Imagine: An Essay on My Trip to Japan After the Earthquake

Author: Lisa Mary Remar

Tags: Asia, Japan, Volunteering

An entirely different world revealed itself to me during my most recent trip to Japan. My visit taught me that every moment is another opportunity to discover, to change and to aspire. I became aware of a new reality when I realized and related to the powerful message of the song “Imagine” by John Lennon.

“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.” Lyrics to a song that I had heard countless times before, but never fully connected with. I have always enjoyed listening to “Imagine”, but I had no experience to actually visualize a world of unity. However, after witnessing the strong alliance among the people in Japan, I do not need to try to imagine a benevolent society, because I have seen it first hand.

â–º  SEMI FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP

After the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11th 2011, many lives were lost, and those who survived were emotionally damaged. Japan desperately needed the support of the international community and the flexible strength to cooperate with each other. My Mother is Japanese so I have been raised in both the American and Japanese cultures. I am grateful to my Mother for teaching me how to speak Japanese fluently, because, being bilingual has allowed me to see contrasting worlds from a native’s point of view. I am very proud of my Japanese heritage because I respect many aspects of the culture and society. Therefore, I believed that it was my duty to supply as much strength to the restoration of Japan that I was able to offer.

My annual trips to Japan are usually family oriented, but this past summer I decided to volunteer for 6 weeks. There were days when I did heavy lifting beneath the scorching sun, and others when I chopped carrots until my hands turned orange. The most challenging days were spent in a small office with no air-conditioning, stuffing envelopes. In an attempt to save electricity, Japan was enforcing blackouts, and without air-conditioning, there was no way to escape the heat. One day, I am not proud to say, I hid at home with the air-conditioner turned on and watched television.

In Japan there are only 12 channels. Half of them are for educational purposes and the other five are either news channels or for toddlers. However, there is one channel that has all the meaningless entertainment an entire country could want. Ironically, the day that I was hiding out, the entertainment channel aired an award show that was involved in raising money for the people of Sendai, the city nearest to the earthquake. A portion of the broadcast was set aside for various artists to recommend
songs that gave them hope during this tragedy. The only non-Japanese artist, Lady Gaga, recommended the song “Imagine”. Initially, I thought it was cliched, but then found myself listening closely to the lyrics and finally becoming aware of my surroundings. I turned the air conditioner off.

The earthquake caused immense suffering and tore families apart, but it ultimately brought the nation together. I witnessed everybody helping each other for the creation of a better place, and saving energy was only part of the team work. Everyone chose to be involved because living for each other had become a way of life. Every person was equal. This national cooperation in the midst of an unpreventable disaster proved to me that there is “no need for greed or hunger” and there exists “a brotherhood of man.”