DISCLAIMER FROM THE TRANSLATOR: While I speak both English and Japanese fluently, I know nothing about medicine. These are rough translations made through tears (i.e., sometimes while bawling). Please take all medical details in particular with a grain of salt. These translations have not been proofread and will be revised on a later date.

Please note that I am NOT in contact with the original author, who has given general permission for translation in one of her entries.

I would appreciate it if everyone can refrain from posting these entries elsewhere and to share this address <http://jkts-english.blogspot.com> instead, as I will be making revisions to each entry directly (addresses for individual entries may change if I revise their titles).



Start reading here: 1) To the affected areas.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

To a winter different than usual.

[December 2, 2011 3:07PM]

The other day, [my team and I] were finally able to submit a report on our medical assistance in the disaster sites over the past year, as well as the issues we will be facing from now on and specific cases that need the government’s attention to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
We need to have them build as many new hospitals and clinics in the affected areas as possible, ideally a clinic inside each temporary housing complex, but now that the government is tending to direct its attention to international issues, I’m not sure how much of a change we can make.  Although united as one, it is, after all, nothing more than the opinion of a small medical assistance team.
I hope our opinion will bear fruit.

Luna’s aunt in Rikuzen-Takata has let me know that Luna is now living far away, with relatives in the Kansai region.
I heard Luna has been feeling down lately, because she lost one of the dolls that her mother risked her life to save, knowing that she treasured them so much.

I heard about the “100 Santas” project, so I asked Luna’s aunt to invite her to come and stay with her in Rikuzen-Takata for Christmas, and to keep the Santa project a secret from her.  I hope Luna will be able to receive something new and precious from Santa, after losing that little doll, and I hope more than anything else that she will be able to laugh and smile from the bottom of her heart.

I hope that all those children who stepped outside of the evacuation site at the gymnasium and into the cold on that one night after the earthquake when the moon and stars were shining brightly in the sky, those children who lost their family and friends—Yu, who was crying that “That picture book we just got said that everyone who dies becomes a star in the sky.  That star shining over there is Grandpa,” and Jun and the other kids who said “When we grow up, we’ll fly to the stars on an airplane and bring everyone home, and we’ll build houses that won’t be washed away in tsunamis,” and made the adults cry—I wish they could all have smiles on their faces [this Christmas].

I’ll be traveling to provide medical assistance at some clinics in Rikuzen-Takata around that time, so I’m looking forward to seeing Luna and everyone from the evacuation site.

It has been growing colder and colder every day, but we will work harder than ever to do all those things that we can still do, to help keep the disaster from being forgotten.

The kinds of assistance and other things in need have been changing since those days right after the earthquake.

Just because this year is about to end, it doesn’t mean we can press a reset button and pretend 3.11 never happened.

I hope to go on finding even the smallest things than can give [us all] warm feelings, or make [us] smile.

Translated June 5, 2012.
Original entry in Japanese: いつもと違う冬に。

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

For my new friends in Minamisanriku-cho.

[October 15, 2011 6:24PM]

I went to Minamisanriku in the end of September to perform health check-ups and to help with night shifts at a hospital.  The role of medical workers seems to have changed quite a bit from the period right after the earthquake and now.
When I climbed up an embankment at Minamisanriku and looked across the landscape, there was nothing but an infinite expanse of vacant land and some piles of rubble here and there.
I also passed by a government building where many staff fell victim to the disaster.  It was much larger than it appeared on TV, so large that you really have to look up at it.

There were very many people who requested check-ups, but they went on without a hitch.  I also made rounds in temporary housing and provided check-ups and other assistance.  It seems like the general environment has improved since the period immediately after the disaster, but there are many, many problems ahead of us, such as improvements that need to be made for babies and the elderly to live comfortably through the winter, or the need to provide vaccination for free in the affected areas.
I am currently back in Tokyo, working on a report on these problems to send to the government.

