Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan tested by earthquake and tsunami

Along with countless others who have travelled in Japan, I am watching the news showing the results of the horrible earthquake and tsunami that struck the coast of Japan last week.

I made the first of many trips to Japan in 1978, and I still recall the thrill of landing in Asia for the first time at- Narita airport, which had just opened and was being besieged by protesters because local farmers objected to the government’s eminent domain policies. I spent three weeks and traveled many hundreds of miles visiting companies and touring most of the major cities. On that trip I met and/or was introduced to hundreds of Japanese citizens as I made presentations at the US Embassy and several major companies and universities involved in laser material processing. Many of the people I met remain among my valued acquaintances. They welcomed me to their country, gave freely of their time and knowledge to see that I was educated about their country, and made to feel at home.

A most memorable visit on the first trip was an unescorted walk through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park one Friday afternoon. I was one of the day’s last visitors and the only Westerner at that late hour. When you are all alone on such hallowed ground, you have the opportunity to think about the destruction and disruptions the atomic bomb caused. That visit was one of the most poignant I have ever made to memorials around the world. I left with a deeper appreciation for the resilience and dignity of the people of Japan who had suffered from the event.

As I watched the news reports flooding in, I was struck by the similarity of my feelings. Here was another sudden disaster visited on the peoples of Japan. My first thoughts went to many friends, associates, and acquaintances I am privileged to have in Japan. I contacted my closest acquaintances to ascertain their situation. One, my colleague who manages Industrial Laser Solutions – Japan, responded to my e-mail with a message that she and her family who live in Hokkaido were all OK. She ended her message by saying “I would like to say thank you to the US government that sent a big support to the afflicted area. It encouraged us a lot.”

As the weeks go by, we will follow the recovery in Japan. I am scheduled to be in Yokohama late in September; by that time, some level of stability should have been reached, but the lingering effects will be as indelible as the Hiroshima Memorial.

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