Anything I have to say or write about the recent events in Japan are not really important or meaningful given what has happened. This is more of an exercise in letting out some of the emotions that I have been holding in for the past couple of days.
I have been in a trance since last Friday – flipping back and forth between the television stations in Japan watching the constant stream of news on the earthquake and subsequent tsunami and now the precarious nuclear bind the country is in. Feeling very helpless, I am at a loss on how to make sense of it all or even begin to understand the true magnitude of these events. I did not lose any family members or friends in these last few tragic days so I consider myself lucky and do not even pretend to understand or feel the grief that those that have are experiencing.
Although I am not from Japan, I think of it as my second home. I have gone back at least once a year for the last ten years and I have “lived” there for a couple of stretches. As a result I am very comfortable in Japan. Familiar with the culture and many local locations – the language not so much, a fact that my wife likes to repeatedly remind me of.
I was shocked to see the first images of the tsunami plowing through the towns and farms of northern Japan. I pretty much stayed up the whole night watching the disaster unfold and at the same time trying to contact relatives and friends with my wife. As the news coverage broadened I started to recognize some familiar places. First, a town where we go every year as a family was now submerged in ocean water. Then the huge oil refinery fire in a city close to my in-laws’ home. That was just the start to more and more familiar – but at the same time now unfamiliar images of places where damage was being reported. I couldn’t believe that the images that I was looking at were of the same places I was at just last summer.
The severity and breadth of this disaster so far is mind boggling and unfortunately there will be more bad news to come. So when I first started seeing inquires and searches as to the condition of Nikka’s Miyagikyo Distillery I was truly pissed off. With all of the death and destruction who really cares about a whisky distillery? Miyagikyo is located in Miyagi Prefecture in the city of Sendai. Sendai took a major beating from the quake itself but more so from the tsunami.
After taking some time to digest everything, I figured that watching almost 48 hours of news coverage on the disaster had taken its toll on me. I also realized that Miyagikyo gives people a connection to the disaster that otherwise wouldn’t. They might have never been to Miyagikyo but they know the distillery and they might have enjoyed the whisky that originated from the distillery located in the hills of Sendai – and as ridiculous at it may seem it might personalize it for them. So I have come down from being pissed off and now appreciate that people are concerned enough to ask. Once again displaying that whisky is a unifier – a social magnet that brings us together.
The good news is that reports from Chris over at Nonjatta is that the distillery appears to be fine. I also searched on google’s satellite images of the earthquake and tsunami damage and although not pictured, I could tell that the tsunami damage tapered off before reaching the distillery.
There is a long way to go before the full extent of all of the damage is determined and an even longer way to go to before recovering. But much in the same way they have become globally recognized for their whiskies, the spirit, determination, self sacrifice and detailed order of the Japanese ensure that they will recover from this disaster. – Chris