Author Archives: tybergs

Minamisanriku and the future

Our two days spent in Minamisanriku were incredible, and I feel like all of the class discussions and field trips were leading up to actually seeing the disaster area first-hand and hearing the stories of locals. It was an amazing and powerful experience that I won’t forget.

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This is a picture of the disaster evacuation center, or really, what was left of it after the 3/11 tsunami. The resiliency of the people of Minamisanriku was represented so strongly in the heroic efforts of both the survivors and victims throughout the disaster area, and the newscasters of this particular evacuation center illustrate heroism well. They stayed until their last minutes of life to broadcast the happenings of the disaster, and died for their duty and occupation dedicated to helping others.

This type of sacrifice also mimics well the direction of Minamisanriku in the future, repairing and recovering after their major disaster. In order to repair the disaster-destroyed area, Minamisanriku needs everyone to work for the community, toward a greater goal of future protection and peace.

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The future is bright in Minamisanriku because of the efforts of locals, volunteers, and foreigners to help get back what so many people lost in the earthquake and tsunami. This island head was a gift from Chile to Japan, and the Japanese use it as a symbol of the future, of what’s to come. I think that this is the most important thing that the people of Minamisnriku and other parts of the disaster area can do post-3/11: look to the future with hope. Tragedy is a part of all of our lives, a as much as we’d like to deny it. And, in my opinion, whether the tragedy is small scale–like the death of a friend–or large scale–like the deaths of thousands–there is still a process of grief and recovery that requires as much hope as you can muster in order to make it through.

The people of Minamisanriku and their ability for hope and pursuit for recovery following the Tohoku tragedy seem to be the keys to keeping their spirit alive. Their future is bright because of it.

Kanto Earthquake Museum!

At the Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum, there were so many interesting artifacts that caught my eye. I took several photos of the destroyed typewriter, the bound book, and the old bicycle (see the following photos).

Like we talked about outside of the museum, all of these items seemed to suggest the human presence of Tokyo–and lack there of–after disaster. The typewriter, the book, and the bicycle all used to have owners, and that loss is present with every artifact in the museum. The damage done to the possessions mimics the damage also done to the people and the population. In this way, as an observer, I could see where the objects seem to occupy the space left behind by victims of the earthquake and how that asserts an emptiness of the area as a whole.

Anyway, while looking through artifacts at the museum, I was originally thinking about this idea of ownership and presence. I thought about the people who once owned the items, and what their lives were like before and after the accident.

The artifact that seemed to stand out to me in this way was this preserved denim shirt on display. To me, it was most connected to people and humanity in general. Clothing, often a basic necessity for modern life, was featured as an as an aspect of The Great Kanto Earthquake. Thinking about this makes me realize how much the people of Tokyo lost during the earthquake. They were reduced to having less than clothing, needing to receive donations of such to live more “normal” lives. The little details emphasized human presence: whoever used to wear this shirt was a size medium and measurement of 49… and to me, that seems to make this seem more… real. The shirt and its size suggests a human owner that should be present within the clothing… there should be a chest underneath the buttons, a heart should beat rhythmically under the pocket… and it was powerful to me to know that the human quality of clothing and ownership was lost during the Earthquake for many people and their possessions. Sadly, so much was lost in the disaster, from the simplest things like clothing, to the most important things like life.

Nanzan/Dickinson Presentations

What opinions of mine were supported by the presentations?

1. Before the group projects, I definitely had the preconceived notion that community played a strong role in helping people survive and rebuild after disaster. I’ve seen so many local organizations and charities that focus on sending money to places like the Katrina disaster area. In high school, all of our French classes raised money to send to Haiti after their earthquake disaster in 2010, and we ended up sending a lot of supplies through a local church to help schoolchildren there. Whenever I thought about these efforts in my area, I remembered that I live in just one school district, and I felt like similar efforts would be carried out across multiple other areas… And combining all of this communal help would make a large impact on countries affected by disaster. Because I saw so much community effort in my own area for disasters around the world, the community efforts of Japan and America featured in the presentations affirmed my feelings.

