Tadaima is a Japanese phrase meaning "I'm back", "I've returned" or "I'm home". One year ago today, I found myself stepping off a plane once again at Narita Airport, ready to embark on a whirlwind, three week adventure in which I saw incredible things, met amazing people and made some of the best memories of my entire life.
I wish that reflecting on this day could be a little more upbeat. With great sadness, almost three weeks ago, the world witnessed the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of northern Japan. I had been reluctant to talk about it until now because there were just so many emotions running through me: Fear that worse disasters could occur as the instability at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant held the attention of the international media outlets, keeping watchers on edge that another Chernobyl might be occurring in the wake of two natural disasters. Sadness for the Japanese people, who I had come to know the warmth and kindness of, as they watched their homes and lives become destroyed in minutes, their families and friends lost in the wreckage, the outcome of their futures suddenly uncertain.Worry for my friends within reach of the earthquake zone and the potential field of radiation that could spread in the event of a nuclear meltdown, who still are dealing with daily aftershocks, food shortages, rolling blackouts and minimal panic. (I still am finding it hard to truly put all my thoughts and feelings on everything into words, so please forgive me.)
Many of my relatives who know how strong my love for Japan is sent me messages of concern: asking if any of my friends in Japan are ok, telling me that they are glad that I was not there this year and wondering, do I still want to go to Japan? The answer to that question is yes. In fact, I want to go to Japan more than ever before. (And furthermore, on my first visit to Japan, there was both an earthquake which I could feel small aftershocks from in Tokyo - a completely foreign experience for someone raised on the east coast - and a typhoon.) Watching the events play out and seeing the scenes of both despair and hope, tales of heroism and sadness; I just wanted to grow myself to giant size, walk across the globe, and scoop the entire island of Japan up into my arms and keep everyone safe from further harm.I wanted to instantly be there helping the victims, giving them food and water and warmth and shelter and hope, helping them rebuild their homes and villages, buildings, roads and highways, helping restore the beauty of the Japan that I have come to know and love.
The disaster in Japan was just as emotional for me as September 11th had been almost 10 years before. And both events have strengthened my love for both places (Japan and NYC) which I hold intimately dear in my heart. I remember on September 11th refusing to go to bed, refusing to turn the TV off until they showed footage of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. In the same way, post-earthquake & tsunami, I clung to Twitter alerts, Huffington Post updates, CNN news (and not just because Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta are so damn handsome). It's interesting to think how much technology had changed since then. Can you imagine if September 11th had occurred in the time of Facebook and Twitter and the 24 hour news medium? If someone had tweeted that a plane had struck the WTC? If people had posted status updates that they were ok and safely out of the buildings? YouTube'd videos of the buildings collapsing within minutes? Luckily with these technological advancements, when I woke up at 5 AM on the morning of Friday, March 11th and saw a Huffington Post alert on my iPhone that a 8.9 magnitude Earthquake had struck Japan, I was able to go on Facebook and see that all my friends had updated their statuses to say that they were safe & check my Twitter feed to see that there had also been a massive tsunami following the quake - with retweets from friends relaying news from various other bloggers and media.
So, today I will take this time to reflect on those great times that I had only 365 days ago and know that soon enough, I will be able to say Tadaima once again to a newly rebuilt Japan, a Japan that will only grow stronger and more beautiful from this tragedy, and make many, many more memories.And Japan will reach out to me with open arms, hold me close and say Okaeri! (お帰りなさい)