Unforgettable Scenes From Japan’s Tsunami

March 9, 2012 by staff 

Unforgettable Scenes From Japan’s Tsunami, March 11 marks the one-year anniversary of the largest Japanese catastrophe since World War II. The unforgettable triple disaster was triggered by the 9.0-magnitude Great East Japan earthquake, resulting in a devastating tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the effects of which are still being felt today.

Three months after the earthquake, we set out for Tokyo with Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams, who has a strong affinity for Japanese culture and has been strongly involved in Japan’s music and fashion scenes for the last decade. We wanted to see how the young population of this iconic city was coping with the aftermath and ongoing elements of the crisis.

What was most memorable in the capital was a darkened Shibuya Crosswalk, arguably the most famous crosswalk in the world, and a symbol of Tokyo the same way Times Square is to New York or Piccadilly Circus to London. To see it with all the lights and advertisements and video screens turned off was profoundly unsettling, and immediately recalled the eerie quiet of lower Manhattan in the weeks after September 11. The rolling blackouts and voluntary power outages to conserve energy added to an atmosphere of nervous desolation already fostered by the flight of foreigners to their home countries and native Japanese further south, as worried Tokyo residents tried to come to terms with the scope of the disaster and fear of the very air around them.

At the same time, the city kept going. The spirit of post-3/11 Japan and the resilience and stoicism of its citizens has drawn comparisons to the reaction of New Yorkers and DC residents in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but it is also a testament to the more celebrated aspects of Japan’s national character.

The Japanese people live in one of the most volatile regions in the world. The country’s islands are situated on the westernmost edge of the Ring of Fire and are regularly subjected to earthquakes, storms, and floods. The threat of calamity and exposure to the violence of nature is part of the daily fabric of Japanese life. Disaster is ingrained in the national psyche and has been an object of consistent cultural fixation — it’s in their art, movies, and literature, and has been for centuries.

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