Yumiko Tanaka Photography 

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"The Precious Daily Life in Japan"


On March 11, 2011, the earthquake occurred. I was sitting at the reception desk in the gallery where I work – in Nakano-ward, Tokyo. The mild afternoon sunlight was shining inthrough the window. Several visitors were looking around the gallery. It had been peaceful and quiet. At 2:46 p.m. there came a sudden violent quake. I thought it was one of the minor earthquakes that we occasionally have. But the quakes were getting bigger. Books began to jump out of the shelves and get scattered around the floor. Though I thought of running out of the building for safety’s sake, I could do nothing but stand helplessly where I was until these long violent shocks subsided. Subsequently the aftershocks continued, and the train services were badly interrupted. It was the next day that I finally came back home in Kawasaki-city, Kanagawa Prefecture. I learned about the disaster-stricken area on the news. I was shocked by the unprecedented extent of the damage. The horror of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster left me speechless. Soon food and water were gone from the stores. The electric power company launched the planned blackouts due to the power shortage. A while ago, people did live a peaceful life. But now it was gone. Many of us were deprived of our ordinary life all too soon. But the condition of the disaster area was far worse, and its severity no words could describe. How precious it is to be able to live an ordinary life, this Great East Japan Earthquake led me to realize more keenly than before.

My particular feeling toward the ordinary life above has its roots in the circumstances which led to some of my relatives’ young death long ago. Both my paternal and maternal uncles went to the front in the Pacific War, never to return. In the 32nd year of Showa (1957), the heavy rain storm struck Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, resulting in the deadly flash floods that swept through the city and destroyed a large number of houses. Many people lost their lives. So did my aunt and her three little children – my cousins. Luckily my father was away from home and escaped death. But he was left with no home, no family. My mother was one of the repatriates from Manchuria after the war. She and her family all came home alive except for the uncle who went to fight. But they lost their entire fortune. Shortly after, my father married my mother, and my brother and I were born.

Those who have lost their own houses or families, even their own lives, they are not just some other people who are unfortunate, whose tragedy we have little to do with. The similar tragedy can happen to any of us. What is worse still, it happens out of the blue. Besides disaster, many things can deprive us of our ordinary life. These are, for example, an accident, an illness, the death of a friend or family member, a trouble in personal relationships and unemployment. Any of them can happen to us any day. That is why we cannot stress the importance of our usual daily life too much. I never met those relatives of mine – uncles, aunt, and cousins, for they all passed away before I was born. However, what happened to them always stays in the back of my head and has a certain influence on my life. It teaches me the preciousness of our daily life.
That is their legacy.

March, 2012       
Yumiko Tanaka   
(Translated into English by Hisato Kawata)