CHAPTER 58 3-11: The Tohoku Disasters One Year On1

I arrived in Kyoto on the JR-West fast “haruka” train from Osaka’s Kansai on a cold 8°C morning of March 9, 2012, to attend the Harvard Alumni Association’s gathering of Asia Pacific Club Leaders as president of the Harvard Club of Malaysia, leading a delegation of four. It’s more than 25 years since I was last in Kyoto, Japan’s capital in 794 (many residents believe it is still the capital, since the Emperor never officially declared that he has taken up residence in Tokyo). Besides being famous for historic monuments and gardens, I am always intrigued by the traditional Japanese Kabuki—the legendary theater of acting, dancing, and singing of unusual eccentricity and social dancing—which was founded in Kyoto around 1603. The earliest performance of Kabuki had no significant plot, often disdained as gaudy and cacophonous, but equally lauded as colorful and beautiful. But I love it. For a while at least, I can again breathe and smell the birthplace of Kabuki.

Japan Remembers

March 11, 2012, marked one year since the massive earthquake and tsunami struck parts of the Tohoku (Japan’s northeast) region. The catastrophe—the worst political and humanitarian crisis faced since the end of World War II—left nearly 20,000 confirmed dead or missing, while nearly 344,000 had to be evacuated. The magnitude-9 earthquake (that struck at 2.46 p.m. on March 11, 2011) triggered a tsunami 39 m (128 feet) tall at its highest point, which crippled ...

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