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I am a freelance writer for newspapers,magazines as well as a journalist for TV.
I am from Tokyo, Japan and have been living in Los Angeles since 1990.

#167- What I Learned from the Japan Disaster

Time goes by fast. March 11th is coming soon…

Last summer, I wrote an essay about Japan. I would like to share my essay with you.


What I Learned from the Japan Disaster
by Yoko Fujimoto
August 3, 2011

One sunny winter day in late 2009, I was on the way to L.A.X. to visit my family in Tokyo, Japan, and I was talking with a taxi driver. “Are you Japanese?”, “Yes, I am. How about you? Where are you from?”, “I am from Iran. Are you married?”, “No, I am not”, we talked about our lives in U.S.A. for a while. As he mentioned how Japanese women are nice, I said to him, “I hate Japan and I love America, that’s why I am living in L.A.”, suddenly he sounded very upset and said to me, “Don’t talk like that about your own country. You should respect your country.” I thought that he was rude and he shouldn’t talk like a Japanese man (Like “I am always right” attitude), because he doesn’t know about me, and I am a customer (In Japan, the customer is always right). So, I said to him, “Oh, you don’t understand how I feel as a Japanese woman. There is a selfish men’s world in Japan, so it’s very uncomfortable to live in Japan as a strong woman like me. I love America. Everyone has own freedom and own taste for life. Everyone enjoys life in U.S.A.” At the end of our conversation, “Happy Holidays and A Happy New Year” we said to each other, and I gave him a good tip and thanked him for our memorable conversation.

Every winter I visit my family in Japan for one month, but I didn’t visit Japan last winter. Instead of my vacation in Japan, I wrote a novel in my apartment in Los Angeles. My New Year’s resolution for 2011 is that I write two novels in Japanese and one essay in English. My first novel is supposed to be a cheering story for Japanese women. My hope is that most of Japanese women will be free from the men’s world and live for themselves, not for a man, so I would like to bring happiness, positive energy and a strong Japanese woman’s voice to many Japanese women by my writings. My first essay was supposed to be a love letter for U.S.A. and I was choosing “Dear America” as a title of the essay. About how much I appreciate U.S.A. and how much I love U.S.A., I wanted to write a thank you note for U.S.A., because U.S. government gave me a permanent permission to live in U.S.A. But, I had changed my plan about the essay. Now, my first essay is about Japan.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami occurred on March 11th, 2011 at 2:46pm local time in Japan. CNN TV news showed the tragedy footage. The powerful tsunami was rushing across fields. Some trains, many people, many cars, many ships, many houses, many buildings and many things were swept away. Smoke was pouring from buildings and an oil tank was burning. Since this Japan disaster has happened, many things in Japan have changed. One shake or one wave changed many people’s lives, I strongly have been thinking that the life might change in a second and life is too short.

When I found out that many Japanese men were working hard and having their risks of their lives at the Fukushima nuclear plant, I felt so bad about how much I hated Japanese men’s world. I felt so guilty about my thought and I was very sad about it. The taxi driver was right. I should respect my country. I cried for many days with this guilty thought.

Buddhism believes that the forty nine days after death is a period when the soul wanders between this world and the next (heaven), and Japanese customs have a special memorial service held on the forty ninth day after a person’s death. I don’t have a religion, but I wanted to respect my country, so I was alone at home in L.A. for 49 days as a mourning period. And I forgave myself for my guilty thought.

People always show their true colors in such a situation like this. My mother is always my hero, she always tells me that it’s important to be independent, and she always reminds me that everyone has own color and need to create a happy life by ourselves. Yes, she showed me her true color at this time. One day after the disaster, I cried on the phone during the conversation with my mother who lives in Tokyo, Japan. I asked her, “I heard that the radiation reached around 20 times normal levels in Tokyo…please escape from Tokyo and stay with me in L.A.”, but she said to me, “Thank you for asking, but I can’t be selfish. Japanese government and many people are working hard for this disaster, and many people have been patient, so I can’t leave these people behind. Please don’t worry about us, we are okay. Please don’t cry, smile please.” I felt so ashamed of my behavior which I asked my mother to come to L.A. to escape from the nuclear scare of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

My mother is a wonderful Japanese woman, and she has good Japanese spirit. I love my mother more than ever. My mother’s words made my mind to love Japan again.

“I know we are going to have some lucky things soon”, 98 years old Japanese man who lost everything from this disaster, and was staying in the shelter in Miyagi, Japan said to a TV reporter on NHK TV news. He had a nice smile. The other Japanese man who is around 80 years old in the same shelter said, “I think that smile is the key of happiness.” His wife said, “We have an experience of the war, so we know how to be patient.”

Most of Japanese people are the same like my mother. They always think of other people and they have a beautiful thoughtful mind. No matter what happens in Japan, most of Japanese people are always classy, strong, and humble to accept what they have for their lives and appreciate it. Mother Nature is a God to Japanese people. Full-bloomed cherry blossoms, blue sea of midsummer, mountains of autumn tint, and Mt. Fuji with snow make Japanese people happy, and typhoon, flood, volcanic eruption, earthquake, and tsunami make them strong. Japan is a beautiful country, and Japanese people have a beautiful human behavior and mind. I really feel that I am proud of being a Japanese woman. I love Japan.

Of course, I still love America. Every country has the good side and the bad side, every country is different and every country is wonderful. Everyone has the good side and the bad side, everyone is different and everyone is wonderful. Most important thing is that we feel love and happiness of our lives and just enjoy every moment. What I learned from this Japan disaster is, “One shake or one wave might change our lives, so one love, one thought, or one word makes our lives happy”. Life is beautiful.


I really think that life is beautiful. Happy everyday :)

By Yoko Fujimoto
Los Angeles
February 22, 2012
Copyright © 2012 Yoko Fujimoto

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Here is my translation of my column into English from Japanese.
Enjoy :)

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