get the chance to go there, I want to go bug-watching. (I also want to hunt bugs in Australia, except I know I’ll probably definitely die over there.)
Flickr credits: kaidohmaru, burleydude, miguelitos91, sakichin, smashedpoodle
Also informative: here