Sara Meier is a Global Studies major with a minor in Asian Studies. She studied in Japan starting in August 2011 at Nihon-Mishima University. Between classes, Sara assisted with the earthquake and tsunami clean-up effort in the north.
How is Japan's reaction to the disaster different than what you would expect here in the U.S.? How is it the same?
Since I didn't arrive here until six months after the tragedy I can't say for sure what Japan's initial reaction was, although I can describe the lingering reaction that is still felt here. There are still many news shows and specials that cover the impact of the disaster and the progress that is being made to fix Japan.
To me, this is different than the U.S. I personally feel that in the U.S., we have a tendency to focus on a disaster (domestic or international) for only a short period of time, then move on to the next big piece of news. I may only feel that way because I'm not much of an avid news-watcher, but that is just how it seems.
There is also a similarity between the U.S. and Japan, though. Places south of the Tohoku region aren't suffering any long-term effects of the earthquake or tsunami, so the disaster can't be felt here like it can be up north. I don't think the people here have forgotten it by any means, but it's not a huge problem in their lives anymore.
How has this experience affected you?
At the risk of sounding cliche, I would say that this experience did put things in perspective in my own life. I really can't put into words how it made me feel to stand in front of an elementary school where 74 children died and now have graves. It's a very emotionally and mentally taxing experience that changes how you look at your own life. You can't describe it — only feel it.