During this visit, I met a woman my own age who lost her husband, her child(ren), her parents, her sister and her brother-in-law, her house, her workplace, her coworkers, everything—all at once in just a single instance on 3.11.
She said to me that “Even now, after half a year and with so many people giving me encouragement, I still can’t put myself in a positive mindset.  Right now, I’m just living because I have no choice.  I want to hurry up and join them in the afterlife, but everyone left so much work for me—Buddhist ceremonies for the first anniversary of their death, the third anniversary of their death, and so on, and as long as I keep on taking care of these duties, I’ll be able to meet them on the other side some day.  But I wonder why I didn’t die along with them.  It’s my biggest regret.”
Her devastation is far beyond the imagination of someone like myself who is living such a normal and carefree life.  I was at a loss for words as she stared at her cell phone and cried, saying that “Most of the people in my address book are dead.”
As I sat beside her, rubbing her back, the words that I was finally able to find were, “Let’s be friends!”  I had her add my contact information to her cell phone that had been stopped in time, and we made a little promise for her to visit me any time, if she ever feels like it.  I was truly happy to see her smile, even just for a split second.

I always thought that the people at the disaster site were so strong, but I understand now that it’s because they need to plant their feet firmly on the ground in order to keep themselves from being crushed by a reality beyond their control.  But keeping up the fight is terribly tiring, and I feel that we are entering a period when ‘people’ or ‘music’ or ‘books’ or ‘pets’ or ‘memories’ that can provide emotional support are especially important.
It’s not easy to support someone, but I’m sure there are things that can be communicated through even the simplest of words and actions, and this experience has made me want to be someone who supports and is supported by someone else.
As someone who is broken easily, even by the tiniest things, I will surely have much to learn from my encounter with these people who have the courage to keep looking straight ahead even in the midst of such deep sadness and devastation.
And given all this, I have renewed my intent to keep on doing whatever I can, in the form of medical assistance.  For a restoration to come even just a day earlier, and for myself.

The people of Minamisanriku-cho said this to me:
“The hardest part of all this is that such a tragic disaster is gradually being forgotten.”

Winter is coming soon.  There must be much, much more that we could do.

By the way: I enjoyed the Dreams Come True concert very much!!
They opened the show with “Nando demo”, and as soon as I heard its first notes, I was crying so hard that all my make-up came off.  My memories of those days when that song gave me the courage to go on, [as I worked in the disaster site] with rolled-up sleeves, came back to me with intense clarity.
I remembered those nights when there were so many things that we couldn’t do anything about, no matter how hard we worked; how I would keep on telling myself that something might change tomorrow, that a miracle might occur, whenever I was about to give up; those drivers who transported supplies and medical equipment without a wink of sleep; all those SDF troops who were working so, so hard that I wish we could give every single one of them a People’s Honor Award; all my friends and family who supported me; and all the people in Rikuzen-Takata whose hearts are still connected with mine.  I cried so much that the people around me started worrying.
I felt so encouraged by all these wonderful songs, and I cried and I smiled, and I was so full of gratitude for how I am so fortunate to be able to come to this concert, that it isn’t something to be taken for granted.

Translated June 5, 2012.
Original entry in Japanese: 南三陸町で出会った友よ。

Half a year.

[September 17, 2011 9:23PM]

In the midst of these terribly hot last days of Summer, half a year has passed since the earthquake.
Since then, I have returned to the basics and studied disaster medical care all over again, and I am spending my days doing research and doing clinical work with the intent of becoming certified in sanitation and medical care for contagious diseases, alongside with concerns about my work environment.

I asked a friend of mine who was providing medical aid as a nurse in Kesennuma on September 11, right at the half-year mark, what the situation is like [in the affected areas].
“Half a year has passed; has it passed quickly, or has it felt like a long time?”
My friend’s response was that “It’s felt long.  It feels long because the situation still hasn’t improved.
Even now, as media coverage and features [about the disaster and its aftereffects] have decreased, there are still many, many people who are facing reality and working hard to deal with the situation, and I believe it will be much longer before all the feelings hurt are healed.
I saw a feature on the ‘sunflower field of hope’ in Rikuzen-Takata on the news the other day, and my tears wouldn’t stop at the sight of the landscape gradually being restored, the people who have done so much for me in those days looking lively, and children the same age as Luna planting sunflower seeds in this field.
Back home, my grandmother plants sunflowers every year, and we have plenty of seeds, some of which we were able to send to Rikuzen-Takata for this project.  When I think of the fact that some of the sunflowers blooming in that field are connected to my family, it feels as though my hometown and my second home of Rikuzen-Takata have come together, and I am terribly happy about this.
I have plans to visit the affected areas again this month, to Minamisanriku for just a few days.  My purposes for visiting have changed as well; I will be visiting in order to give medical check-ups and to get a better idea of the kinds of medical care that are lacking at this point.
It has also been decided that I will also be going to Fukushima to give check-ups there during this year.  I love Fukushima Prefecture, and I would like to study about the accurate notion of radioactivity, so that I can help as much as I can.
—I guess reporting on what I’ve been up to makes me sound like a dead-serious person who is studying all the time, but I’ve also been enjoying my hobbies and going out for a change, making my parents worry sometimes.

