How do we go on after a catastrophic event like a loss of a loved one or a massive hurricane or a tsunami ?
At 2:46 pm, all throughout Japan, peace bells rang and citizens– old couples, office workers, to school children–bowed their heads in silence. Three years ago yesterday in Japan, the 9 magnitude Tohoku Earthquake hit the Northeast region of Japan and the massive tsunami took over 15000 lives. When this tragedy happened, we teamed up with an emergency medial relief team called Empact Northwest; I made a block print of the Matsushima Bay (once a beautiful bay in the Tohoku region) for a fundraiser. Together we were able to donate over fifty thousand dollars to the recovery effort.
Today in America (3/11) marks exactly three years since the earthquake. Still over 2600 people are missing and with the ensuing problems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the area continues to struggle with the post-disaster recovery. Currently the Japanese government shut down all 48 nuclear power plants for safety inspections, with a future plan to resume their operations.
Japanese citizens’ anti-nuclear sentiment has been rising. On March 9th, many protesters took to the streets in Tokyo — rather an unusual spectacle in Japan where group conformity is still important. They argue that Japan needs to stop using nuclear power and instead look into alternative energy source such as geothermal (which is abundant, constant, and promising!), solar, and wind.
A group of about 100 men and women also staged a protest in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. They released 300 red balloons with the words “No to nuclear power” in Japanese. A perfect peace message for an insular government headed by Prime Minister Abe who seems to lack the awareness of international political sentiments.
This year I’m planning to release my own “red balloons” into the Seattle sky. Not during day time like the protesters in Tokyo. But it’ll be at night. A group of Seattle-area volunteers have been staging an anti-war and anti-nuclear weapons ceremony and event called “From Hiroshima to Hope”. At Green Lake in North Seattle neighborhood, they invite thousands of attendees to make a paper lantern, write their messages with a brush and ink, light a candle inside, float them into the lake.
My husband volunteers for this event and our kids and I participated last year. The experience of floating over 1000 lanterns into the dark lake water was moving and mesmerizing. When I returned home, I made a quick watercolor sketch. Using this sketch I’ll be making an original linoleum block print for the 2014 “From Hiroshima to Hope” poster. Just like the red ball0ons in Tokyo, our paper lanterns will be filled with our wishes and hopes for a better world, a better future.