Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Out to Lunch

In late February, we visited our favorite local Italian restaurant, Wordsworth, for lunch.

As always, the food was great. We had nice salads with greens and sprouts, and as is common in Japan a few kinds of what us Americans would call "seaweed". Which is about as silly as referring to spinach, romaine or raddichio lettuce as "landweeds". Oh, well.

The main course was pasta with spinach and oysters in cream sauce topped with salmon roe. Delicious!

We of course had not been out since then due to the earthquake(s), but on Sunday I wanted to see if Wordsworth was open. Kimie had driven past it a week ago on her way to visit a family member in hospital and reported a lot of damage in the area. But I wanted to check on Wordsworth, so I bribed her with an offer of lunch and we went.

The restaurant is located about six miles south of us and one mile inland from Kashima Port in the city of Kamisu. It is fairly low lying flat area - easy pickings for a tsunami that was, along this stretch of coastline, up to 5 meters high (16.4 feet).

Along the way, we passed UniQlo clothing store. There were two shipping containers in the parking lot which had floated in from the port and bashed in the store's windows. Containers are still strewn across the landscape and in the canals. The store had also suffered a fire.

From there, we saw lots of buckled pavement, sunken roads with the concrete curbs and drain boxes sticking up, and leaning power poles.

Wordsworth was closed. The patio addition at the front was sunken a bit and the land there was lower by quite a bit relative to the street than it used to be. It had also be flooded. A sad sight. I hope they can recover eventually.

Along the back service road we saw three houses which either due to liquefaction during the earthquake or water from the tsunami, sunk into the ground a bit - one of them a burned out shell.

Ibaraki Net TV took video of the exact same area.

We decided to head toward another restaurant which Kimie's sister had recommended - "tratteria Luce". Judging by what we had already seen, we were not optimistic. But, as we approached we could see the chef/owner standing out by the street waving a huge Italian flag to attract customers.

The owners told us that Kamisu City has electricity, but will not have water service for three months. The restaurant hired a porta-potty to meet legal requirements for a toilet, and is cooking with bottled water. They aren't able to wash dishes so are using paper and plastic ones to get by. By the way, the owner's house is behind and over the restaurant, so they are living day to day with the same conditions.

Lunch was simple, but very good. A chicken wrap, minestrone soup, pasta with tomato sauce, and freshly baked bread. We took the wraps home for later. We'll go there again.

Another news video shows the fishing boat harbor at the entrance to Kashima Port. Pretty much trashed:

The man interviewed said he and his son had to be rescued here. He says it is hard, but "shoganai" - it can't be helped.

And closer to home, the bridge connecting Kashima Jingu Station to the rail line which connects us with Tokyo, is under repair:

The other line out of Kashima - the one I take to lake Hinuma - also has sections out which will take quite a while to repair.

Compared to all this, the damage to our roof, bath tiles, and driveway entrance walls, seems pretty minor. If it were not for the aftershocks, things would almost seem normal. We've been fortunate.

We're looking forward to warm weather, once again sailing Bluesette on Lake Hinuma, seeing our friends up there and eating at Mama's Kitchen again. For now, we hang on and do the best we can, along with the rest of Japan.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When All Else Fails

Today I received an email from a ship's captain who had sailed Japan waters during a typhoon, regarding my posts in 2006 about the wreck of the ship Giant Step (a 98,000 ton iron ore carrier) off Kashima Port, with the loss of 10 of the crew of 26. Two of the crew were never found, but I was informed by a relative that one of them was seen by the master of the ship to have been thrown against a pipe on deck with great force by a wave and killed instantly.

The two posts regarding that tragedy which appeared on Pacific Islander blog, resulted at the time with a flurry of emails to me from friends and family of crew members seeking information. The crew was Indian, with the exception of one man from Sri Lanka. I was one of few sources of information that was available to them in English. It was a very sad circumstance, but one which resulted in warm bonds with family and friends of the crew. Four and a half years on, I still get inquiries. I provide what information I can.

Now, we deal with the earthquake and tsunami of March 11. The aftershocks go on - hundreds of them. Over 60 have been of magnitude 6.0 or above. We reluctantly arose this morning after three quakes in a row, just minutes apart. It is still difficult to get a good night's sleep.

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" - Gordon Lightfoot, Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald

The present catastrophe in Japan is on such a scale as to be beyond our intellectual grasp. But it is the same dilemma that is faced by everyone, everywhere, whether a single sailor or the crew of a ship, or a nation, or all of us on planet earth. We may be caught on a vessel in peril, a nation gripped by natural calamity, or a world facing global warming, over population, and war.

We know the answers in most cases and all that is required is the will to act. But sometimes, we are overwhelmed by circumstances. Without giving up, we can still acknowledge our impotence and seek the strength of the forces which shape our destiny to encourage us to do what is needed.

In the Buddhist tradition I have followed, it is done by uttering the phrase, "Namu Amida Butsu" - entrusting in Amida Buddha's all embracing compassion.

The men who have been fighting to prevent a total disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. Hundreds - TEPCO workers, JSDF soldiers, Tokyo firefighters, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, engineers from around the country and abroad, and many others - have literally put their lives on the line to save others. Thanks to them, we will overcome that emergency. Thanks to thousands of others, Japan will rise again from the ruins of the great earthquake and tsunami. It will be a different place, but it will be a better one.

