A short extract of a post that features in my book about the Great East Japan Earthquake, The Teas That Bind:
We got talking at the Free Tohoku and It’s Not Just Mud Christmas party, despite not sharing much language, our ‘conversation’ drifting over the head of her small boy, who wriggled in her arms in that way that children do the world over when they decide that Mum has been talking long enough. He was too shy to look my way at first, burying his face in her shoulder as we tried to get him to wave ‘hello’ or ‘konnichiwa’. We chuckled over his antics until eventually he looked to see what was happening and we were rewarded with a big smile.
I asked his age and she said he was only four months old, so she would have been pregnant during March. I thought back to that time, things like how difficult it was to sleep, the huge number of aftershocks, constantly watching the news coming from Fukushima and how the strain affected everyone. How much harder it must have been in the North, where shocks were stronger and more frequent, family members disappeared or dead and the buildings more damaged. Then having to face that while pregnant. I couldn’t believe how strong she was.
Surrounded by the children enjoying the party, running around, chasing each other, jumping like crazy on the bouncy castle, it was great to be able to give them this chance to be kids again. Imagining the loss and fear that they must have experienced, coupled with seeing their parents – the ones to run to when something scary happens – also looking afraid. Having to be strong for each other in the face of so much uncertainty and loss must take its toll and I hope the party was able to provide a brief comfort.