Archive for 2011.06

A happy story and a sad story

I’m currently in London for X JAPAN’s world tour.
We’re starting rehearsals tomorrow, and I’m really excited!

The rainy season has begun in the areas affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami,
which could hinder repair work.
I can’t help being concerned about what’s going on there.

I visited Ishinomaki for the first time in about two months.
Compared to my previous visit a considerable foundation had been established for volunteer activities,
and I was very surprised by this progress.
There were so many things that made me happy,
which I suppose is only natural for a place where everyone is dedicated to helping accomplish restoration and reconstruction.
During my recent visit convenience stores had been reopened, which was admittedly a simple thing.
Previously, all of the stores had been in an entirely hopeless state, so I was thankful to see even this progress.
Little by little, stores such as ramen restaurants, MOS Burger,
and nighttime establishments like bars and snack bars are reopening for business.

I can’t express in words how happy I was to eat ramen in a town on the coast of Ishinomaki, or how delicious it was.
Unlike my first visit (during which I went for nine days without showering) I was able to shower every three or four days,
which was a wonderful thing.
This was one result of the great efforts made by everyone there, including us.

I have a very happy story to share.
On the last night I was volunteering in the area,
the fantastic acoustic guitarist Kotaro Oshio gave a mini concert at a shop in Chuo-cho.
I’ve really respected him for a long time,
so I was very happy to be able to experience his performance at a place like that.
People in the affected areas have finally come to need music, as well as spiritual healing and support.
Oshio’s amazing concert was soaked up by the people in the affected areas,
as if it was an oasis to soothe their dried and exhausted hearts.

The most moving thing was that this shop – a famous local kimono shop –
was the first place we worked to clean up two months ago, when it was in a terrible state.
We thought it might be beyond recovery, but now it was possible even to hold concerts there.
The owner and his wife, as well as the female leader of the region,
remembered us well and were so thankful to us for returning that they cried.
I was so happy that I cried too.
From the bottom of my heart, I felt the importance of the bonds between people and of being connected with people.
I felt great love for this shop, as if it were my own.
Similarly, we felt attachment and affection towards all of the places that we worked to make clean.
I think that anybody who has worked as a volunteer after an earthquake disaster would understand these feelings.
And everyone thinks about the affected areas, hoping to return once again.

However, there are far too many places that still remain untouched, even three months after the earthquake.
This time I mainly worked in the town of Ogatsu-cho, which was mostly destroyed.
It was the first group we had joined as volunteers, and the situation is still quite tragic.
One morning, several corpses were found at the place we were considering starting work the day before.
The rehabilitation of this area is still in its initial stage, and it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.
There are also many places in miserable states where no work has been done at all,
such as Onagawa, Minamihama, and Kadonowaki (which we visited this time for the purpose of future work).

When I worked at evacuation shelters,
I keenly realized that there are still far too many people who are being forced to live the barest of existences.
As we move into summer, sanitation and dealing with the hot weather will become serious issues.

Regardless of the fact that this unprecedented disaster caused these unforeseen circumstances,
it’s amazing to think that this situation still continues even three months later.
I can’t help but being angry at and amazed by the government’s lack of speed when dealing with these circumstances,
as well as their lack of decisive leadership during this time of crisis.
What should be our current priority?
Can the people in Nagata-cho truly understand the actual lives of the people in these evacuation shelters,
their feelings of urgency regarding an unclear future, their pain?
Have they actually experienced the desolation of the affected areas, where the air is full of dried sludge,
the smell of decay, and the scent of burned objects?
Before trying to unseat their party leaders or taking the time to debate their principles and positions,
aren’t these people facing a mountain of pressing issues that they need to deal with?
Discussions continue endlessly in the National Diet,
but shouldn’t they first overcome the differences between political parties to begin the concrete actions that must be taken?
Exactly because we have never experienced such an emergency before,
the government must take swift and precise action;
if not, the worth of the Japanese government will be seriously called into question.

