Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yamagata, earthquake and memorial Service: JAPAN TRIP 2011, Part 02


On March 11, when the earthquake hit Nothern Japan for the first time, we were in Yamagata, Northern part of Japan, where my mother was originally from. We were there for my grand parents' memorial service, that was scheduled the following day.

It wasn't so long after we arrived in Yamagata when the first earthquake hit the Pacific coast of Northern Japan. 2:46pm.  Though it was the kind of shaking I've never experienced before, there were almost no physical damage to the house we were staying.  I secretly suspect it was the snow, which kept the old house from collapsing.  As in the photo above, the snow was accumulated up to the second floor, on three sides of the house.

We did lose electricity for a day and a half. Luckily, our water and gas were running, so we were able to cook. After dark, our light source were flashlights and candles that they keep to light their alter.  Under the candle light, the dinner table looked rather romantic and made me think of a dinner from hundreds of years ago.  At night, nine of us kept ourselves warm by dressing like we were outside, (partially preparing for the possible evacuation due to the aftershocks) sleeping together in one room, with one oil-heater.

Next day, we decided to carry out the memorial service, despite the lack of electricity.  A monk and about 20 relatives and neighbors gathered in front of grand parent's alter. The service was followed by script reading at a temple, then dinner at a local banquet hall.  I don't know exactly how cold it was that day, but it was cold enough to make our breath white while we read scripts inside the temple.

While we had such an emergency occasion,  it was the most intimate experience with my family in Yamagata.  It must be a human nature that people get closer to each other when there's a challenge to overcome. I felt the temperature of people around me, warming each other inside out. I found some beautiful quality that was missing from my daily life after four days of stay in this little mountain village.  Life is not all about convenience.

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