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Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

The Wave In the Harbor

Tsunami—the wave in the harbor. Isn’t that curious and amazing…that the kanji for such a devastating event is 津浪, “wave in the harbor”?

We don’t normally visualize a wave being thirty feet high, curling above us—tall as a skyscraper—smashing down on us and obliterating everything beneath it. The waves I experienced at the beaches in Los Angeles before the war [World War II] were benign and soothing. They caressed my body with bubbles and seaweed. They foamed up on my toes and with a gentle swoop, sucked the breaking edges back into the water.

When I recall those Sundays at the beach, the waves posed no parents kept an eye on the sky (“Was it threatening?” “Was it going to rain?”) and canceled the outing if it portended foul weather. “Oh, we’ll visit the Koizumi’s instead” and off we’d go to see the family with the older daughter who would write greetings for me in flowing hiragana in my autograph book. What happened to that book?

What happened to all the books caught in the menacing storm in Fukushima last month? I watched a video of the advance of the crashing waves into the streets, forcing cars, telephone poles, furniture—anything in its path—engulfing it all. Then I wondered about those books, the diaries, love letters, newspapers, magazines…all those typed and handwritten missives. Have they disappeared? Are they gone forever?

But, no, all these words, all these sentences emerged from the brains of people and those who survived, those of us who survived, can write on. We can continue to write. We will write poems and stories and letters. We will write in the spirit of those who perished in the terrible waves. We will write because there is eternal hope and the whole world is praying for the people of Fukushima and Japan.

This is my prayer, written from my heart. Only a few sentences. May they bring peace and comfort to all the stricken, the survivors, and the helping angels.

© 2011 Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey


About this series

In Japanese, kizuna means strong emotional bonds.

This series shares stories about Nikkei individual and/or community reaction and perspectives on the Great Tohoku Kanto earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the resulting tsunami and other impacts—either about supporting relief efforts or how what has happened has affected them and their feeling of connection to Japan.

If you would like to share your reactions, please see the “Submit an Article” page for general submission guidelines. We welcome submissions in English, Japanese, Spanish, and/or Portuguese, and are seeking diverse stories from around the world.

We hope that these stories bring some comfort to those affected in Japan and around the world, and that this will become like a time capsule of responses and perspectives from our global Nima-kai community for the future.

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There are many organizations and relief funds established around the world providing support for Japan. Follow us on Twitter @discovernikkei for info on Nikkei relief efforts, or check the Events section. If you’re posting a Japan relief fundraising event, please add the tag “JPquake2011” to make it appear on the list of earthquake relief events.