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A day in Tokyo and reflecting on the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis

A day in Tokyo and reflecting on the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Time to reflect – image from

Today is a time for me to unwind and reflect about what happened but also to refresh myself.  Yes, unlike the people of Fukushima who reside near the Daiichi nuclear power plant or the untold families which have been torn apart; I am very lucky because I reside in Tokyo and I escaped the nightmare of March 11.

I have been writing daily since March 11 and great attention and emphasis was put on the many different aspects of the crisis which emerged on this fateful day.  The last week of April is now upon us but you still have more than 10,000 people missing after the tsunami unleashed such a deadly force upon many coastal areas in northeastern Japan.

However, despite being distant from the epicenter of the earthquake which struck on March 11, I felt the tremors of this earthquake in Tokyo and countless other aftershocks since this fatal day.

I have also sensed the mood in Tokyo and how the ebbs and flows of life can change within seconds.  Therefore, I have decided to reflect on past events and to evaluate many things and to express my images and views.

Of all the articles that I have written I must confess that I found it very hard to write about the loss of life of so many children at a single school in Ishinomaki. 

My article called Ishinomaki: school re-opens after the loss of 74 of the 108 children but questions remain was very difficult to write without expressing or feeling emotions.  I dread to think how their parents, other relatives, and the whole community must be feeling.

I commented in this article that “Many children were taken away by the powerful tsunami which was unleashed after the brutal 9.0-magnitude earthquake.  Therefore, so many broken families and communities and the knowledge of children dying is heart wrenching.”

“Obviously every life is precious and age should never enter the equation when thinking about the deaths of around 28,000 people.  However, something hits you “deep inside” to think about the loss of life of so many children.”

Therefore, while I know that around 28,000 people have perished because of the tsunami which was unleashed by 9.0 magnitude earthquake; the factuality of what happened to the children and teachers of Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki remains embedded within my heart.

I feel for all family members, relatives, friends, and entire communities, which have suffered throughout coastal areas of northeastern Japan.  Their pain and sorrow will be the same but in every devastating tragedy you will have potent images or stories which hit you deep inside.

Given this, the Okawa Elementary School remains firmly embedded and much of this is based on other schools surviving close to this school.  However, on this fateful day everything went wrong and their path to safety was prevented because of so many fallen trees and other debris.

This meant that fateful minutes were lost and sadly it appears that they turned around and walked in another direction but this direction was leading them into the pits of death. 

Within minutes all hope and joy which had awoken these children on the morning of March 11 was taken away from them because by the afternoon of this day the tsunami would sweep them away and show no mercy.

Today I am trying to relax and refresh myself but with every word written about the Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki; then my feeling of morose returns.

I have the luxury of living in Tokyo and today I have promised to refresh myself and to focus on positivity and to relax.

Therefore, I am going to read many pages of Runaway Horses which was written by Yukio Mishima and search and look at the many stunning images on this website. 

I like photography and the stunning beauty on ( this website is in stark contrast to the images of March 11.

Like most people in Tokyo; now is about daily life, trying to relax and enjoying this beautiful city.  However, it appears that moments of joy are fleeting because the impact of March 11 remains strong.

Yet recovery is needed but the path will be very hard, if nigh impossible for people who have lost so much; however, for the lucky ones, like myself, it is vital to re-energize the economy and the power of Tokyo and Japan.

I say this “with a heavy heart” because the nightmare of Okawa Elementary School is not only visible it is within my psyche; time will heal many things but life is precious and time can never heal reality.

However, instead of the darkness and sorrow which is entrenched within the heart at the moment; it is hoped that one day the people of Ishinomaki and northeastern Japan will remember the beauty of the people and children who entered their heart.

Yes, they can never return but the dead are never dead when they stay alive within the heart; life is fragile and the tsunami took away so many but it is important that “death is not the final victory” for people who have lost so much.

However, it is easy to say from a distance and I know I have the luxury to say this. (please visit)

Please visit for stunning photos.
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Japan


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Ishinomaki: school re-opens after the loss of 74 of the 108 children but questions remain

Ishinomaki: school re-opens after the loss of 74 of the 108 children but questions remain

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Many children were taken away by the powerful tsunami which was unleashed after the brutal 9.0-magnitude earthquake.  Therefore, so many broken families and communities and the knowledge of children dying is heart wrenching.

Obviously every life is precious and age should never enter the equation when thinking about the deaths of around 28,000 people.  However, something hits you “deep inside” to think about the loss of life of so many children.

The Okawa Elementary School was specially hit by the brutal tsunami which swept so many people away.  This school which is located in Ishinomaki had 108 children but the power of nature killed 74 children from this one school (some of these children are missing but presumed dead) and every teacher bar one also perished.

Psychological effects of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies, will not be known in the short-term but clearly March 11 will always remain within their psyche.  Many readers can empathize with the trauma, pain and anguish of this school but for these children life will never be the same.

Yes, many will rise up against such adversity and children are much stronger than adults think.  Indeed, sometimes children can be stronger than adults because many terminally ill children have faced up to reality and done so with absolute bravery.

However, turning back to the school in Ishinomaki then clearly their innocence was taken away from them and the cold reality of life will become embedded within the psyche of each child.  After all, it is normal for children to be focused on learning, playing, sport, and expanding their character.