I deeply feel that too much time is slipping away while the true point is being missed entirely.
We should be ashamed for other countries to see this situation and the nature of the Japanese government.
I apologize for speaking so harshly, but this is how I feel from the bottom of my heart.
Right now we must all tell the National Diet what we think, and the fact that doing so is necessary is a sad story indeed.

Amongst these circumstances, I’m going to devote my whole energy to X JAPAN’s European tour.
All I can do is carry out the role I need to accomplish.

London is cold, but I’ll make time to write again!

SGZ

Tiny living creatures

The day after I came back from the area affected by the earthquake and tsunami,
I participated in a volunteer debriefing “talk live.”
After that I immediately got involved in recording my solo work,
as well as preparations and arrangements for X JAPAN’s world tour.
I became so insanely busy that I haven’t had any time to write, and I’m sorry it took me so long to do so.
I’ve been totally exhausted every single day…

During my second days of volunteering in Ishinomaki this time,
I came to have a pretty good understanding of the people there and what to do.
I did everything I could to fulfill my duty in the role of leading a team to construct and create jobs.
This time I was mainly in Ogatsu, Onagawa, and Minamihama.
These areas experienced catastrophic destruction,
so much that it seems like nothing has been done even though three months have passed since the disaster.
It was terrible, as if I could hear the screams of a countless number of souls,
as if there was still an afterimage of the terrifying, explosive tsunami that occurred…
I can’t really describe how it felt to actually walk through these places myself,
feeling their breezes and their scents.

During this visit, I mostly worked on collecting and disposing of fishing equipment near the seashore,
as well as removing the rubble that had been washed ashore.
I also participated in a wide range of tasks such as removing fleas from futon, cleaning baths,
and distributing items in the evacuation shelters.

Our assistance regarding fishing equipment was the first step to reviving the local fishing industries.
The most important part of this was communication,
which involved receiving instructions from the leaders of fishery cooperatives
and then working to respond to their needs.
Nets used for cultivation were all tangled up in asphalt that had fallen off roads and damaged seawalls,
floats were scattered all over, and there was a tremendous amount of dead and rotting scallops and oysters. There was also a powerful smell that resembled raw garbage.
Furthermore, there were unbelievable swarms of flies – veritable tornadoes of them.

The rubble was mostly large items such as debris from houses, roofs, and huge trees.
As everyone is aware I am a man who always brings the sun with me,
so we dedicated ourselves to cleaning these areas amongst the scorching sunlight.
The short-term volunteer personnel were switched out every few days,
so each time this happened we worked to instruct them
and give them accurate guidance in order to carry out our tasks in an efficient manner.
I feel like I was able to display my skills while fulfilling my important responsibilities in this way.

In addition to trucks for carting rubble away,
depending on the situation we sometimes needed heavy machinery or chainsaws.
We effectively deployed and joined together with specialists to this end,
creating a hybrid method of working that also involved human strength.
Over the last two days a powerful fire brigade from Saiki City in Oita Prefecture participated as well,
and we were able to carry out our work in a creative way as a large combined team comprised of volunteers and heavy machinery experts from the fire brigade.

The people from the fishery cooperatives were delighted to see the areas
become so clean they almost couldn’t recognize them.
All we did was provide assistance so they can take the first steps towards revitalization,
but we felt such deep emotion that we cried as well.

I also have a wonderful story to share.
Most of the marine life had been annihilated, and only a few living shellfish were rescued.
I somehow felt like I wanted to cherish these few, tiny scallops that managed to live through the disaster.
We received a gift of these scallops from the leader of a fishing cooperative on the very same day,
which the kitchen staff cooked for us that night.
The taste of these living things that had survived such adversity was both poignant and delicious,
so much that it inspired me to tears.
We are constantly eating seafood as if it’s no big deal at all,
but the only reason we can do so is because of the existence of the fishermen
who work passionately to cultivate it.
I was moved by the miracle of these connections,
and of a truth that I had never been aware of or given any thought to.
I keenly felt the blessing of both life and food, and also rediscovered a feeling of gratitude.
The fishermen in the Tohoku Region are facing truly dire circumstances,
but they haven’t given up on reconstruction or on their futures.

I’ll continue this story later, but tomorrow is guitar recording!

SGZ