Japanese Language Classes


Orphans of the Tohoku Earthquake


Table of Contents

One and a half week later, we were confronted with another major decision. After a week at our house France, we had grown concerned about the radiation that seemed to plague Japan. The school had announced that it would open the following Tuesday, but as far as we knew, the nuclear situation hadn’t ameliorated. My mom deemed it unsafe to return to Japan. However, school emails repeatedly reassured everyone that Tokyo was safe but my mom stubbornly refused to believe. She went on to emailing other mothers to ask what their plans were. This was a very bad sign, I thought. When mothers get together to talk about things, they tend to about the worst-case scenario. She even refused to believe the news when they announced that the radiation in the air and water wasn’t enough to harm humans. “They said the same thing after Chernobyl,” she insisted. Instead of relying on the news, she decided to investigate on her own. Within two hours, she had called three friends to obtain the information she needed: one was a reporter in Nothern Japan, one was a nuclear engineer, and one was a scientist who specialized in radiation. Even with all the information she acquired, she was still unconvinced. Ignoring the possible health risks, I could only think about the ramifications of missing school. With my AP exams and the ACT test looming closer, I doggedly argued that Tokyo was safe and that we had to return. My argument became even more unreasonable after she called the American School of Paris to ask about enrollment. I had heard rumors about other kids who had enrolled in new schools and weren’t coming back. The thought of permanently moving terrified me. We even considered the virtual learning program my school had proposed, but if the last two weeks had proved anything to me, it was that I wouldn’t get any work done outside of school. The day before we were schedule to leave, my mom finally succumbed and very reluctantly told us to pack.
I grabbed some dinner and joined my family to watch the news. I fell asleep in front of the TV, and woke up during an aftershock. They came often during the next few days. School was cancelled on Monday, and I spent the day finishing up homework, and went to a movie with some friends. When I came home my parents told me they were concerned about the nuclear plants that had been damaged in Fukushima and that we would be leaving on Thursday. I went out to dinner with my sister and around seven my mom told me that she’d moved the flights up to the next day. At eight, she was on the phone again, and my dad pulled me aside to tell me that a nuclear core had been exposed and he was worried about radiation. Plus, aftershocks were still happening, so he was worried that the nuclear reactors would be damaged even more. My mom got off the phone and told us that our flight left at 12:30 and we had an hour to pack.
Luckily, because of my dislike towards rides, I was in a gift shop when the earthquake struck. At first, no one really noticed it, and my friends who were shopping with me laughed, saying I was too paranoid when I pointed out the shaking to them. But as the jolting got stronger, their faces changed into one of fear, and the workers yelled at us to crouch down and cover our heads with our shopping baskets. “What’s going to happen to the people still on the rides?” someone in the crowd asked, voice trembling with fear. I had no words of comfort to give. Soon after, the vibrations stopped, we were told to go to a clearing in front of Cinderella’s castle. At this point, I was a machine doing nothing but obeying instructions. Four and a half hours later, my classmates and I were still waiting outside of the castle, bundled up in plastic bags and sheets, almost like peasants waiting for their turn to be let into the castle. Even though Disneyland workers gave us goods to stay warm, we were still freezing, especially me, who was only wearing a thin jacket. I was grateful for the warmth my Cheshire cat headgear provided.
I probably had a fever about two hours before we got to the elementary school near Disneyland at 10 P.M. As soon as we got there, a couple of students and I were ushered to the infirmary, where they checked our temperatures. The highest was one of the guys, at 39 degrees. Mine was a slightly lower 38 degree fever. Because our only sustenance was kanpan, a hard bread made to last for emergencies, we devoured the snacks we bought as gifts. “You’re really calm despite the fact that you’re pretty sick”, one of my friends commented. Soon after, adults came to give the healthy students cardboard and newspaper to make their beds. Some of the guys halfheartedly laughed “haha this feels like we’re in Homeless Chuugakusei (middle schooler)”, but it soon died out as worries about the rest of our families back in Tokyo overtook the atmosphere. The sick group, including me was moved to a classroom filled with beds side by side. We could not choose where to sleep, and for the first time in my life, I slept next to a guy that happened to be from my class. I couldn’t care less though, as I had bigger problems, such as wondering whether my family was all right, almost freezing to death, and the bed being rock hard. I wished that I hadn't forgotten my cell phone in my room.
On Friday, March 11th, 2011 at around 2:46pm an earthquake of a magnitude of 5 had hit Tokyo. I have lived in Tokyo my whole life; this was the biggest earthquake I have ever felt. Not only did a large earthquake occur but a tsunami had hit northeastern Japan; thousands of people killed and missing. It also hit a nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture. The power plants had cooling problems and two of them had an explosion. My parents were worried and scared. On Saturday evening, my parents decided that we should leave Tokyo for Osaka on Monday since school was canceled. My dad stayed in Tokyo because he had to stay for his job. My grandparents also stayed at their home. They stayed behind because they did not want to move my 96-year-old great grand mother around. My mom, younger brother and I went to our “escape” to Osaka and Hong Kong for the past two weeks while leaving our loved ones and friends behind; thinking god knows what might happen to them and wondering if we will ever come back and see them again.
My mom would call my grandparents and my dad daily to check on them and making sure that they were safe. Most of the time my mom would cry and convince them both to come to Osaka. Every time I heard my mother cry my stomach would release an intense pain. One day, my dad called us before dinner. He told my mom that we should get a flight to Hong Kong now because there may be radiation in Tokyo and the U.S embassy residents can voluntarily evacuate. My mother cried and almost had a break down. We were in a public area and I could not just let her panic. I had to hold her and ask my younger brother to calm her down while we walked to the nearby travel agency. I have never seen my mother so scared and panicked in my life. It is usually my mother who is poised and calm. But in this case I had to grow up a little to keep my mom and younger brother calm.

