311 and me

On March 11th,  I was in the foot of Himalayan mountains in Dehradun, India.

How come? I was undertaking a 10 day course of Vipassana Meditation from March 1st. Vipassana is the way of meditation that Buddha applied in his entering into Enlightenment. Meditators of the course live in a Vipassana meditation center for 12 days and simply sit for 10 days. They are not allowed to carry out any type of communication (verbal, non-verbal, even making a sound). They are prohibited to write, draw, read, run, exercise, practice other meditation techniques, and conduct religious or spiritual rituals. Noble silence must be kept. They share a room with another participant, but they may not communicate with each other at any level. Everyday, we looked down on the floor and soil or looked up to the ceiling or sky to avoid eye contact. In the dining room, nothing but little cracking sounds of cutlery and dishes resonated.

I got the tragic news of my country on the final day of the Vipassana. On Day 10, in order for meditators to gradually go back to normal society, the noble silence ends and they are allowed to look into the others’ eyes and talk in limited areas. During a lunch break, I retrieved my valuables from the reception and turned on my mobile just because I wanted to make sure that “nothing had happened to my family” for the 10 days. As soon as the mobile was on, one text message was delivered from an Indian friend of mine who used to live in Tokyo.

“M9.0 earthquake hit Yokohama.”

The very first information from the world after such intense 10 days of inner exploration was this.

What the fxxk.




Looking back, I probably learned about the crisis right after it had actually occurred. Time difference between Japan and India is 3.5 hours. The morning meditation session finished at 11am and the lunch break lasted until 1pm.

The shock I got was incredibly amplified due to the Vipassana effect. I was terrified by the fact that my intuition of “emergency” was right. While shaking, I barely managed to make a phone call to my mom and assured her and my bro’s safety. I was almost resolved to fly back to Japan immediately as thinking of the worst case scenario for my family (luckily that wasn’t the case). When merciless incidents occur in my life, I’m always abroad. I’m used to jumping in an airplane and rushing to my family. Good lord.

On the very last day of the course, this tragedy happened to my beautiful country. This coincidence makes me ponder, what role is given to me?

Threads of life were intertwined and woven strikingly. At the end, my life took me to Dharamsala, the sacred village for both Indian and Tibetan. I led a everyday life there for three weeks. Then I flew back to Tokyo on April 12th.

Despite people’s curiosity of how I coped with being back in Tokyo that drastically changed, I should say that nothing affected me. Regardless of 311, I had been going through transformation during the journey in India (to be precise, it had set about since 2010). I was fully transformed and arrived at Narita with the new senses. Therefore, I could naturally accept the world of Japan as it was.

It’s been almost two months since my return. Japan, especially the northern part of Tokyo and Kanagawa (my city) upward, is facing tremendous danger. The disaster areas are beyond description. Moreover, the nuc plants are miserably severely damaged. Now, three of Fukushima plants are in complete meltdown. (not merely Daiichi). Our gov. is so fxxked up that no information and data is reliably released.

I admit my responsibility that I have been dependent on the Japanese energy system and economic/political policy as a national, and a risk of potential life hazard such as cancer at early age or impairment of pregnancy. Needless to say, I try my best and hardest to protect my healthy body as well as family, friends and people. Nonetheless, in reality, we don’t have the right solution to escape from invisible radiation. We are and will be exposed to it to some degree anyway. I’m scared.

But, I’m a part of it.

Going back to my question that arose on the 10th day of vipassana. What is my role here?

I came to a conclusion towards the end of my trip in India: I’m meant to be there for those who are in need to let their emotions and feelings out as well as support them in thinking through what their life really is. I would come and listen to them only when they ask me so. This year, my focal point is to be shifted to the more individual level.

A few of my friends share with me an intriguing aspect: People residing in the Tokyo Metropolitan area are reluctant to acknowledge that they are also victims of the 311 disaster because “real” victims up in north suffer so devastatingly that Tokyo people feel guilty to consider themselves as victims. Relativism of misfortune. But, we know that we can’t compare the quality of happiness and misfortune with those of others. We individuals are only able to experience what each of us experiences.

And my friends continue like this: Naho is not a victim since she was in India. Having this different angle of looking at Japan as a non-victim Japanese is beneficial. For, thoughts and actions of Tokyo people who went through the 311 are confined, which hinders them from seeing things from a wider perspective. Besides, I could be of help to release their hidden tension and anxiety that they are unwilling to express because of a sense of guilt.

It appears to me that my awareness and my friends’ awareness of my role are in synch.

What makes life fascinating is that inquiries started to come to me soon after I was settled back in Tokyo. It flows naturally.

8 thoughts on “311 and me

  1. Augusto says:

    Hi Naho – thank you for sharing your story. Even though you tagged it as ‘monologue’, it seems that a great number of dialogues has happened. I am glad I could hear your voice on this. Love, A>

  2. Nan Cowardin-Lee says:

    Naho — Thank you for sharing your courage and calm compassion. We pray for you and your country men in this time of need.

  3. Mary Fambrough says:

    Hello Naho,,
    I think of you often, particularly since this tragedy fell upon your country. Alliant has a program in Japan and we have been hearing reports that make us feel closer to the chaos and devastation than we might otherwise feel. Thank you for sharing your story and I would like to hear more. Your writing has always been very special and as you know, I have encouraged you to write more. I send you my very best wishes as you pursue your journey and support others during this inconceivably challenging time.
    My heart is with you,

  4. Alisa says:

    Naho chan, thank you for sharing. It is incredible how peaceful and grounded your thoughts are considering where you are at. I think that your people are very strong to endure this with cohesion and I also know that many people around the world are holding a loving vision of healing for Japan and its people. Please continue writing your perspective and experience, and also spread that calm centeredness you found in India with those around you. Love infinite.


  5. Regan Bach says:


    Wow – thanks for sharing your intimate thoughts and feeling with us. It’s offered insight into the wonderful and mysterious mind that is Naho. I truly appreciate your openness and honesty and would love to find a way to connect asap. lets please set up a time to chat via phone or Skype. My best contact is via email at regan@irontreeconsulting.com. I wish you the best in all of your endeavors and look forward to learning more about you, your journeys, and your adventures. Talk soon. Until then…

    Be well,

    Regan M. Bach

  6. charlesvanderhaegen says:

    Dear Naho,
    Serendipity brought us in touch in the course of Edgar Schein. I wasn’t aware serendipity was preparing for me to share with a person like you the toil beyond measure that is affecting Japan, your country… This is especially important to me as I was so heartheartedly welcomed there in August 1986, invited by the Osaka TOYP Initiative . You are offering me the possibility to be empathically with you, your brother and mother, your family and friends, and through you with all the Japanese people. This is a gift beyond any written qualification possible . Please keep me posted with your personal reflections. Thank you Naho.

    “I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.”
    Jewish Proverb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s