26 Mar 2011

Japan, Overload.

filed under: journal  :: earthquake  :: japan


The past two weeks plus since March 11 have been unbearingly intense. I've not getting been enough sleep, because I'm still so pent up that I have trouble relaxing enough to really relax. I seem to be sleeping on the shallow surface, always alert to something going on. This has surely affected my mood adversely.

For this and other reasons, I've decided to stop my continuous stream of Twitter updates. I'm going to be very busy for the next two days anyway, until I leave for Japan Monday evening. (I'll be landing in Narita on Tuesday, also in the evening. I gather my airline, Swiss, is flying with a stopover in Hong Kong at the moment. Hey, my first time ever in HK.)

I'm really more comfortable in long-form text (as you might have guessed from my multiple-tweet streams of thought) so you'll see more blog entries than tweets. There are already plenty of other people posting timely updates of news from Japan. (I'm trying to sort my Twitter follows into lists, but it's really slow going due to Twitter being overloaded I think.) And, now many international organizations are monitoring things too. Two organizations you must track if you are interested in what's going on in Japan are the WHO (World Health Organization) and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association).

A lot of people have gotten very angry over this, myself included. I'm not the kind of person who stays angry; my temper flares up, I yell and scream and throw stuff (or go into a deep silent sulk), then 2 hours later (or so) I calm down and look at the damage I've done in dismay. So, if anyone's feelings got hurt because of my statements, I apologize. I especially want to apologize to the expat community in Japan, whether you are still there or have left temporarily. I guess I am rather miffed at the fact that the little attention that has been given to individuals in Japan, that are not direct victims, has been focused primarily on the expat community. I know this is mainly a language issue, plus the readers back home can relate better to a fellow American, French, Canadian, Brit, etc. than a Japanese person. In any case, I let this petty irritation get in the way, and I'm truly sorry. I know that many of you love Japan and consider it your homes.

Like many others, I keep trying to think what I can do best to help Japan. Ultimately, we have to bring our best skills to the table. I am not a reporter or journalist really, but I am totally bilingual and bi-cultural, equally comfortable in Japanese or U.S. (and also to an extent a UK and European) cultural and social contexts. I know the lyrics for the Gilligan's Island theme, as well those for an old Japanese folksong. I can go on for hours about the merits of New York vs. Montreal style bagels as well as whether one curry roux brand is better than another. I'm not bragging; it's just how I grew up.

And, I do happen to think I'm not a bad writer, in English anyway. My Japanese writing needs a bit of brushing up since I don't write as much in it at the moment, but it will get up there. Reading Japanese or conversing in Japanese is never a problem.

During the course of the past two weeks, I've seen just how difficult it is to leap over language and cultural barriers. For example, even in the cut-and-dried world of data tracking, I've seen people on the English/international side agitating over how it was needed to 'get information to the Japanese', while people on the Japanese side getting resentful over the misconception that they didn't know what they were doing or where to look for data and information, and turning their backs on the rest of the world. My few attempts to bridge this gap have been rebuffed, sometimes rudely. I can understand this emotion, since I've felt it myself quite often.

Japan does have a strong will and independent spirit. The Japanese people are extremely capable. But there's no denying that Japan will need international assistance, in many ways, to get back on its feet.

Do keep due diligence on where you get your information from. If nothing else, these past two weeks have shown me how fragile the mass media is as a source of reliable information. Fortunately we live in an age where we can go directly to the source, for unfiltered information. This may be a pivotal event in that regard. We'll see.

In closing: I would like to thank everyone who has been keeping up with my Twitter rants over the past 2 weeks. I will still be tweeting, though not nearly as much. And for sure, I'll be writing. Not sure where yet; here perhaps, or a special blog, or even for other publications. (I will continue writing for The Japan Times, mainly about food, for as long as they'll let me.) But you will continue hearing from me about Japan for sure.

Comments on this post:

Thank you

I know this is belated to the post, but I just wanted to also throw in my thanks for the posting you did. It was greatly appreciated as it helped me work through my stress over the disasters in Japan. I have friends there and I am emotionally vested in Japan, what with my interests and my studies. The media attention here was for the most part sensational, so it was nice to go to your tweets and see you address the same issues, but in a way that was not all DOOM AND HORROR.

Thank you again. I intend on following you more regularly now. Not just the once in a while when I was watching "mainichinihongo".