Maiko, Charlie, Nagisa, Ryo


in Japanese




in English



Haiku

Thomas



Rain is falling
No ordinary rain
It is radioactive rain


雨が降る
ふつうの雨じゃない
ほうしゃのう雨


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The earth shakes
Waves of destruction
Nature consumes us


地球がゆれる
はかいのなみ
自然強すぎる


Screen_shot_2011-06-01_at_9.42.50_AM.png

Haiku

Kelly

きょうふしん
パニックになる
もの静か


Fear is everywhere
Everyone in panic
Quiet and calm

Screen_shot_2011-06-01_at_11.27.33_AM.png




ドキ、ドキドキ
つなみ来ている
いきのびる


Hearts are beating fast
The tsunami is coming
We will all survive




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The devastation
Causes us to look forward
And continue hope


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The sky turning gray
The ground shaking beneath us
And the sudden fear


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One tree stands alone

A symbol that hope remains

The strength of us all




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There is a single pine tree left from the destruction of a forest because of the tsunami in Iwate prefecture.)

English Classes

The Spirit of Japan

Marianne Riley The American School in Japan

Japan is never going to be the same again. Even Tokyo, 300 kilometers away from the epicenter of the earthquake and 200 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, is and will be affected by numerous factors over the next few months, maybe even years. But the way the Japanese reacted to this situation was unmistakably admirable.

Three days after the earthquake hit, I went out to buy some groceries with my mom. It was a small grocery store but packed full of people and it was difficult to get around in the already narrow aisles. As people were in a panic, many shelves were wiped clean of food already. Cup ramen, bread, and rice were the main foods that had vanished from every supermarket and convenient store after the earthquake. Water was valuable as well since it was unknown what might happen to the water system. The lines at the cashier are elongated and we had to wait nearly ten minutes just to purchase our supplies. I couldn’t imagine how little supplies the north had if it was already low in Tokyo.

What we see though, is how the Japanese wear masks of composure and patience although they are terrified in reality. I see on TV how the Japanese wait quietly in lines for hours to get into supermarkets where everyone has a limit on how much they are allowed to buy. It can be days before a person can get gas for his car and even then, there is a maximum of ten liters per vehicle. After Japan’s greatest earthquake and a malicious tsunami, no mayhem broke out. No riots erupted nor vandalism to obtain supplies.

