Continuing Agonies of Kumamoto

The God Kashima let the Namazu move and thrash the Kumamoto prefecture. As we were watching NHK News on Saturday morning, showing devastated landscapes, fresh alerts of aftershocks appeared on the screen. This time, Namazu’s chosen playground was in Kyushu islands. Scores of people have been buried alive by Namazu’s foul-play. Scores of people were feared buried alive after two powerful quakes hit Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu that killed at least 37 people (officially).

To add more pain to the wounds a storm is also forecasted in the region. Seismologists predict an eastward movement of the tectonic activities injecting fears in the minds of people living in the Kansai and Kanto regions. Kumamoto earthquake is the biggest in the history of earthquakes in Japan after the Great-East Japan earthquake in 2011. Though there were drills and training to face an impending earthquake given by the school, we did once again insist our kids to be mentally strong to stand in times of difficulties.

Kumamoto is in real trouble now. NHK footages of the collapsed buildings, eroded valleys of Mount Aso and people on shelter houses show only a glimpse of the biggest disaster in the country after 2011. Rain with strong wind has also started in the area threatening the rescue operations. Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake, which struck at 1:25 a.m. Saturday in Kumamoto Prefecture had a magnitude of 7.3 in Richter scale and was originated at a depth of 12 kilometers.

The God Kashima Controls Namazu
The God Kashima Controls Namazu

Reporters of NHK News and News 24 channels have been trying their best to cover the disaster-hit areas. Houses, roads, and railway lines were swept away when huge hillsides collapsed and tons of mud was dislodged by the tremors. Buildings were reduced to rubble taking dozens of lives unaccounted for over a wide area. Some villages in the valleys of Kumamoto were completely cut off by landslides and damage to roads. The NHK news said that at least 1,000 people believed trapped in one of such isolated areas.

The possibility of an eruption of the nearby volcano is adding to the worries and was discussed in the channel. Mount Aso in Kumamoto prefecture is the largest active volcano in Japan. There is one nuclear power plant located in the southwest direction of the epicenter of Saturday’s quake but was unaffected so far.

The demons are restless and hungry. What people can do is to pray to Gods to control these demons. The Japanese myth says the cause of earthquakes is the giant catfish Namazu that lives in the underground. Namazu is one of the monster creatures of Japanese mythology and folklore that brings misfortune or disasters. Namazu moves his tail and shakes the entire earth. Namazu loves to play with his tail and cause trouble to bring disasters. The God Kashima can only control Namazu’s evil doings. People living on the earth are indebted to the God Kashima as he keeps the earth’s surface from moving. Unfortunately, Kashima gets tired sometimes or gets distracted from his duty. By taking this opportunity, Namazu moves a bit and his movements cause the tremors.

Even now the aftershocks are continuing in Kumamoto and its surroundings. If the Gods do not act in time to control the demon, his movements will get transferred to other parts of the country.

O-Hanami Party in Komatsugawa Park with Friends

At around 5 in the evening, we returned home from the nearby Komatsugawa park after an almost 3 hours long Hanami party with friends. Today we had a pleasant O-Hanami party and socialization with around 80 friends. A short break was necessary to re-energize the physical body and therefore, decided to take a nap. We could not extend that nap more than 20 minutes. The feeling that within an hour or so, the day will hide in darkness urged us to wake up and walk to the park. The drive was so powerful to lead our steps to the park where one thousand Sakura trees attired in their latest collection of spring kimono. Variations in pink and white, Sakura flowers literally mesmerized the Komatsugawa park and its visitors today. Today morning was the perfect time to relish the beauty of Cherry blossom.

The mischievous wind was strong on the road that ran parallel to the Arakawa river. It wafted through the trees callously and snatched adorable Sakura flowers. We heard two Japanese children scolding the wind for its ruthlessness and appealed to stop its foul play. Our children were busy in collecting Sakura flowers that were fallen on the ground. They posed for photos with fully bloomed Sakura trees at the background. Though tired, the concern that from tomorrow the wind and rain may cart off that miraculously woven wardrobes of blossom-princess, Konohanasakuya-hime was our motivation to continue the walk. In Japanese mythology, Konohanasakuya-hime木花咲耶姫 also known as Konohananosakuya-hime 木花開耶姫 is the daughter of the mountain God Ohoyamatsumi and the princess of blossom. She is also a symbol of delicate earthly life.