A firefighter emails his wife, "I am going to the Dai-ichi power plant." The response is "Please be a savior for Japan". Afterward, all the firefighters asked about what they want respond, "a good night's sleep". It is what we all want.

I'm not a Christian, but the US Navy's hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" has always struck a chord with me. The lyrics were written by an Englishman (William Whiting) in 1860 on the occasion of a student leaving for America, and the music a year later by John Dykes. The two came together somehow.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

To anyone who has experienced the power of nature over man's feeble attempts at her mastery, these words must surely hit home.

As I wrote back in 2006, regarding the wreck of the ship "Giant Step" with the loss of ten lives, "or do we humans instinctively seek a kind of reality check, to see first hand that what we suspect about our technological superiority is true? That in reality, our supposed superiority over nature and our certainty of it, hangs by a mere thread, and that we need to take heed. We need to be reminded now and then of how tenuous that thread really is. In short, we need at times to be humbled."

Naval Academy Men's Glee Club:

Namu Amida Butsu

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Manatee In My Bathtub?

"Sea Tunes For Kids" by Brent Holmes ... Hey, I'm still a kid! I've loved this CD for some time now. Great way to get kids enthused about the sea, and to care about the creatures that inhabit it. Here are a couple of tunes.

Did you know we have manatees in Japan too? Yep, down Okinawa way - the closely related dugong - which is one reason we'd appreciate it if you folks in the USA didn't insist on building a new Marine Corps airbase down there. (See Close The Base )

And "Lobster Parade" reminds me of my days in marching bands and features some super dixieland style trombone licks.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Latest Poop

A cartoon about "Nuclear Boy" explains the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. English subtitles...

Until next, sweet (pooh free) sailing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Helping Japan - Caveat Donator!

A lot of wonderful people want to help Japan recover from the earthquake/tsunami disaster we have experienced. Before you do, make sure you aren't being scammed, and then make sure that your donation gets spent where you intend.

Scam alert:

I recently stumbled across what I suspect is a big scam. "People" leave comments on news stories about the earthquake, or on stories listing charities to donate to, saying that they have "donated $100 to the American Red Cross" through Amazon.com. The comment also contains the url for a website which posts an article copied from the American Red Cross website, and links and banners with the American Red Cross name. They also say "it is safer to give through a name you know, like Amazon" .... Really?

Trouble is, the website url in the comment offers no information about who is running it. All the links - including "about us" and "contact us" take you back to the main article. Worse, the link for donating goes directly to Amazon payments with no intermediate pages, so for all you know, your donation is going to the owner of the bogus website! I did a little sleuthing and have found that this scheme has been used in the past for the Haiti earthquake disaster.

So, if you want to donate to American Red Cross through Amazon, you can do so, but do it by going directly to either Amazon or the American Red Cross website. Do not use a unknown 3rd party website.

Is your donation going to be used to help Japan?

Also, if you want your donation spent on Japan, you have to make sure of it. Many charities, including reputable ones like the American Red Cross, will be asking for donations by reporting on the disaster in Japan. But be advised, that does not mean they will spend your donation on helping Japan.

So, before you give, please read this article at Charity Navigator: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The article offers advice on making the decision to give, how to avoid scams, and a list of charities that Charity Navigator has analyzed and rated, which will use your donation to directly help the victims of this tragedy.

By all means, help Japan in this time of crisis, but do so wisely.

Until next, sweet sailing.

The Sea Is So Wide

and my house is so small.

This post was inspired by O Docker.

Thankfully, my house is still standing on terra firma. To help those who are less fortunate than we are, please check out this page: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

and until next, sweet sailing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Bluesette, and the other boats at Hinuma Yacht Harbor came through the earthquake unscathed. The concrete area where the boats are stored cracked, there was some damage to the club house, and some embankments of the Naka River collapsed, but the tsunami waters did not flood the boat yard. One more blessing to count, one less thing to worry about. The owners of the harbor called to let us know. They have intermittent electricity and use of one phone line out of four. They also suffered some damage to their home.

Considering what happened just a few miles away at Oarai Port, it was quite a relief to hear the news about Bluesette.

This is a satellite picture of Oarai Port, near where Lake Hinuma empties into the sea. This port is where 630 foot ocean ferries dock, connecting Tokyo and Hokkaido. It is also right next to where Kimie and I stayed in an oceanfront hotel celebrating her **th birthday just last month. I have added some labels for reference points.

And here is a picture taken during the tsunami...
We have stored food and water and other supplies for just this kind of emergency. Our family and community are close and supportive of each other. There have been more than 200 aftershocks since Friday. Sleep is softly interrupted by gentle side to side shaking or rudely by abrupt vertical jolts. Nerves fray. The empty store shelves, shortages, and rolling blackouts are the norm - just the way things are, rather than a hardship.

While it is nice to know that Bluesette is safe, our emotions swing between the high of having survived the momentous events of the last few days and the deep sadness for those who did not, those who grieve, and those still cold and hungry and homeless as temperatures drop and snows approach northern Japan. The victims may feel "why me?", but the survivors ask the same question.

There is also the realization that the road ahead is as uneven as the buckled pavement and the shattered rooftops. We humans like to think that we control our destiny, but fate is more often the hunter and we the prey. We rededicate ourselves to a life of "arigatai" - profound gratitude - to everyone and everything around us in this world that supports us, nurtures us, and indeed makes our very lives possible.

And thank you, dear friends, for your thoughts and kindness at this most difficult time.

Until next, sweet sailing.