Now with the nuclear reactors down, the nation is low on power and we are told to conserve energy as much as possible. It amazes me to go down into Shibuya at night and see it dark. The flamboyant lights at the famous Shibuya crossing are shut off and many shops are closed by 7pm. And during the day, a number of stores only turn on essential lights throughout the building. For now, their greatest concern is not business but rather the well-being of Japan. At the time of crisis, the country acts as a whole and works for the greater good.

These actions may have been helped by the Japanese ideas of gaman and gambaru. Gaman roughly means to cope with the situation a person is in although it may be unpleasant. Gambaru is to keep going in an optimistic direction and persevere. These are philosophies that the Japanese learn when they are children and will stay with them forever. Perhaps this was something that helped keep order even when Mother Nature unleashed chaos and hope began to dwindle. And step by step we will all carry the country to recovery.

This article was also posted on Student News Action Network For information about becoming a student contributor to SNAN contactmonions@asij.ac.jp


Decisions

Cyrus Ordoobadi The American School in Japan

“Don’t drink that tap water! I want grandchildren!”

It had been two weeks since the disaster had struck Japan, and school was finally starting again. On the bus, my friends and I exchanged our evacuation experiences and our opinions about the situation. Much to our delight, the bus was silent and half full, many of the elementary and middle schoolers had not returned yet. After a few minutes, the excitement died down and jet lag set in. I stared out the window. There was no sign that anything had happened. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. The last two weeks for me were among the most hectic weeks of my life.

The decision to leave Tokyo was not an easy one. My mother wanted to leave as soon as possible. She believed that an unstable nuclear reactor was a nuclear disaster waiting to happen. We received telephone calls from family and friends all around the world endlessly. Some of the calls were from long lost friends we hadn’t heard from in years. The moment I put the phone down, it would start ringing again. Each caller attempted to persuade us to leave the country and come live with them, ignoring visa requirements.

Later that night, my mother announced that we would be leaving the next day. My dad would not come. My dad did not even consider leaving for a second. As CEO of a Japanese company, leaving his company when it needed him the most was like a captain abandoning his ship. “Besides, nothing’s going on. The media is exaggerating just like the SARS epidemic outbreak in 2003 (thousands of foreigners evacuated from China in fear of the over publicized disease).” he said reassuringly

One and a half week later, we were confronted with another major decision. After a week at our house France, we had grown concerned about the radiation that seemed to plague Japan. The school had announced that it would open the following Tuesday, but as far as we knew, the nuclear situation hadn’t ameliorated. My mom deemed it unsafe to return to Japan. However, school emails repeatedly reassured everyone that Tokyo was safe but my mom stubbornly refused to believe. She went on to emailing other mothers to ask what their plans were. This was a very bad sign, I thought. When mothers get together to talk about things, they tend to about the worst-case scenario. She even refused to believe the news when they announced that the radiation in the air and water wasn’t enough to harm humans. “They said the same thing after Chernobyl,” she insisted. Instead of relying on the news, she decided to investigate on her own. Within two hours, she had called three friends to obtain the information she needed: one was a reporter in Nothern Japan, one was a nuclear engineer, and one was a scientist who specialized in radiation. Even with all the information she acquired, she was still unconvinced. Ignoring the possible health risks, I could only think about the ramifications of missing school. With my AP exams and the ACT test looming closer, I doggedly argued that Tokyo was safe and that we had to return. My argument became even more unreasonable after she called the American School of Paris to ask about enrollment. I had heard rumors about other kids who had enrolled in new schools and weren’t coming back. The thought of permanently moving terrified me. We even considered the virtual learning program my school had proposed, but if the last two weeks had proved anything to me, it was that I wouldn’t get any work done outside of school. The day before we were schedule to leave, my mom finally succumbed and very reluctantly told us to pack.

Finally back at school, my grade, class of 2012, has the highest attendance. A school email stated that 72 percent of high school students had come back while middle school and elementary school attendance lingered at around 45 percent. No surprise. The AP exams, scheduled to take place in May, were not going to be postponed. Students and their families had to pick between school and a small dose of radiation and evidently, for the most part, school won.

I write this, my house is being shaken by the 875th earthquake since March 11th. These earthquakes serve as a reminder that our lives could change drastically in a moment.