(TrichstrProcess on Twitter)


Maki-san, arigatou gozaimashita for all you have done since this tragedy unfolded. I have very good friends living in Yokohama and Nagoya, and have been doing my best to provide moral support to my extended circle. I've been a long-time follower of your foodie blogs, but your Twitter feeds have been indispensable to separate the crap news from the actual news coming out of Japan. This is one gaijin who will not stop following you! :-)

Have a wonderful time with your family, and itterasshai! Ganbarre Nippon!!


P.S. How many kilos of omiyage are going with you this time? ;)

Thank You

I would like to thank you too.

The information and translations you tweeted helped keep me sane here in Tokyo while everything was going on. Thanks very much.

Thanks for what you have done so far and enjoy HOng KOng


I hope that you have a safe flight and enjoy your stopover in Hong Kong. One thing that is overlooked in Hong Kong is their some of their local restaurants which are a mix of Hong Kong interpretations of western dishes, local dishes and East Asian favourites. They usually have the ambience of a claustrophobic American diner. My favourite is:

Tsui Wah Restaurant
Ground – 2nd Floor
15-19 Wellington Street
Hong Kong

Pretty sure they are not

Pretty sure they are not going to let us disembark in HK (and besides we have just a bit over and hour stopover there) but I'll keep that in mind when I get there for real ^_^

Thank You!

Hello, Maki - Thank you for all of your tweets/postings these past two weeks. Without them it would have been a lot harder to find much information that I was seeking. I, too, have learned a tremendous amount and you played a part in that. Please enjoy a safe and happy trip to visit your mother and family in Yokohama (also my family's home). Your research & sharing of it was a lifeline for me in a lot of ways. I SO appreciate all of your hard work. I wish you well in your travels-I am very envious & craving udon (and a whole lot of other things-food related, of course)! The people and country of Japan will be in my heart forever-because I am a part of it. It's important to keep the information flowing-front & center for the months and years ahead. We can't forget. (And, agreed, go to the source!) Take care, Yambalamba :)

Thank you.

I've appreciated so much all that you have done on Twitter to keep us informed.

what they said

I too really appreciate all your efforts! Relax, get ready for your trip, and pay no mind to the wankers. Wintersweet/etc is right -- you don't owe your followers anything. If anything, you owe yourself more care than you've been taking.

Thank you!

I've twittered you but wanted to thank you here too. You were truly remarkable in the time and effort in translating the current news into English. My son lives in Fukushima so it was comforting to get up-to-date information. I haven't been getting much sleep as I was getting up catch up on news and I had your tweets set as mobile tweets. As tired as I am, at least I was getting way more sleep than you were for you were constantly updating.

I also enjoyed very much the history lessons that you would write about. I learned a lot.

I hope that you are able to enjoy your stay in Japan. Enjoy the special time and moments that you will spend with your family and create more beautiful memories together.

Thank you!

Thanks for this post, Maki, and for your amazing coverage during these tough weeks. You've been far more reliable than the mainstream media here in the US. Thanks for the links in this post too. Now I'm off to spread the word about this post; I know a lot of people who should read it!
Thanks again,
Megg of PopArtichoke

Hi Maki, I also wanted to

Hi Maki,
I also wanted to thank you for tweeting translations/news updates regarding the crisis in Japan. I hope you are able to get some much-needed rest. Safe journeys!

Thank you Maki!!!

Maki, Thank you so much for your tireless tweeting. You were my source for so much information about the events as well as "history of Japan via tweets" :) Once you set your mom up with skype and all other interweb connections, I hope she doesn't see your tweets about the toilet paper. Ha ha. Thanks so much again for your work and efforts. I too hope that Japan doesn't fall off the front page as there is still so much left to do. Take care, Mary the Food Librarian

Thank you!

Thank you so much for keeping those of us who are still linguistically challenged so well informed. I'm relieved to hear that you're going to give yourself a break. I've been worried about you. I'll be keeping up with your blog as usual, but by all means, if you can find a way to relax a bit, please do!

And your irritation is warranted. I hope people will pay attention to Global Voices and the other folks out there who are doing their best to bring attention to the people in Japan and what they're going through. (GV is doing some really good work.)

Thanks a lot for everything. I feel like we all owe you a lot. You eased my mind a lot just by helping me get access to information quickly while things were unfolding, which I appreciate a lot, and by being someone I could trust to do her best to share good information and change her mind if needed. (You, on the other hand, do NOT owe your Twitter followers a darned thing, no matter how entitled some of them may be acting!)

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