April 18 – Weekend Warmth

The return of the Sakura season in Japan may be more subdued this year than in years passed.

As temperatures fluctuate, a musical group’s warmth symbolizes that the real recovery is still fueled by neighbors helping neighbors.

Saturday marked one of the warmest days of the year in Sendai with mid-day temperatures reaching 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately for Yasue, a box of her summer clothes we had sent her a couple of weeks ago arrived from Hawaii. When she left for Sendai in January, she never imagined she would need her lighter clothing.

As if to say winter might not quite be over yet, the temperatures for the next couple of days are not expected to break 50 degrees so it looks like she will have time to wash her summer clothes before needing them. It’s amazing how many you can pack into a small box but I am certain they were wrinkled beyond recognition when she unpacked them.

Although she spent much of her time at the hospital this weekend, Yasue was able to get out for awhile and enjoy the warmer air and view the cherry blossoms at a park nearby. Sakura season is normally filled with drinking, laughter and singing with friends, co-workers and family amongst the blossoms. Some of my favorite memories – as well as some I can’t quite recall due to the sake – are from the cherry blossom parties we had while living in Japan from 1984-1995. I imagine this year the sakura parties will be more subdued.

In Sendai, if they are going to be playing any music at all while enjoying the blossoms, they should play songs from the group Monkey Majik – one of Japan’s hottest pop-rock groups. Yasue shared with me their story over the phone this weekend. Unlike most rock stars that make it big in Japan, the band members from Monkey Majik – two Canadian brothers and two Japanese friends – made their home in Sendai because they loved the lifestyle there. One of the brothers, Blaise Plant, lost his home in the 3/11 quake and tsunami. Since that day, he and his bandmates have been working tirelessly to help Sendai recover. Blaise has been keeping a blog complete with his pictures from some of the most devastated areas. Like the group’s songs, the blog is both in English and Japanese. In it he writes:

Until now, I never experienced such a tragedy in my life.
But I also never experienced such a beauty in humanity.
The love and hardship of the Japanese is undeniably strong.
I witnessed a miracle, and I am still seeing it today at the volunteer centers and evacuation centers all over Northern Japan.
Being at the heart of the disaster, losing my home, and being invited into a new one has been a life changing experience. Working together with volunteers, and meeting families who are suffering worse than I.

If you enjoy a first-person perspective about what is happening in Sendai’s recovery efforts, you can read more about what Blaise has seen and done in the last 6 weeks here.

I am certain that Blaise and the rest of us can take heart in knowing that the beauty in humanity he has both experienced and enhanced – unlike the beauty of the cherry blossoms – will be anything but fleeting.