Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of East Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and while it’s no understatement to say this remains a country in mourning, it’s also one full of hope and inspiration in the face of unspeakable tragedy.
I had the pleasure of visiting Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas hardest-hit by the natural disaster, last October (see here and here). I realize now how much of the trip I didn’t understand at the time. Looking back, our guides didn’t mention the disaster at all. They didn’t tell us how much was damaged or how many lives were lost. Instead, they showed us the beauty of their communities. They showed us the restaurants, temples, shrines and parks they loved. They showed us their home. It’s a pride we all share — one of those links that reminds us we aren’t very different at all.
I wish I had better acknowledged the strength and perseverance of the people of these communities I met, who have sent out more messages of hope than anger. It’s a humility I remain in awe of today. Japan is such a beautiful country and I don’t take it for granted how lucky I am to live here. The Japanese people can be misunderstood for any number of little things — as any culture can — but it’s their pride and their grace that always make me take a step back and consider where I come from and how I show appreciation for wherever I call home.