Tomorrow, I will be going to a Dreams Come True concert!!
I hope they’ll play that song “Nando demo” that gave me the courage to go on back in those days.  I’ll definitely cry.
Even though I will be listening to the song with different feelings from my feelings back then, it’ll be the same thing in the sense that it will give me the courage to go on.
I’m sure I will be thinking of all my loved ones, everyone from back in those days, and my family, but the tears I will shed will be clear ones!

Translated June 5, 2012.
Original entry in Japanese: 半年。

Five months

[August 12, 2011 5:54PM]

Five months have passed since the earthquake.  As I spend these hot summer days, I find myself thinking back to those days of shivering in a bath towel and feeling the transition of time and seasons.

The videos and photographs that have been sent to us from the affected areas have not changed so much since those days.  Only five months, already five months—the days that have passed can be interpreted in different ways.

The evacuation site that I was stationed at for medical assistance has been closed down, and everyone has moved to temporary and other housing.

That evacuation site, where we all shed tears with no way to release our anger and profound sadness over the disaster that could not be averted.
That evacuation site, where tears of joy and relief from reunifications were also shed.
That evacuation site, where we discussed what to do all together and felt terribly lost.
That evacuation site, where we were also able to find small signs of hope and happiness, even while feeling lost.
That evacuation site, where someone would notice when you were feeling lonely, and where someone was always there for you.

Honestly, I feel a little sad about the closure of this evacuation site [with so many memories of my own], and while I am happy that everyone has been able to find some kind of housing (even if it’s temporary), I am also worried about the mountainous pile of problems and issues, such as whether there will be someplace where everyone can share their sense of solitude and anxiety about what will happen “from now on”, or whether there will be sufficient care for such concerns, now that the evacuation site is gone.

We too must rethink our role and existence more carefully.

It is now the Obon time of the year and I’m sure the spirits of the victims of the disaster are coming home from heaven now.
They are surely watching the fireworks next to their loved ones, and gently pushing them forward in encouragement.

After five months, the situation has changed in various ways, and my own surroundings have been changing gradually as well.
At times, I could not stand this environment and I have actually considered quitting this job.
But at times like this, I would read the comments on my weblog and feel strongly encouraged to keep going on.

I haven’t been able to fulfill my promise of returning to the affected areas again; I better do this by the end of the year!!

[In the meantime,] I must also do more studying.

Translated June 5, 2012.
Original entry in Japanese: 5ヶ月

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Letter from the disaster site

[June 6 7:18PM]

I received a letter from an evacuation site in Rikuzentakata today.  They say that things are moving toward restoration, albeit slowly.

They wrote about the unchanging landscape and about the support from our country; about people leaving Rikuzentakata, one after another; that there are many whose families are still missing; about the decreasing number of volunteers and press, and the swift fading of public interest.

There was also news about Luna.

Luna was recently adopted by relatives somewhere in the Kansai or Kyushu regions, in western Japan.  They say that she wanted to live with her aunt, but her aunt has also lost everything, and she would not be able to provide for her.  It was decided that it would be best for her to be raised in an environment where she will have want for nothing, and so she had to go far away.  I can empathize with her aunt so much that it hurts—I’m sure this must be for the best.

They say that Luna left Rikuzentakata with her worn-out Hello Kitty mask, a tiny Miffy table, and that backpack filled with her favorite things that her mother had held onto with all her might.

There’s no way of knowing where I will be able to see Luna as a grown-up, but I’m sure we will meet again as long as we’re living, so I will make sure to keep this in mind.

