Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Tribute and Prayer for Our Neighbor Japan

From Seattle's Japanese Teahouse Garden in the Arboretum
Although across the Pacific Ocean from us, Japan has always felt like a close neighbor. Seattle (and the Pacific NW) and Japan have a long history--both cultural and economic--and the tragedy of the recent earthquake is affecting many people here in our area.

Reading about the recovery efforts and seeing the photographs is heartbreaking, especially considering the loss of life. Seattle is earthquake country too and it is sobering to see just how much devastation a quake can create.

Oddly enough, I find myself reflecting upon my own personal connections with Japan--or rather, Japanese culture here in Seattle.
My best friend in 5th grade was Japanese American, as was a very close friend of mine in high school. I grew up learning about Japanese food and culture from their families long before multiculturalism became a formal part of teaching.

Uwajimaya Store
As a kid I used to go to the International District to buy rice candy, eat dim sum, and look at the weird fish in the Uwajimaya grocery store.  

When I was in college I bought a beautiful blue and white cotton yukata (summer cotton kimono) at Higo Variety store after falling in love with the ones I saw at the annual Bon Odori festival.

Higo Variety Store from 1950

Bon Odori Festival participants
In my first professional job, I researched historic buildings and sites, many of which were associated with garden nurseries, strawberry farms, and so-called "truck farms" owned by Japanese Americans before the internment.

Strawberry picker, 1920
 The first really important piece of art that I purchased was a Japanese woodcut.

In more recent years I have attended some of the annual "From Hiroshima to Hope" lantern-lighting ceremonies at Seattle's Green Lake. The effect of all the lanterns, each sailing at its own speed and direction, is achingly beautiful and very moving.

Japan is part of the fabric of Seattle--and a part of my own history. Knowing how challenging it is to build a house even under normal circumstances, I can’t begin to imagine the struggle that individuals, as well as Japan as a nation, face in rebuilding their homes, neighborhoods, and country. How does one begin to clean up from such devastation? Where to start? How to find the heart and the courage after such loss? More to the point, how to rebuild a life when you have lost everything--including the ones you love?

Blogging about building a house seems rather superflous right now. I think I will direct my energy elsewhere for the time being and take a short blog break.