I’m not quite sure how to begin this post. I’ve retyped the first paragraph several times now, and nothing seems to quite encapsulate what I want to say, so please bear with this post and its emotional tone.
A few days ago, on the night of April 14th, a strong earthquake struck Kumamoto Prefecture, just outside the city of Kumamoto itself in a town called Mashiki. While the magnitude was only measured at 6.4, the strength of the tremors was measured at a 7, the highest on the Japanese scale. Only a few other earthquakes, such as the quake in Tohoku 5 years ago and the quake in Kobe in 1995, have recorded that strength.
Just last night, in the early hours of April 16th, an even stronger quake hit the region, causing further damage to Kumamoto. The castle walls are crumbling and the towers have been badly damaged. Landslides have hit several locations in the Mt Aso region, one of them massive enough to destroy the entire Aso Ohashi Bridge. Aso Shrine has collapsed. Many homes and buildings have collapsed. And many more stand the chance of not lasting through the continuing tremors or the upcoming bad weather.
These earthquakes hit home for me, and I mean that in a very VERY literal way. For three years, until just this past summer, I called Kumamoto my home, living in a neighborhood that bordered Mashiki. Many of my friends live in Mashiki. My daughter went to school in Mashiki. The scenes that have been shown in the news are all places we have been, roads we have driven, sights we have visited. We were just there two weeks ago. It was, and will forever be, our home.
All of our friends are safe. Traumatized and, in some cases, displaced, but alive. I cannot say enough prayers of thanks for that. I cry for the devastation of the area, but it is minimal in comparison to human life. Nothing can replace my family and friends.
It is currently not wise to travel to Kumamoto. The airport is temporarily closed, many trains are not running, and many roads are in poor condition. JR Kyushu, Japan-guide and other websites are doing a commendable job of keeping travelers up to date on developments in the area. Most other areas of Kyushu are relatively unaffected, so if your plans take you elsewhere (ie Fukuoka or Nagasaki), you many not encounter any difficulties.
A few posts ago, I asked you all to remember Tohoku. Today, in a twist that feels entirely too surreal to me right now, I ask you to keep Kumamoto in your thoughts. I’ll post updates when I can to the Uncover Japan facebook page (viewable by anyone, even those without a facebook account) and I can only hope that the worst is over and that the recovery process can begin.