I wish that Luna’s long, long life that lies ahead will be surrounded with nothing but smiles and kindness all around.  Not just Luna—the same goes for everyone else in the areas affected by the disaster, of course.

Even now, when the evacuation sites in Rikuzentakata appear on television, I see familiar faces from the days that I spent there.  On one hand, I’m relieved to see they are doing well, but on the other, I am strongly concerned about the fact that they still have not found a new place to live, temporary or not.

As it was mentioned in the letter, those in the affected areas are living in fear of being forgotten, even though we are only approaching the three-month mark.

I intend think of the loads of issues that are sure to pile up in the face of the rainy season and summer in planning my actions in the days to come.

Translated June 7.
Original entry in Japanese: 被災地からのお手紙

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Two months

[May 11 3:55PM]

As of today, two months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake.  One month went by in no time at all, but it feels as though it took longer for the second month to go by.

Time that is still frozen;
time that has started to move;
things that have gotten better since that day;
things that have gotten worse.

Each one of us will feel differently about everything, and time is passing at different rates, but lately I often feel that it’s important that we all make sure to take the time to think back and remember on occasions like this.

There was an emergency earthquake alert at five in the morning today.  It feels as though there are alerts every time the public begins to forget.

I heard an acquaintance of mine saying, “These earthquake alerts are usually wrong, anyway.  It’s so loud—I decided to turn it off.”  It made me think of how this might be another sign of the reality that the public interest is beginning to fade, that we are once again becoming lax in our crisis-preparedness, and I felt so upset about how we will no longer be taking heed of what all those precious lives that have been sacrificed have told us that I couldn’t resist scolding my acquaintance rather harshly.

As I wrote in an entry that I posted and ended up deleting on the one-month anniversary, I went to see a friend who had gotten married and moved to Onagawa in Miyagi prefecture with our former classmates from nursing school.

Her whole family had died, and we were reunited with our friend in a manner that was the most difficult to accept.

Our friend who always brightened up any room with her smile had passed away with a terror-stricken expression on her face.

All we could do was to stand there dumb-struck and watch her being buried just as she was, next to her beloved husband.

When I think of how chagrined she must have felt, the tears start to fall and won’t stop.

Ever since, I have been thinking so much about so many things, and they all make me feel confused about “the meaning of being kept alive.”

But I do have the feeling that I might be able to understand it a little better if I think of it in terms of “the duty of going on living” instead.

After returning to Tokyo, my medical team has been busy making extensive revisions to our disaster manual, and we have been in touch with other teams that have gone into the affected areas, with more and more new information coming in all the time.

But the reality is that there are many disaster sites and evacuation sites where the vast majority of medical teams have been pulled out as of the first week of May.  Now that the rainy season approaches in Japan, there will be more hygiene issues and more problems that go along with that, and I believe more discussions and new measures are necessary once again.

Tomorrow is International Nurses Day.

I will be participating in an event at a nursing college, and then I have a night shift after that…

Translated May 11.
Original entry in Japanese: 2ヶ月

Monday, May 9, 2011

[press coverage: The Guardian: G2, May 9, 2011]

'Do not cry': a nurse's blog brings comfort to Japan's tsunami survivors
An anonymous blog written by a Japanese nurse as she cared for victims of the tsunami has given strength to survivors and fellow relief workers

Justin McCurry
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 8 May 2011 20.29 BST

The article was published on the May 9 edition of the paper.

(Left: As seen on the front page of guardian.co.uk.  Below: Pages 10–13 of G2.)

The same article has also been picked up by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, as well as Kurier in Austria.

tnfuk [today's news from uk+]: 被災地の医療スタッフさんの手記が英訳され、ガーディアンで紹介されている。

Also, a new entry was posted on April 26 on the original weblog.  It is however about the author’s personal trip to Matsushima and unrelated to the contents of the previous entries, so I will not be translating it.  I will however pass on her observation that Matsushima did not suffer much damage from the earthquake and is still as beautiful as ever.

Edited May 15.

Addendum: The fee received from the Guardian has been transferred to the bank account of Aid TAKATA as of April 18, 2012.  I offer my sincerest apologies for the delay.