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This article was also posted on Student News Action Network For information about becoming a student contributor to SNAN contactmonions@asij.ac.jp


My Tohoku Earthquake Experience

McKenzie Miller The American School in Japan

"Everybody get out of the building right now! Right now, run to the front of the school!”

Calm down, Mr. Smith, I thought, it’s just an earthquake. Living in Japan for fourteen years, I’d grown accustomed to earthquakes. When I was little I used to freak out and dive under the nearest table. As the years went on, I learned to just ride them out. Earthquakes didn’t seem like any big deal anymore, so I didn’t see what the fuss was about, but I guess it was just safety protocol. I noticed the other kids in the book locker room leaving, so I casually joined them.

As soon as I left the building, the shaking turned violent. I stumbled over to where other people stood. I grabbed onto my friends for comfort and balance. This wasn't real, it couldn't be. Earthquakes aren't this big, I thought. I looked around in panic, everything was shaking. The flagpoles quivered, bending unnaturally. A bus close to me rocked back and forth, following the shaking of the ground. Accompanied by the screams and panicked chatter of middle schoolers close to me, I heard a low rumble as the high school building before me shook.

This was scary. Like I said, I’m used to earthquakes, but not ones this big. The occasional out-of-the-ordinary medium sized earthquake made for a good story the next day. I'm used to making fun of my school's earthquake drills. This earthquake was like nothing I've felt before. I felt like a doll, cruelly being tossed around. The ground moved unpredictably. I thought that the earth would open up into a chasm beneath me, swallowing me to the burning core.

But that never happened. After what felt like forever, the shaking finally stopped. An unlucky middle school P.E. class was in the pool when the earthquake hit, and dripping wet, they huddled in a shivering circle. I peeled off my coat and handed it into the hands of a thankful seventh grader, crying from fear and cold.

A teacher directed the mob of us to head over to the lower field. I grabbed my friends and joined my fellow classmates in my alphabetical attendance line. Then I remembered my sister. We’d had a disagreement earlier that morning while walking to the bus stop. I scoured the field, looking for a tall blonde eighth grader. Where was Spenser? I spotted her with her friends, amidst a clump of girls on the field. I felt better knowing that she was safe, and I jogged over to her and gave her the biggest hug I could. She reminded me to call my parents.

I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and called my dad. The call didn’t go through. I tried my mom, still nothing. I dialed my home phone, but it didn’t work again. The phone lines were jammed. I tried each one again, but still nothing. Again, it didn’t go through. One more time, and I finally reached my dad. He was safe, on the 27th floor of his building. He said the building was still swaying a little bit, even fifteen minutes after the earthquake. He hadn’t talked to my mom yet, but he would try to call her.

Half an hour later, an aftershock hit. This felt almost as big as the first one, but wasn’t as long. The teachers instructed us to move towards the center of the field, away from the field lights that could possibly fall down. This was less violent, and it felt like I was on a boat, going over waves. This was pretty fluid, but still frightening.

The teachers made an announcement that we were stuck on the field until the roads opened up so we could go home on the buses. We knew it would be a while. Students tried to pass the time and ease the tension by chatting, but of course our families were on our minds. Hardly anybody got through to their parents, and we weren’t allowed in the building, so we didn’t relax. We shared stories about where we were, and used computers and iPhones to look up information about the earthquake. After about an hour and a half, the teachers told us that the buses would be leaving in fifteen minutes, and that it would be a long ride home. They predicted four hours. They were wrong.

There were forty-two kids on my bus. It would have been more if elementary school didn’t have parent teacher conferences that day. Traffic literally inched. After two hours on the bus, we stopped for a bathroom break. When we reached hour five at 9:00, the bus monitors bought food to share at a convenient store. Like during a war, we rationed chocolate bars and bag of chips. After seven hours on the bus, I finally got home at 11:00.

