***Please note that we have decided not to publish our photos of the devastation in Rikuzentakata or Ofunato because it is hard to publish them without full explanation and next to more casual, tourist images of Japan. If you are interested in seeing these images, please contact one of the members of our group.***

We have been in Japan just about a week now and I am so struck by how well our BHS students listen, observe, and take in all the nuances of Japanese traditional and modern culture around them. They have loved both their experiences in the countryside and Tokyo, which could not be more different from each other. They truly are students of Japan and the world!

For me, the most meaningful moment of our trip has been the opportunity to visit the affected area of Rikuzentakata. This past March, Iida-sensei and I watched 100’s of videos online of Japan one-year after the disaster, poured through stories of the tsunami, and picked just 2 or 3 to share with our students on March 11. One of the interviews that struck me and I chose to show was one by a Japanese man, Mr. Konno Fumiaki. It turns out that Mr. Konno was our guide in Rikuzentakata the day we toured his town. I quickly realized I knew his story from somewhere, searched online for him, and shared with him and our students that it was his story, out of the thousands of possible stories that I could have shared, that we had listened to before.

He took us to his former home, and to the spot on the hill where he filmed his video. We visited the Shinto shrine where he stayed the first night. I was overwhelmed with a sense of fate or karma, standing in the same spot he had been on 3.11.

Please check out his story here.

When 3.11 occurred, I felt so far away from Japan. I felt as if I could not stop watching the footage of the disaster and I was overwhelmed with sadness and grief. This was a country I had studied and loved for almost 20 years that was being devastated. I had no idea that just 16 months, I would be standing in the affected areas with students, listening to stories and witnessing such devastation. Getting off the bus at the Town Hall, which had all 4-stories of the building devastated by the water, was deeply powerful. I broke down in tears standing on hallowed ground. The total emptiness of the scenery around me was too much to take in. I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of grief standing in front of the Rikuzentakata Town Hall, or of the joy of meeting Mr. Konno in person.  It was a day filled with so much emotion that I still am having trouble processing all of it.

Frank Re
7/15/2012 05:59:23

Thank you, Eio Sensei.
Frank Re

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Marthajoy Aft
7/15/2012 21:07:19

Thank you for sharing this. M. Aft

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Gail
7/17/2012 17:15:31

WOW what a coincidence that Mr Konno was your guide - what are the chances? Must have been fate. It is hard to comprehend one's town being swept away. Wish the people had some say in how their new town would be built. From his description, I felt the same way that it was like a movie- but not! All of you will be changed by this experience. Thanks for sharing.

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