I had the good fortune of being a member of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Program as an Assistant Language Teacher for the towns of Matsuyama and Hirata in Yamagata Prefecture from 2000 to 2003. It wasn't easy to imagine being 6500 miles from home, but having so many friendly and accepting people in the two towns made it so much easier to adjust to my job as a teacher and help the town as much as possible.
During that three-year span, the hardest part was the most unexpected one. None of us were prepared for the tragedy to occur in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. on September 11th, 2001, and it was all the more difficult to watch it going on from half a world away. There's something about being unable to be there for people, and all I could do was wait until I had the next break to come home in December.
However, I also had strength of mind and belief in the human race. I knew that, as Americans, we would overcome these tragedies. I had faith in the people around Ground Zero, and even though I wasn't there in body, I was there in spirit and more united with my countrymen.
However, I also felt more united with the people around me. While there was a good chance that a lot of the people hurt and killed in the attacks were not related any of us, I found people opening up a bit more and conversing with me about the incidents. Some of my students even felt compelled to talk about this with me. I appreciated the thought and found myself contributing more to the towns through volunteer efforts and cross-cultural exposure.
Now it feels like the same thing has happened again.
Granted, comparing a terrorist plot to a natural disaster is your typical apples-to-oranges display, but being on the other side of the world while chaos reigns once again makes one feel helpless. If you're an anime fan, there's a good chance that someone for which you care—a voice actor, artist, producer, or even a friend—is in Japan dealing with this situation firsthand. You want to be there to experience their trauma and help them deal with the hardships.
And as an anime fan, the last thing on your mind should be the next episode of Dragon Crisis. There's a very real crisis unfolding in Japan, one that doesn't need any Godzilla jokes affixed to it. We can all cope with the preempting of our favorite shows for the time being. We can hold back on buying the latest issue of Shônen Jump if we know the money could be used for Red Cross efforts. Most of all, we can deal without the consumption of popular culture for the meantime, as popular welfare is much more important.
Once again, some of us can't be there with our friends and acquaintances, but we can be there in spirit. I encourage people to find ways to donate to the recovery and relief efforts, as well as try to locate friends and family in Japan through the Internet, as medical supplies, food rations, phone lines and electricity are required in Japan.
Some suggestions for helping the effort are provided on the Japan Society of Boston's homepage, but most of all, remain calm. There are so many bits and pieces of information coming from Japan through social media and mainstream media outlets that it can often be difficult to determine paths of action. Remember that being calm leads to being prepared for anything that might come in the future.
While I myself tend to be more spiritual than religious, my heart goes out to those in Japan, and I wish for a safe and speedy recovery for all of those people that need it. Half a world away, we care about you as much as you cared about us.