Sadly, for the majority of children who attended Okawa Elementary School then they never got the chance to bloom and to see new horizons.  More alarming, March 11 began just like any normal day but the speed of events meant that moments of laughter and joy were turned into unknown fear.

It appears that other schools in the same area escaped the deadly tsunami and parents demand to know what really happened.  However, with only one surviving teacher, and with this teacher being under great stress and suffering from trauma, then patience is needed.

Apparently, only 8 children survived under the guidance of teachers from Okawa Elementary School because the other 26 survivors were picked up by their parents.  This in itself raises questions because why is it that children who were picked up by their parents survived but children under the guidance of teachers mainly perished alongside the teachers who were also killed (apart from one lone surviving teacher)?

Information is still patchy but the general outline is that teachers tried to take the children to high ground but the steepness of the mountain appeared difficult to climb because many trees had fallen and the route seemed very hard and dangerous.

Therefore, many minutes were lost while debating what to do and sadly it appears that it was decided to head for an elevated bridge.  It is still unclear at the moment if they reach the elevated bridge or if the tsunami struck before they reached the bridge. 

Either way, the tsunami was engulfing everything in its way and it soon became apparent that time was running out and panic will have ensued.  The final minutes will have been a nightmare and desperation will have led to internal chaos and fear.

A meeting was held whereby 97 relatives attended but few answers were given and not surprisingly many parents were angry.  However, others were more understanding and obviously many parents who could have picked up their children will be in internal chaos. 

Katsura Sato, a parent who lost her daughter Mizuho, stated “After the quake, I heard there would be a tsunami, but she was at the elementary school, so I thought she would be safe…….I just want to know how she spent her last minutes.”

Mourning for some parents can’t fully begin because many children are still missing but presumed dead.  Until their bodies are found, then the grave lies empty and this is clearly causing added pain and anguish. 

In time, the true events of what happened will become known and in the cold light of day the facts will come together like a jigsaw.  However, the speed of the tsunami was great and damage by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake meant that many trees, buildings, and roads will have been damaged.

The teachers will have done everything in their power but the speed of events, major damage, and so many other factors; all conspired against Okawa Elementary School.

Therefore, the remaining survivors will face an uphill struggle and while their new school is being re-opened within a surviving school; it is clear that the events of March 11 will continue to be a nightmare and these children, alongside the sole surviving teacher, need all the support that they can get. (please visit)

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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Japan


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Two survive earthquake and tsunami after 9 days in Ishinomaki

Two survive earthquake and tsunami after 9 days in Ishinomaki

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Earthquake and tsunami Earthquake and tsunami

The police in Miyagi prefecture have issued heartbreaking news day in and day out since the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit parts of Japan.  This applies to thousands of people being killed and announcing this news to family members or friends who have survived.  Therefore, when two survivors were found after nine days it was “a ray of sunshine” amidst so much pain, anguish, and sorrow.

Amazingly an 80 year old grandmother and her 16 year old grandson have survived the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami after nine days in harsh and brutal conditions in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture. 

The four police officers who rescued Sumi Abe and her grandson Jin Abe were amazed and Jin Abe was only concerned about his grandmother.  He told the rescuers “save my grandma” and this devoted grandson, despite all the hardship that he had suffered, was only thinking about the wellbeing of his grandmother.

A police sergeant who was amongst the four rescuers was also flabbergasted that people could survive such a grueling ordeal.  Yoichi Seino from Ishinomaki police station stated “I’m astonished that there were people who stayed alive” and “I’m so happy (to hear that).”

Clearly the police officers involved were overwhelmed because after so many dead bodies being uncovered in Ishinomaki it was a much needed pick up and it shows you how dedicated the search and rescue teams are.  After all, the psychological impact of witnessing such harrowing scenes will leave a deep impact.

Therefore, this one glimmer of pure joy will mean so much to everyone involved in looking for any possible survivors in Ishinomaki and in other cities and towns which have been pulverized by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Sumi Abe and Jin Abe were found shivering and apparently they had survived on small leftovers.  The bitter cold and mass uncertainly must have made the nine days seem like years but somehow they got by on yogurt, coke, and a few other things.  Therefore, their survival instincts and strong bond gave them a collective desire to pull together and somehow hold out for nine days.

Sumi broke down with masses of tears when the police officers found them and Jin could only think about his grandmother.  When a police officer asked Jin what he would like to be when he is older he replied “An artist.” 

It was clear that Jin was in a bad condition when he was found but Dr. Michio Kobayashi stated that both were in “good health and eating breakfast well.”  Therefore, both Sumi and Jin have responded well to the care of the Japanese Red Cross Ishinomaki Hospital and Dr. Michio Kobayashi and fellow staff will also feel warm inside because they have witnessed so much suffering.

Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary, commented that “I believe this kind of miraculous event is inspiring news to all the victims who are going through difficult situations as evacuees.”

Therefore, this one “ray of sunshine” in a “torrent of despair” will have warmed the hearts of so many.  Also, amidst all the devastation of Ishinomaki you have a 16 year old boy called Jin Abe who survived and he still dreams of being an artist and showing the world the beauty of this world despite the events that he just witnessed.


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