This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japan 日本 Someday...

On my bedroom wall, next to a map of the world, I taped up the following: At least once in your life visit Japan. It's from a travel advertisement, I'm a sucker for a good slogan. I felt compelled to tear it out and keep it. It's a hope, a daydream, a dare, and a promise...

In 7th grade, I had a Japanese pen pal from Shizuoka, Japan. That experience led me to doodle Japanese characters all over folders. I learned to fold a tight origami crane. I even taught myself traces of Japanese. Some of it stuck, like gum to the bottom of a forgotten pair of shoes.

By college, the fascination had bubbled up again. I applied to the JET program [ Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme], completed all the requirements, got my recommendations, and promptly chickened out completely. I wasn't ready to travel overseas to such a foreign culture for such a long time.

In recent years, I've reinvigorated this desire for Japan-- learning more of the language and trying to commit to learning some hiragana and katakana (phonetic Japanese characters.) After New Zealand won out as my last travel destination, Japan was next in line... rising like the sun as my near future destination. Now, I discovered, I am a bit older, more knowing of myself, more confident in delving into such a foreign culture from my Western upbringing. Now, I am ready.

Unfortunately, Japan is not.
The crows were circling. At the end of February, Christchurch, New Zealand was hit with a powerful earthquake. Petra Nemcova, the Czech supermodel that famously survived the deadly 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia was announced as a contestant in this year's Dancing With The Stars. Charlie Sheen went off the deep end and we watched him drown. Then on Friday, March 11, Battle: Los Angeles opened at the cineplex. Destruction brought on by alien invasion was fine by us. We ate it up like popcorn, despite bad reviews. We wanted to see destruction, armageddon, fire, death until-- until it all became too real.

It is with great sadness that I watched with the rest of the world [what seemed to be never-ending] footage of destruction in Japan the weekend of March 11. The nuclear radiation fears, the torturous tsunami-- all of it set forth by a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that alone, would've crippled any other land, including my own.

This past Sunday, I braved heavy rain to attend the Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I'd been looking forward to gathering information about an upcoming trip to Japan. With hundreds of exhibitors from around the world within my reach, I found no travel exhibitors from Japan. There were no tour operators pushing trips to Mount Fuji. No, Japan was eerily silent. They had a presence, but it was one of peace and hope and unity. At a booth near the front, volunteers sat quietly folding origami cranes from colorful paper. Others stood, hands outstretched, collecting Japan relief money into tin canisters. I dropped some money in, as I walked by.

"Arigato," said a Japanese woman, her head bowed to the ground.

"Douitashimashite," I said, smiling back and giving a little bow myself.

At least once in your life visit Japan.

It's a hope, a daydream, a dare, and a promise...

Help Japan 日本

©2011 by KLiedle

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