I grabbed some dinner and joined my family to watch the news. I fell asleep in front of the TV, and woke up during an aftershock. They came often during the next few days. School was cancelled on Monday, and I spent the day finishing up homework, and went to a movie with some friends. When I came home my parents told me they were concerned about the nuclear plants that had been damaged in Fukushima and that we would be leaving on Thursday. I went out to dinner with my sister and around seven my mom told me that she’d moved the flights up to the next day. At eight, she was on the phone again, and my dad pulled me aside to tell me that a nuclear core had been exposed and he was worried about radiation. Plus, aftershocks were still happening, so he was worried that the nuclear reactors would be damaged even more. My mom got off the phone and told us that our flight left at 12:30 and we had an hour to pack.

Frustrated and confused, I shoved random clothes into my suitcase. I didn’t know how long I’d be in America, so I tried to pack for all conditions. Four hours later, I was on an international flight to LAX.

I looked out the window and gazed at the city below me. Sections of black were cut out of the lit up lights like missing puzzle pieces. Roaming black outs, a system to save electricity had been implemented by the government. I overheard strangers beside me on the plane share their earthquake stories. I thought about what I’d gone through. This was hard for me, but I knew I was lucky. My family was all safe, and my house was intact. Sadly, that’s more than a lot of Japanese can say. This was definitely an experience I know I’ll never forget.

This article was also posted on Student News Action Network For information about becoming a student contributor to SNAN contactmonions@asij.ac.jp


Earthquake Graduation Trip

Momona Yamagami The American School in Japan

“Class of 2011, you have come through many hardships, starting from when you were in 1st grade, when it rained the day of the sports event. And last Friday, all of you managed to show incredible maturity and kindness during the earthquake….” At this, I could feel everyone rolling their eyes and an “ugh” whispering through the lines of middle schoolers about to graduate. And I couldn’t agree more. Our graduation trip to Disneyland last Friday was a nightmare far worse than any of us could ever think up of, consisting of cold, cold and more cold, not something we wanted to be reminded of anytime soon.

That Friday, I really didn’t want to go to Disneyland. I’ve always had disinclination towards exhilarating rides. I probably should have listened to my instincts instead of my sister who was yapping on and on about how wonderful and seishun, youthful the trip was. “Sis, can you just lend me a jacket? If I’m going to have a bad time at Disney, I might as well look good” The spring jacket she lent me that day was a thin, but good looking one that zipped up at the front. I remember vaguely hoping that it wouldn’t turn cold.

“Both teachers that chaperoned the trip have congratulated you guys for being so calm in the face of the crisis.”

Luckily, because of my dislike towards rides, I was in a gift shop when the earthquake struck. At first, no one really noticed it, and my friends who were shopping with me laughed, saying I was too paranoid when I pointed out the shaking to them. But as the jolting got stronger, their faces changed into one of fear, and the workers yelled at us to crouch down and cover our heads with our shopping baskets. “What’s going to happen to the people still on the rides?” someone in the crowd asked, voice trembling with fear. I had no words of comfort to give. Soon after, the vibrations stopped, we were told to go to a clearing in front of Cinderella’s castle. At this point, I was a machine doing nothing but obeying instructions. Four and a half hours later, my classmates and I were still waiting outside of the castle, bundled up in plastic bags and sheets, almost like peasants waiting for their turn to be let into the castle. Even though Disneyland workers gave us goods to stay warm, we were still freezing, especially me, who was only wearing a thin jacket. I was grateful for the warmth my Cheshire cat headgear provided.

“The amount of comradeship and care you all showed at the elementary school was simply incredible”

I probably had a fever about two hours before we got to the elementary school near Disneyland at 10 P.M. As soon as we got there, a couple of students and I were ushered to the infirmary, where they checked our temperatures. The highest was one of the guys, at 39 degrees. Mine was a slightly lower 38 degree fever. Because our only sustenance was kanpan, a hard bread made to last for emergencies, we devoured the snacks we bought as gifts. “You’re really calm despite the fact that you’re pretty sick”, one of my friends commented. Soon after, adults came to give the healthy students cardboard and newspaper to make their beds. Some of the guys halfheartedly laughed “haha this feels like we’re in Homeless Chuugakusei (middle schooler)”, but it soon died out as worries about the rest of our families back in Tokyo overtook the atmosphere. The sick group, including me was moved to a classroom filled with beds side by side. We could not choose where to sleep, and for the first time in my life, I slept next to a guy that happened to be from my class. I couldn’t care less though, as I had bigger problems, such as wondering whether my family was all right, almost freezing to death, and the bed being rock hard. I wished that I hadn't forgotten my cell phone in my room.