sakurablossomkonohananosakuyahime

Komatsugawa park has one thousand Sakura trees and attracts many visitors from neighboring places, especially during the Hanami-season. In Tokyo, the Komatsugawa park is well known for its presence of Senpon sakura trees. Senpon Sakura means “One thousand Sakura trees”. The Sakura trees along the road adjacent and parallel to the Arakawa river and in the park present an ideal spot for conducting O-hanami parties. There are three Toilet areas spread at three different directions and a parking space that accommodates up to 97 cars. Mostly people use public transportation such as train and bus to reach to the park.

The park is surrounded by apartments in east, west and north sides with the Arakawa river in the south side. The park provides space for recreation activities to the people living in the nearby apartments. People come from neighboring places to the park in the evening to avail the facilities for sports, playground for children. The park has been a meeting place for many of us living in the Ojima and Higashi Ojima area in the weekends.

We walked around the park imbibing the beauty of Sakura flowers and by completing one round it was time to flock back to our nest. The presence of a herniated disc at the lower lumbar spine and more over the cold wind from the riverside compelled me to go home. The spirit was tireless, wishing to spend more time with nature. Children too were not ready to go back home and were unresponsive to our appeal.

The day was retiring, transferring its possessions in the earth and heaven to the night. As we walked away from the park, the clouds in the sky and the clouds of Sakura flowers in park resembled in many ways from that distance. The clouds are evanescent. They appear in the sky, take different forms, move and then disappear, but bring joy to the observer. Sakura flowers too are short-living beauties. They bloom and disappear to give way to the next season and leave sweet memories in our mind. Sakura blossom reminds us the ephemeral nature of life, but contrary to the metaphysical agony, they bring joy all over. Sakura flowers bring tireless spirit, enthusiasm, and hope. That is the reason we await this season and rejoice to appreciate every petal of this nature’s marvel – Sakura!

Is Japan Safe for Foreigners?

It was not the first time when I heard a hate speech in front of the south exit of JR Moto-Yawata station yesterday. I had paid attention in the past too to such venomous talk against foreigners belonging to certain countries. A man cladded in black dress standing in front of a black colored vagon holding a microphone in his hand was the source of the xenophobic talk in Moto Yawata station.

On the way from Sakura, Chiba prefecture, I was reading an article in the online edition of ‘Japan Today’ that boasted the efforts of Japanese authorities to show the measures they have taken to convince foreigners about the safety in Japan. Yes, Japan is safe for foreigners compared to many other countries. I have hundreds of personal experiences in the past eight years to prove beyond doubt that Japan is safe in many ways, not only for locals but for foreigners too.

I slowed down to understand more about the reasons of his talk. He was talking about the claims made by China over the Senkaku islands and people from such countries enjoy their stay here….and he was getting more fire in him as he proceeded. People going out of the station seldom paid attention to his speech. Nobody bothered to pause to hear him. He was full of pride in the past glory of the Japan and expressed his anxiety and concerns over the lost sovereign authority. It seemed to me that the things he uttered would not do any good to Japan. He was just polluting the air.

The Japanese government has also been monitoring the hate speech in the country and had released the results of the survey it conducted. The survey conducted for the first time in Japan analyzed the rallies held by the anti-foreign ultraconservative and nationalist groups in the period between April 2012 until September 2015. The authorities analyzed online videos recorded at the demonstrations, as well as other means, including collecting information on calls for gatherings from websites of xenophobic groups.

Leading Newspapers in Japan carried the survey results that shows violent slogans such as “Get the hell out of Japan” etc, were repeated frequently. Majority of those rallies were held to protest against certain political issues. Some of those issues included the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea and territorial disputes with China and Korea. Two Koreas and China were the main target for the verbal abuse by xenophobic groups.

Yes, it is a fact that incidents such as the one I came across at the south exit of Moto-Yawata station happens here but Japan remains a safe haven for foreigners. Unlike in other countries, such hate speeches rarely takes violent aggressive forms here. Xenophobic rallies are also becoming less common in Japan. So, the conclusion is: Japan is Safe for foreigners and the local people are friendly and helpful to foreigners.

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