What opinions of mine were challenged by the presentations?

2. Parts of the presentations still challenged some of the preconceived notions that I had about disaster response. I’m not sure why, but I kind of assumed that the Japanese government would be more responsive than the American government to disaster relief, but it seems like there is criticism toward government in both parts of the world. When government fails to do what they promised, people lose trust and bond more closely together, as seen in the two presentations that interviewed victims of the tragedies. Similarly, after talking to several of the Nanzan students, I realized that many people viewed America as such a superpower of the world… and they expected that American government would have been able to respond better than the Japanese. It surprised me that both American and Japanese students felt similarly negative about their own country’s government response!

On a lighter note, the night after the presentations was awesome! It was great to see both the professors and the students in a much more casual setting that let us reflect on the day in a different way.

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Disaster Prevention in my small town

For my whole life, I’ve lived in a small town, an almost suburb-of-a-suburb of Pittsburgh about one hour outside of the city. In my town, we rarely are threatened by natural disasters. We often have thunderstorm and flood warnings, as well as the occasional remnants of a hurricane or a freak tornado sighting. One year, there was a microburst during a school picnic… but it was a bit more exciting than damaging.

Above is an image I found online about the microburst in my area in 2002. We were unprepared, and one person even died during the storm.

I suppose one of the most severe incidences we would face in western Pennsylvania are wintry challenges. We’ve had a number of blizzards, the most terrible one that I remember being in 2009 (wow, has it really been that long?) that affected most of the Northeastern America, including my area. I was in high school at the time, and we had a whole week of school canceled and a whole second week of delayed classes.

And even then, our disaster prevention drills–only useful in the case of a tornado or fire–were kind of blown off by both the students and teachers at my school. Practice drills were mandatory but not taken very seriously, and they lasted maybe five minutes only a few times every school year. It was a chore to go through the procedures rather than helpful safety skills. (Compare this to Japan and the procedures that Matt said the kids in Fukushima go through. I bet his younger students knew how to handle disaster better than most of my friends in high school!)

If there was an extreme storm that left my town devastated–houses unlivable, stores unreachable, tons of people dead or injured–I’m not sure what I would do or how the other people of my community would react. I hope that the community left would come together to rebuild and reevaluate our situation, like the people of Kobe did after their own tragedy. If possible, we could house people in large buildings or areas left livable, such as the high school or the high school football field. My community is used to fundraising and doing charity for local events, and I think rebuilding would take place similarly, getting the word out of our need and trying to compile the funds and resources necessary to help out the town. Being unprepared would definitely take a toll on us, though.

Above is a photo of an example of the destruction found in Kobe after the earthquake.

I’m thankful, probably not even thankful enough, that I will likely not have to face a serious threat by nature in my hometown.

Super frog Saves Tokyo

Of the three Murakami stories, the one that I understood and connected with the most was “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo.”

Some specific detail from this short story related to earthquake science and culture that we’ve already discussed in class. For example, the idea that Worm’s build up of “all the different kinds of hatred he has absorbed and swallowed” acknowledges the idea of tension between two tectonic plates (98). When tectonic plates reach their limit of friction-caused tension, they can suddenly jump and cause an earthquake when the tension finally exceeds the friction.

Later, the idea of community is mentioned when Frog tells Mr. Katagiri his role in the fight against Worm. Katagiri’s role “to share [his] simple courage” with Frog nods to the importance of community and bonding when overcoming extreme disaster or obstacles.

On a personal note, I liked the mention of author Joseph Conrad (on page 103), because I love his short story “The Secret Sharer.” Conrad’s work relates a lot to these short stories from Murakami, as they often feature humans in contest with morals, reality, and other experiences. Thinking about this made me really happy… even making me respect Murakami a little more just because I love Joseph Conrad.

