saluting the Irish and the Japanese

Posted on: Fri, 03/18/2011 - 02:07 By: Tom Swiss

Four years ago, March 17, 2007, I celebrated Irish Pride Day in a bar in Osaka, Japan. It was part of a three month stay in Japan that changed my life -- my forthcoming book, Why Buddha Touched the Earth, grew out of things I wrote on that trip. (Got my first nibble from a literary agent about that book this week, by the way.) I'd been to Japan for shorter stays twice before that, and visited again in December 2007. And I've longed to return.

I only spent a little time in Tokyo, and never got as far north as the area devastated by the recent tsunami and earthquake. But like everyone who's been fortunate enough to spend time in Japan, my attention has been riveted on the horrible situation over there. While most of the people I met are much further south in the Kansai region, I've also met students and teachers in our Tokyo area Seido karate programs. So far as I've heard, all of them are safe, though I'm sure they're all affected by the difficult situation and it's probable that some have lost family or friends in the disaster.

There's a lot of attention focused on the nuclear disaster; there's good ongoing coverage at Mother Jones's "Blue Marble" blog. And there are certainly long term implications for energy policy there. Even if total disaster is avoided and the health effects are small enough to be lost in the statistical noise -- not at all a sure thing at this point -- the resources that could have been used to aid earthquake and tsunami survivors but had to be diverted to prevent a meltdown, are a stark example of the hazards of fission power.

But the other half of this -- the beautiful half, the half I hope more people see -- is the stories of how the people of Japan are dealing with this disaster. No looting or price gouging. Instead, a sense of community and a quiet resilience and forbearance.

And so tonight, as I do this time every year, as an American of partially Irish decent, I salute my Irish ancestors. But also tonight, as a student of Japanese martial and healing arts, I salute my forebearers in those arts, and all the people of Japan.