Lessons from the Land of the Rising Sun

by Janica M. Gan

“Life may sometimes seem unfair, but if you chose to let go of those bad memories and begin a new one, you will found out that you are stronger enough to resist the same pain once you face the same situation again.”

I never thought that I will be part of the Kizuna (Bond) Project in Japan on March 11-20. I, as a simple scholar of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, have never expected this dream become an experience.

Kizuna (Bond) Project is a program that aims to invite youths to Japan from other countries in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011, to show them the efforts underway at disaster-affected area that are vigorously making recovery initiatives, and to promote understanding on reconstruction in Japan. The program includes interaction with youth in disaster-affected area, participation in recovery support activities, and other projects. The youths are expected to relay the current status of Japan’s reconstruction to the people of their countries through report presentations and other means of communicating their experience in the disaster-affected area after returning to their home countries.

The Kizuna (Bond) Project contains three different batches. I became part of the second batch. The batch contains 75 students and 6 supervisors from different regions in the Philippines. The program has been facilitated well as it grouped the students and supervisors into three. All in all, there were seven UP Los Baños students in Batch 2 that became part of the program.

There were lectures being conducted for us to understand more of the things happened in Japan during the March 11, 2011 earthquake disaster. As the program started, the second batch delegates have been assigned to visit Iwate Prefecture. Iwate Prefecture, located in Tohoku region and is the second largest sub-national jurisdiction in Japan in terms of area, has suffered too much from the disaster. I have seen some of the beautiful places of Iwate Prefecture, the simplicity of the town and its people and I cannot contain my feelings how the tsunami washed it all out. It is really heartbreaking to see the clear area where houses and building were built before.

Some may say that Japan has been fully recovered after the disaster but it is all wrong. Whenever they discuss what happened in March 11 incident, I can see through their eyes that they are still not that fine, the Sanriku Railway experience showed it all.

The Sanriku Railway Company is a small railway company founded in April 1, 1984 as a third-sector railway line, taking over the former Japanese National Railways lines. The company, familiarly known as “Santetsu,” operates the Kita-Riasu Line (71.0 km) and the Minami Riasu Line (36.6 km), which run along the Sanriku coast of Iwate, and has 71 employees.

Immediately after the massive quake of the March 11, 2011, lights went out at all Santetsu stations and communication systems, and all were disconnected. The tracks and stations were washed away by the tsunami, bridges were damaged, tracks were buried in rubble, and trains submerged that made it unable to move. Fortunately, no one got hurt. As pictures of the before and after scenario of the place were shown to us, it breaks my heart that I can see that the place has been really changed, a huge change happened.

The good thing is that, the company did not stop their operation. Restoration work is being carried out under the full cooperation of the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, in an effort to resume operations of the Minami-Riasu Line between Sakari Station and Yoshihama Station in April 2013 and full operation in April 2016. Another good thing is they have this program called “Train ride to learn about earthquake disaster” wherein you will be toured and lectured on the affected area while riding the train. The program aims at having passengers learn about earthquake disaster and disaster prevention while riding on trains along the partially recovered line. Passengers will learn also about the violence of nature, value of life and importance of connecting with others as well as enjoying the scenic spots along the Santetsu line where trains will slow down or stop. Honestly speaking, I almost cry after we were asked to pray for the lives of the victims. The train stopped in front of the ocean and silence ate the whole place. I realized how blessed our country is even though it is not yet developed as Japan is.

My 10-day stay in Japan is so short. However, the knowledge and values the experience taught me made me re-evaluate the things in my own country. The program really did it well. Aside from this Sanriku train experience, there are some more. Japan welcomed us wholeheartedly with their culture. I cannot forget the onsen experience (the spring experience wherein everyone has to take off their clothes and have a relaxing time in the spring), the mamebu cooking (food culture), the amber pendant making experience (amber making is one of the job in the place), the forest board painting experience (we painted messages on the wood boards that are to be placed on the railways in the forest so that those people who are on wheelchairs, when the railways are already completed, will be able to enjoy climbing the mountain path and enjoy nice views from the top of the hill), the Machinaka aquarium experience (we saw different sea creatures found only in Japan and learned from the company’s experiences after tsunami hit their real aquarium place where several fishes died), the Shinkansen (Bullet train) experience, our homestay with farmers, the cultural night, the Japanese foods, the snow and the blooming of some cherry blossoms, and the drills and workshops we have experienced.

Aside from the experiences that Japan has given to me, there is this one more lesson that I will forever keep in mind and heart:

“In every failure, there is always a brand new chance to look at.”

You may lose something big but life must not end with that. You are still here, breathing, thinking, talking, or in short, living. You should not box yourself of what had happened in the past but look forward on the future that is about to come. Failures are just some parts of life that will strengthen you even more. It is better to let go of those unnecessary baggages you are carrying for a long time and start facing the reality that someone or something has gone and new things has yet to come. Japan taught me that there is really hope and faith in life. Maybe that is the reason why it is termed as the “Land of the Rising Sun”, for every rise of the sun brings new hopes and brand new chances.

There is still hope for my country. Our leaders may fail, disasters may come, and so forth but hope will always be enough. All we have to do is to choose or decide, believe and strive more. After all, God will not let His people starves. There is always a lesson to come out, we just have to figure it out. And that’s why I did, from a simple resident in LB, I chose to stepped out, believe in it and even striving hard to achieve my dreams. I may sometimes fail with my decisions but it does not mean it’s the end. There is always hope and a future. All I have to do is to keep holding on. As what someone told me, “If God deprived you of something good, He will give you something better. Let go and let God.”

Japan is not just an experience but a lesson that is to be learned by everyone. Arigattu Gozaimashita.

JMGan is a resident of Brgy. Anos in Los Baños, Laguna and was one of the UP Los Baños representatives in the Kizuna (Bond) Project on March.