Japan – the journey begins

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The flight to Japan is long. 14 hours to be exact. The flight actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Partly because I had a bulkhead seat and had leg room so my attitude was better than average going into it. Also partly because traveling at night I did sleep a bit. The good news is they do “feed you” unlike on domestic flights or even when I flew to Scotland via Iceland in July. They actually “feed you” multiple times – dinner, random sandwich and then dinner again. That is the strange part of flying to Japan, you skip a day. We flew out of JFK at 7pm on Wednesday evening and arrived in Tokyo at 9:00pm on Thursday night so I didn’t really have Thursday daytime. Going into the trip I decided to sleep when it was dark and eat when I was hungry so I just went with it. 🙂

The first night in Japan was at the Hotel Metropolitan Marunouchi. The hotel lobby is on the 27th floor of an office building. The next morning a buffet breakfast was available. You had the choice of Western breakfast – cereal, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, croissants or Japanese breakfast – rice, fish, fruit, omelets (looked more like quiche), soup or salad. And thus the exploring new food combinations began.

After breakfast we ventured next door to catch the bullet train to Sendai. We had been warned that the train stops for 1 minute – 30 seconds for people to get off and 30 seconds for people to get on. No pressure!?! There is no confusion as to where to stand as there are markings on the platform as to where to line up for which car – very orderly. Getting on and off trains with luggage (or even without luggage) is a challenge for me. I get really nervous if there is a “gap” between the train and the platform. I am sure I am going to fall through and become a “movie of the week”. The subway in NYC makes me nervous. When I was in Oxford last month, there was a space so big I really could have fallen through. Thankfully my son-in-law grabbed my bag for me. Luckily there wasn’t a gap in Japan and we all got on the train in a timely, orderly fashion. 🙂

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From Sendai we boarded a charter bus and traveled to the temporary housing units in Gankoya, Soma, Fukushima. We shared our stories, Christmas in summer treats for the children and adults and a meal with the residents. The families at this housing unit are here because of the nuclear radiation spill caused by the earthquake. Most of their homes were not damaged by the earthquake or tsunami but they were within the evacuation area for the radiation. It is not safe for them to live in their homes and they don’t know if they will ever be able to return home. Some people have relocated to totally different areas of the country. Many people’s jobs have also been impacted. An elderly woman’s daughter had owned a farm but has had to find work elsewhere leaving her mother behind at the relocation housing center. She commented “I see her once a week”. So sad.

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I spoke with a young woman whose husband has to travel much further to work because the hospital he worked at has been closed due to the radiation. So she is alone with three small children much of the time. Her youngest daughter was born after the earthquake. And the young woman commented that “she has never seen her home.” 😦

A quick visit to see the mental health center and then a bus ride to Koriyama our home for the next two days. more to come…

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