Archive for April 24th, 2011

Going beyond your safe zone

On Friday night, I was standing in front of Hombu talking to a visiting sempai about the disaster. My sempai asked me what I thought about the safety of people coming to train, and I outright said, “No, it’s not safe.” To my surprise, my sempai agreed with me, and went on to say that, before you come here, you have to educate yourself and be aware of the risks.

Saturday evening, I was catching up with my sempai at the sushi shop in Kashiwa’s front street, and while we were deep in conversation, we didn’t notice the 6.0 aftershock that rocked the area. The effect was slight enough at ground level that we didn’t notice it, but earlier in the day, at Hombu, I noticed a sensation like a buzz in my feet, and looked up to see the framed pictures above the kamidana move slightly. We’ve been warned about aftershocks, and we must be vigilant as we may see quakes as big as magnitude 7.0.

Now, some people think it is exciting to experience an aftershock of the Tohoku earthquake, but each time I feel one, I realize that we are far from the epicenter where people’s lives are in danger, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant workers’ efforts may be interrupted or even set back. The big April 11th aftershock, a 7.0 magnitude quake,  killed some people near Sendai. At that time I was on a Kashiwa-bound bus, stopped at a traffic light, when the bus began to rock side to side, and then the main force of the quake struck, and the ground seemed to roll for a long time. My first thought was of the people of Sendai City who were remembering the one month anniversary of the quake and now living through this major aftershock. I nearly cried, knowing that so many people grieving were experiencing yet another violent shake.

And then there is the nuclear disaster. Yes, it is a horrible disaster, with consequences that will last for lifetimes. The 20 kilometer no-go zone has been delared around the Fukushima plant, and radioactive water was dumped in the sea. The economic and evironmental consequences of the nuclear disaster are not entirely known, but all the same, devastaing.

But I think that the reality of environmental radiation has been overblown for areas outside the Fukushima area under the conditions we experience now. You can see Tokyo’s low radiation, measured in microsieverts indicated here on the Japan Times website, and you can read about water radioactivity here. None of this stuff is threatening right now. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Fukushima reator shutdown plans will take six to nine months, and I can’t tell if those projections take into account possible major aftershocks or tsunamis. Things could change.

So, no, it isn’t safe here. Not for a while, anyway, as the aftershocks subside, the economic consequences of the disaster recovery are realized, and the nuclear issue continues.

When we wrapped up training on Saturday, Oguri Sensei turned to me and said that we human beings tend to go where it is safe, operate within known limits, and do things that we find we are comfortable with. He said that we don’t need to train things we already know; we need to train on things we don’t know well, and go places we don’t feel comfortable going. He says please practice what you are not good at, what feels uncomfortable.

Isn’t this where discovery happens, where people find answers to what they don’t know, by going into the unknown out of a need to push limits?

Keep going.

To keep up to date on the aftermath of the disaster, see Japan’s Times earthquake news updates and watch NHK World English.

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