Anyway, in this way, the main theme I saw in this particular short story from Murakami–which can tie into earthquake culture–was the instability of life, reality, and relationships. Katagiri was so unimpressed and depressed with his life that he wasn’t phased by the prospect of death (98). He felt life to be so monotonous, not valuing himself on his own. When he believed he was being shot and going to die, and when waking up in the hospital, Katagiri seemed reenergized by the prospect of adventure and purpose.

Likewise, Katagiri’s relationship with Frog impacted his own perception of is own life and reality. He was able to find more meaning and purpose in himself after Frog gave him a path to follow. Similarly, earthquakes and other disasters shake up (pun not intended) life and reality in a way that leaves those effected searching for purpose. Katagiri found purpose in Frog’s disaster warning and earthquakes often show real-life people different purposes than what they previously imagined for themselves.

Katagiri’s strained and dissolved relationship with Frog also shows the way that disaster changes the value of relationships and connections with other people. Family and friends may be lost after disaster strikes. Even if no one dies, tragedy still impacts people and can change their attitudes from normalcy to panicked, wary, respectful, or appreciative.

All of this leads to the idea that nothing is certain, nothing is stable. There is an instability to everything. Katagiri was certain his life was meaningless and held not a bit of importance, yet Frog showed him that it did. Perhaps instability and uncertainty are the only things stable and certain in life, as represented by great disasters such as earthquakes.

Getting to know you

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I am a people person. And I don’t mean that I am a sociable person, because I’m not, usually. I’m never the loudest person in a room, and I’ve never been really outgoing or popular.

But I’m definitely a people person in the sense that, well… I love people. I love meeting and getting to know new people. I love knowing people intimately and hearing their stories. I don’t mean to sound conceited, but my friends always tell me that I see the best in people too often and care about others too much. But I think this is what I’m best at. (You know how everyone seems to have “thing”? One person is so good at music that it’s known as their “thing,” or another is so good at languages or sports or being funny that it’s their “thing”…? Do you know what I’m talking about? Well… I think my thing is listening to and caring for others. I just do it naturally–to a fault, sometimes–but I do think that one of my favorite things to do is to connect with other people.)

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I’ve loved traveling around Japan, from Nagoya to Kyoto (and Tokyo pretty soon!), but the best part of this experience so far has been getting to know, caring for, and learning from the people sharing this experience with me.

I was having a particularly hard day last week that I didn’t really want to talk about with anyone, but just being around everyone else’s really positive energy and spirits made me feel better. I realized how close we’ve grown together over the past two weeks, even though we didn’t all know each other at the beginning of the program. I’ve had several heart-to-heart conversations while on this trip, and it means a lot to me that I’ve gotten to know both the Dickinson and some of the Nanzan students very well. Everyone here has been incredibly gracious, helpful, and just a whole lot of fun to be around. Everyone reminds me why I love connecting and spending time with others, especially on these crazy adventures… I can’t even believe that I actually made it, that I’m in Japan, and on this amazing program!

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I know that the next two weeks are going to be even better than the first two. You’re all special and amazing friends, and I love you guys. 🙂

My room and this influx of crazy people

A few days ago, I noticed that the people in this group write really strange blog posts. I thought it was a little weird at the time, but I saw Nicole staring at Dennis staring at Mia on one of the train rides. This night though, I was in the room that I share with Mia, and Nicole and Dennis come in and ask Mia questions about her love for bread. I must admit, Mia always eats bread, but I wouldn’t ask her why she does. It dawned on me that Nicole and Dennis are crazy. Like when we climbed the mountains, on the trains, and I must have seen Dennis and Nicole acting crazy walking around the streets of Nagoya. When Dennis questioned Mia, she said that bread was her good friend… and they wrote really strange blog posts about it.

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Fault museum

fault museum trip

At the fault museum, I sketched the western side of the northern wall, featuring a close-up of the first two rows of columns marked W21 through W18.

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These are photographs of the entire northern wall and a close up of the northern wall (from which I sketched) respectively.

