I guess I don’t have to tell everyone just what kind of year 2011 was. I’ve written about it here on the site and I don’t normally write about personal stuff but you can’t really hide the kind of year this was. I’m really glad it is done.
I’m spending New Year’s Eve the same way I have done for the past 6 years of being here; watching the Kouhaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦). Normally just called Kouhaku it is a once a year event showcasing the biggest names in music in Japan from the past year and years past. The artists are split into a red team and a white team and as the program goes on people vote for which team is better. Girls’ Generation performed Genie, the song that made them famous here, for the red team and this year it wasn’t even close. The red team is taking it.
This year the show is somewhat heavier than previous years and of course that is due to the country still struggling to overcome the disasters of March 11th. In a performance I will remember for a long time, male pop group Arashi (嵐) performed a song called Furusato (a word that means hometown) with one member playing a piano that was picked from the wreckage of a school in Touhoku and restored. While they performed, the screen behind them showed videos of people still living in the devastated areas singing along with them. Near the end of the performance the stage filled with many of the other performers and the screen expanded showing video of people all over Japan singing Furusato. It was moving to say the least and a fitting end to a year that saw a country brought to its knees and still struggling to get back up.
One performer even performed live in a school yard that was used as a helicopter landing site and evacuee center immediately after the tsunami. One guy, a bunch of lights, with his guitar, on one of the coldest nights of the year. Mission accomplished. Why does it seem people deliberately try to make me cry.
For the first time I let my daughter stay up to watch it with me and she did well but fell asleep around 10:30 pm. I carefully picked her up and carried her upstairs to her bed, perhaps holding her a little more tightly than I usually do.
When it comes to the disasters, though I haven’t written much about it in some time, there is still new information and items released daily. Concerning items such as radioactive Cesium being discovered in baby formula that was manufactured a few days after the Fukushima disaster started. Concerning because the company that manufacturers this baby formula is located within 20 kilometers of my home. There have also been plenty of maddening articles released such as the report highlighting the government and TEPCO’s inadequate response to the growing Nuclear Plant problem. For example, the building that was constructed near the plant where disaster response was to be coordinated isn’t protected from radiation. Wait, what? Or that people from TEPCO were on the first floor and people from the government on the fifth floor but they weren’t communicating with each other. Wait, what? And, of course, more reports on the progress being made, if there really is any, at the Dai Ichi Nuclear Plant. I have come to realize that I won’t live to see the end of this disaster. I’ll be dead and buried (or burned) before that plant is completely disassembled and the nuclear problem eradicated. At least my child will see the day it is done. I hope she appreciates that day when it comes but I also hope that her life is carefree enough that the words Fukushima have no sobering meaning for her and that day can come and go without controversy.
In Japan a Kanji (chinese ideograph) is picked to represent the kind of year it was and this year the kanji Kizuna 絆 was picked.
Kizuna means ‘bonds’ ‘fetters’, something that ties things together. This kanji appeared in the disaster areas to illustrate the bond people have. I saw this kanji on shirts being sold in various store in Touhoku. The bonds the Japanese people shown in the last nine and a half months have totally blown me away and given me a new appreciation for this group of people.
Looking forward to 2012 I am eager to start afresh. To move forward in my life, wherever that takes me, with a new appreciation for what I have and what could have been lost. To appreciate each day and to treasure the special ones. And I hope everyone gets to do the same.