A New Beginning
For a wide variety of reasons, I just feel that keeping this blog entirely about Japanese culture is played out. That is, I am not an encyclopedia; I am a person. I want to write about people as much as possible. Also, I have been privileged to deal with more and more Japanese people: helping them with their problems, translating where it will help, pointing out ways to improve English, and so on. It’s not about me; it’s about them.
The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami were, in one sense, part of a long history of natural disasters striking Japan. In another sense, this was disturbingly new: the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and the subsequent evacuations, rubbed salt into Japan’s raw wounds. Even the Kobe earthquake felt like a lesser event in terms of lasting impact. You can rebuild from an earthquake, but how can you rebuild from a nuclear disaster if no one is allowed within 30 km without a radiation suit? This is to say nothing of the great concern for the long-term health of the children, though the short-term problems have been thankfully minimized. No one has died of radiation so far, and workers continue to battle with the reactors to maintain a semblance of control.
The tsunami’s devastation was far broader than this. This was like Hurricane Andrew (the one that hit Florida a couple of decades ago) brutalizing a long length of coastline. This, people know can be rebuilt, but it’s going to take, conservatively, a decade of work to really bring it back. It won’t be an issue of just restoration, of course; they’ll want to make it better than ever.
These are Japan’s twin (or triple, if you want to count the nuclear as an added twist) disasters in the age of high speed internet and a truly wired and networked world. The entire civilization seems to have come together in a new-found sense of unity and purpose, far outstretching the limits of government intervention. Even though Japanese people are still predisposed to cooperating with the government’s efforts, they do not seem to be, or feel, like enough.
That’s where we come in.
Together, With Japan
The modern Internet gives us Westerners who have a piece of Japan in our hearts, be it for personal reasons, cultural appreciation, or some other form of admiration, actual ways to contribute. Some of this is just expressing our moral support for Japan and the people in it, and trust me – this helps. They are heartened by our best wishes. It’s good to see.
Beyond this, what we can do is to strive to make the Internet a bridge for cultural communication. As my experience teaches me, language – and getting around the language barrier – is part of this, but it is a means to an end. Even culture isn’t the “end” of the process.
The objective, and the purpose, is to connect with Japanese people. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I want to really go for.
My reasons are professional as well as personal. My interests, and post-secondary education, are very focused on Japan, and my efforts in education (basic Japanese for Westerners; English for Japanese natives) fit very well with this cultural outlook. But the personal reasons are still very important. I want Japan to succeed; simple as that. I do not view such success as threatening or a bad thing in any way. I want to work with the right people and make things better.
A Celebration of the People of Japan
This blog’s new focus will be people. That is, people in general, but also, specific people as opportunities permit.
In the past, I have even done little biographies of entirely fictional characters. I mean, that’s fine, for a certain crowd, but hey, I want to be primarily about living people whenever possible. ^^ Seriously, it’s something I want to do. I want to make people the focus.
Also, I want to play up how we, too, can be part of Japan, even from a distance. This is the power and magic of the Internet. I have long brought “a piece of Japan” into my own life from my redoubt in Nova Scotia, Canada. Bridging my cultural interests back to Japan, and helping real people with real problems, just feels right.
In the days ahead, you’ll be hearing more about the people I’ve been helping and supporting with my skills, moral support, and often, just lending an ear to listen.
This post is my indulgence. When I write about others, I want it to be about them, not about me. This is something that was always in my soul, but working with Japanese people has helped me to express this properly: I want my efforts to be about what I can give to others, not what I can demand for myself. Of course, where that really works is when you have other people doing the same. Then you’re helping each other and, soon enough, you’re really starting to change the world, piece by little piece.
Together, with Japan and the people within it, we are changing. It is up to us to make these changes happen for the better and to face the future with the power of the human spirit. By combining our individual as well as cultural points of view, we can turn this into something even more special than it already is.
Together, we can build a better tomorrow. – J
I hope you’re well.
I wanted to get in touch to see if you’d like to get involved in an exciting online project I’m working on to celebrate the latest release from one of the UK’s most exciting novelists.
Written by award-winning author David Mitchell (twice short-listed for the Man Booker Prize), the critically acclaimed The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is being released in paperback in March. Set in 18th Century Japan, the book tells the story of a young Dutch clerk struggling to find his fortune, love and his rightful place in Dejima’s island sea-port, full of corruption, mystery, suspicion and deceit.
To celebrate the paperback release and increase awareness with everyone from hardened David Mitchell fans to the general public, we’re looking for 1000 people to become ‘The Thousand Readers of Jacob De Zoet’ in a unique literary project. This is where I wondered if you’d be interested in getting involved – essentially by offering your readers the chance to become one the first ‘Thousand Readers of Jacob De Zoet’.
By visiting http://www.facebook.com/thethousandautumns, selecting a theme and responding to the corresponding extract with a short review, image or film, everyone will be in with a chance of becoming an official ‘reader’ and receiving a signed and numbered limited paperback edition of the novel, which includes a letter from the author.
What do you think? If this is something that you’d like to tell your readers about, we’d be hugely grateful in our quest to find The Thousand Readers of Jacob de Zoet!
If you have any questions let me know and I look forward to hearing back from you.