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Messages from Japan: Responding to tragedy

MMN staff - 06/08/11

Mennonite Mission Network

Since the magnitude 9 earthquake, followed by the deadly tsunami that struck Japan’s north-east coast on March 11, Mennonite Mission workers and associates have been blogging about the recovery.

Most of them do not serve in the immediate disaster areas, but their messages of hope and resilience have provided informative perspectives, particularly as the tragedy has dropped from the top headlines of major media outlets.

In contrast, Japanese Mennonite poet Yorifumi Yaguchi and his family lost much through the tragedy. The Goshen Biblical Seminary graduate is a nationally known poet who has witnessed Japan’s massive pain before. During World War II, he watched bombs split his countryside to pieces. At the request of Mennonite Mission Network, Yaguchi wrote the following poems, expressing his thoughts of the current tragedy’s impact on his beloved nation.

Read poems from Yorifumi Yaguchi below:

Hometowns — March 11, 2011
No sooner had the bottom of the ocean tumbled far away
And violently shaken our town beside the beach
Than the dark tsunami attacked
And swallowed its houses. The one father was raised in
Was torn apart and was gone.

The tsunami ran upstream on the Kitakami river
And swallowed Mama’s hometown:
Her father’s temple, the Kannon statue I once worshipped,
The hanging bell, and the school beside the bank;
And most of its pupils were gone.

We believed that our hometowns were safe,
But the graveyards, the streams where children fished,
The pine forest windbreak where I had hunted
For mushrooms as a child disappeared all at once
And the relatives, friends, and acquaintances were gone.

What sins had they committed—
Living peacefully by the seaside?
Nothing left, only a few scars of the old towns.
Now after a month or two the waves have become quiet
And again begin to gently wash the shore…

The nuclear power plants proudly standing
On the seaside nearby were shaken and broken like toys,
And the tamed radioactive power tore its yoke
And came flying into our towns,
Crowding around the few greens amid the debris.

Our sphere is more fragile than I ever thought
And I think of the time of our ending.
A bigger tsunami may attack even tomorrow,
Uproot more towns, and crush all the nuclear plants.
What remains will be debris, and radioactive waste.

Our country
is a leaf
on the waves
of the earthquakes.

A crowd of
nuclear power plants
are singing
and dancing
on it.

Contributed by Yorifumi Yaguchi