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This is my sketch, entitled “A View of the North Side of the Fault,” with labels along the top to show the columns I featured as well as a scale to show that 6 blocks across is one meter and 8 blocks down is one meter. I made the scale in this way to fit the sketched area on my page, but in retrospect, I probably should have drawn it evenly. It’s good to look at this first sketch and understand how I can improve in the future.

In my sketch, I described and drew what I observed as best as I could. The topmost part of the ridge had a fine-grain slope, quickly morphing into the first large layer of a rocky slope with jagged rocks. This layer led to a thin ridge that was a dusty, flat white color that then outlined other large, broken flat rocks. At the bottom of this area, there were many defined round rocks on the slope.

These round, smooth rocks are known as alluvium. They were most likely shaped by the river that used to run through this area. You can get a better idea of the path of the river from this following picture, annotated with a yellow arrow to show the direction of the water.

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The thin, white layer of rock is perhaps a chemical type of sedimentary stone that had its color produced by natural chemical processes.

The jagged ledge of rocks is likely colluvium, fragments of rock and sediment. These rocks haven’t been smoothed over by the river.

Using Steno’s Principles, I know that these layers are subject to superpositioning (the oldest layers are at the bottom), original horizontality (the layers are deposited flat), and lateral continuity (covering vast areas). Clearly looking at the following picture, I can see where a fault occurred and have marked some evidence with an annotation.

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The rocks shift upwards, vertically, as opposed to their usual horizontal position. This shows how they were pulled upward when an earthquake occurred.

The fault museum was really interesting, and I am glad that we got to apply things that we learned in class in person.

Critique on Atwater

Atwater’s article, “Long-Term Perspectives on Giant Earthquakes and Tsunamis at Subduction Zones,” is an interesting and easy-to-follow discussion regarding several historic earthquakes and tsunamis and how to prevent future disasters through the understanding of subduction zones.

Background information in Atwater’s article is provided throughout the historical context of each earthquake. Additionally, scientifically-defined words and concepts are set aside in colored boxes that keep the reading organized and understandable.

Atwater seems to follow the general model of seismic understanding, explaining that even detailed records of past earthquakes do little to predict the size or intensity of future ones. His ambiguous conclusion to his argument seems all at once valid but evasive. In my opinion, it appears that his interpretation uses much scientific graphs and information to back up his hypothesis, but earthquakes are so often unpredictable that this data just goes to prove that it is difficult to make predictions of future disasters.

Atwater’s article is still significant; the solutions proposed state that paleoseismological surveys and geophysical models have the potential to help expand the understanding of historical earthquakes, and thus, advance the understanding of preventing earthquakes as well. By giving specific instructions for how to further aid this modern problem, Atwater makes his contribution to the effort to help the world’s problem combatting natural disasters.

This Past Week

This past week of staying in Japan has given me many new and exciting experiences to remember. After my last blog post about traveling to Higashiyama Sky Tower, we visited a Buddhist temple to practice a fifteen-minute meditation one morning. I’m usually an anxious person by nature, so it was hard to stay still for the whole fifteen minutes, but I enjoyed participating in such an authentic and unique Buddhist practice.

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On Friday, we met a lot of Nanzan students at the Welcome Party they held for us. It was awesome! There were some fun performances and great food.

We stayed in contact and hung out with some of our new friends–like Yumiko and Minami–over the weekend. We went to Nagoya Castle for sightseeing and Sakae for shopping.

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Nagoya Castle was great!

On Monday, we traveled to Toyohashi and hiked up Mt. Ishimaki the following day. It was rough, but fun and rewarding. We not only got to see the amazing view of the city, but we also saw a lot of Japan’s beautiful nature (including some interesting rock formations, with the help of Professor Sak pointing them out to us.) 🙂

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Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

These photos feature Toyohashi outside of the train station, Professor Bates on the hike, the interesting rock that Professor Sak passed around, and Angel finding a cute tree frog!