“I am glad that you came back safely, and that all of you are here today to graduate.”

I crashed as soon as I got home at 4 the next afternoon. I was exhausted after getting less than four hours of sleep, and from all the walking we did. None of the trains near Disneyland were working, so we had to walk for one and a half hours to get to the nearest working train station. On Monday when we came back to school, there were radiation warnings on the news, there were no lights or heating at school, but we went anyway. Because it was our last week together before it all ended.

“Congratulations class of 2011! Use the disasters you have experienced throughout your middle school years to fly high and lead Japan to a better world!”

No one ever knew that I was scared out of my wits the entire time. But as we slowly filed out of the gym for the last time, I glanced at my smiling parents who were taking pictures of me, and I felt the last knots of tension in my shoulders finally disappear.

This article was also posted on Student News Action Network For information about becoming a student contributor to SNAN contactmonions@asij.ac.jp


March 11th, 2011: an unforgettable experience of fear

Lisa Takagi The American School in Japan

On Friday, March 11th, 2011 at around 2:46pm an earthquake of a magnitude of 5 had hit Tokyo. I have lived in Tokyo my whole life; this was the biggest earthquake I have ever felt. Not only did a large earthquake occur but a tsunami had hit northeastern Japan; thousands of people killed and missing. It also hit a nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture. The power plants had cooling problems and two of them had an explosion. My parents were worried and scared. On Saturday evening, my parents decided that we should leave Tokyo for Osaka on Monday since school was canceled. My dad stayed in Tokyo because he had to stay for his job. My grandparents also stayed at their home. They stayed behind because they did not want to move my 96-year-old great grand mother around. My mom, younger brother and I went to our “escape” to Osaka and Hong Kong for the past two weeks while leaving our loved ones and friends behind; thinking god knows what might happen to them and wondering if we will ever come back and see them again.

During the week we stayed in Osaka, the situation had increasingly got intense. The nuclear power plants had cooling problems. After that the Electricity Company “Tokyo Denryoku” had announced that they would issue blackouts throughout Tokyo. While holding our breath my mom, younger brother and I watched the news for hours and hours and day to day.

My mom would call my grandparents and my dad daily to check on them and making sure that they were safe. Most of the time my mom would cry and convince them both to come to Osaka. Every time I heard my mother cry my stomach would release an intense pain. One day, my dad called us before dinner. He told my mom that we should get a flight to Hong Kong now because there may be radiation in Tokyo and the U.S embassy residents can voluntarily evacuate. My mother cried and almost had a break down. We were in a public area and I could not just let her panic. I had to hold her and ask my younger brother to calm her down while we walked to the nearby travel agency. I have never seen my mother so scared and panicked in my life. It is usually my mother who is poised and calm. But in this case I had to grow up a little to keep my mom and younger brother calm.

Once we got to the travel agency, my mother immediately ask for a flight between Osaka and Hong Kong. The travel agency man asked her about the price, and she abruptly said she did not care. While her hands shaking she said, “I don’t care about the price, please just give my family a flight to Hong Kong”. After we left the travel agency, I noticed the travel agency man’s hands were shaking. I think my mom scared her with her anxiety and fear.

Two days before we were due to go to Hong Kong; my dad had come to Osaka to set up a temporary office. He also brought my cat due to closed pet hotels in Tokyo. My mom, younger brother and I came to pick him up at the bullet train station and our hearts were filled with joy to see my dad and our cat. After we had left for Hong Kong, the situation started to get better and we were having a good time compared to Osaka. We knew things were going to be ok and that we will see our friends and loved ones soon. But sometimes, when I am in bed or sitting down, I feel like there is an earthquake. I had gone used to the many aftershocks in Tokyo. Even now on, I feel like my there is in earthquake.

This earthquake has showed me how people react to a natural disaster and how it will change them. I’ve seen a side of adults that I have never seen before. I have felt the fear of never seeing my family or friends again.

This article was also posted on Student News Action Network For information about becoming a student contributor to SNAN contactmonions@asij.ac.jp