Thursday, April 28, 2011


When friends die, it rips our heart and we mourn and heal. As an adult we learn that it's a part of life and accept the fact that nature plays an important role. Eventually, some people find peace in the memories, or in a god or deity in which they believe, but what happens when you're an elementary school child and 70% of your classmates and teachers die?

School that lost 70% of its pupils mourns

Buddhist rites: Tohoku marks 49th day since thousands died

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi Pref. — An elementary school in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, held a memorial service Thursday for the 70 percent of its students lost in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami — marking in Buddhist terms the 49th day since death when the souls of the departed enter another world.

News photo
New life: Cherry blossoms come into bloom along the Okawa River in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, on Thursday near a house destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. KYODO PHOT
The photos of the 84 victims — 74 children and 10 teachers — from the city-run Okawa Elementary School were displayed in honor of the dead at the ceremony, which had to be held at another school due to building damage. Okawa Elementary School started a new academic year there on April 21.

The altar placed inside the school gym was decorated with pink and white flowers, and photos of the smiling children were arranged by grade.

Attendees included the families of the victims as well as members of the Self-Defense Forces, police and fire departments who searched for them.

One of the attendees, Nao Takahashi, 73, from Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, lost two young relatives in the disaster, a girl in the second grade and the other in the fourth.

"Although I wasn't feeling very strongly that (their deaths) are real, looking at their portraits displayed like that." she said, her words tailing off. "I want them to get along well in heaven."

Many pupils and school staff members perished in the tsunami that rushed upstream along a local river while they were fleeing to higher ground from Okawa Elementary School, which was located about 5 km from the mouth of the river.

Of the 108 children at the school, 67 were confirmed dead as of Wednesday morning with seven still missing. Of the 13 schoolteachers and others, nine were killed and one was still missing.

Meanwhile, Ground Self-Defense Force troops mounted an intensive search on the Miyagi coast on the same day to look for those still missing, many of them believed to have been washed away by the waves.

Counting March 11, Thursday marked the 49th day since the disaster. Buddhist services are normally held to mark the day in the belief that it is when the souls of the dead can depart for another world.

After the memorial service, some families headed to Okawa Elementary School, where they lost their children.

At the school, Takao Karino, 42, and his wife, Akemi, 42, were informed that their 12-year-old daughter's body had been found under rubble, and they rushed to see their daughter.

"It would be strange to say that I'm glad to hear that, but she was finally found on the 49th day since the disaster. She may have been waiting for us," Karino said with tears.

"I could easily recognize that it was her when I saw her. We can finally take her home," Akemi said as she wiped away her tears with her handkerchief.

Throughout Thursday, countless services were held at temples and graveyards in the region battered by the tsunami, including Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

At a temple in the town of Watari, Miyagi Prefecture, about 200 grieving family members and others gathered to pray for those who have been buried on the premises on a temporary basis.

"It still feels as if this isn't real," said Ayako Suzuki, 56, who lost her mother in the tsunami. "I want to hold a funeral service for her soon" so she can be cremated, she added.

The tally of dead from the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami stood at 14,564 in 12 prefectures as of Thursday morning, with 11,356 missing in six prefectures, according to the National Police Agency.
The sad thing about Japan is our culture. The passing of schoolmates can be answered as: shikata ga nai or it cannot be helped. so then gaman (endure). How can a  child endure the hardship that even adults have a hard time accepting? When  a best friend passes on, life can be tough. Will suicide be rampant? Probably not, but depression will be at an all-time high unfortunately and illness from Fukushima will also be a problem. So what can one do? Absolutely nothing, but they will need to gaman...for how long? 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Model Minority Myth is rearing its ugly head

Another earthquake shook Japan, this time according to the USGS, it was on land at 7.1. Thank goodness there were no tsunami, as one was enough. But just milling around in Los Angeles or on the Internet, I've come to notice that though few, the religious nut cases are saying Jeebus did this because Japanese are not Christians. I guess when Glenn Beck made that comment, the Teabaggers emulated him. But there is another form of racism/stereotype and I've noticed that a few progressives and liberals fell into that trap...inadvertently.

In the 80s when Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone was leading Japan, he made a comment: "intellectual level" of Americans was below that of Japanese because of "people like blacks, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans." But that didn't stop there. The conservatives here were then pitting Asians against other minorities by calling us the "model minority" And Detroit auto worker Vincent Chen was murdered because his killers thought he was Japanese, Therefore, I and hundreds-of-thousands Hispanic, black, Asian, native Americans and white students protested this because as Asian Americans, we were not considered under-represented in the workforce or schools and we were denied entry into public institutions.

So fast forward to Japan, it appears that the media, websites and a very very few liberals and progressives are promoting the model minority myth. The myth that we are smart and/or rich and Japan can dig its way out of this. The problem with that? The same thing can be said about Asian Americans and the discrimination will rear its ugly head. I hope people listen Mike because, Asians aren't what they seem to be as they struggle like anyone else. We are not the model minority.