Riuzenitsuka [essay]

15 Sep

18 months ago, my wife and I visited japan for the 4th time in 10 years. We’ve travelled over 3 of the major island and only have the lower land of Kyushu to see before we can spread ourselves out to the smaller islands of Sodo and so on… But on an oppressively hot summer’s day on Honshu, we took the 3 hour Shinkansen ride from Shinjuku, north to Sendai. It’s a pleasant trip that, once your done with seemingly endless suburbs emerges to occasionally touch the coast. However most of the time the train pelts you thorough flat rice paddies that lie in orderly fashion from the mountains and ridges on the left to the sea on your right.

At Sendai we changed to a local train that rattled us to fishing docks, where we boarded an old grey ferry to wander around Matsushima Bay for a few hours. This is a large shallow bay studded with small, rocky islands, each covered with twisted pine trees that had been tortured by salt laden winds. It was like touring a huge aquatic bonsai garden. Each little island appeared sculptured by an unseen hand into perfect displays. Between them, regular lines of bamboo poles gave the impression the bay was one giant flooded market garden. And in a way it was as these poles marked the rows and racks of oyster farms.

The ship seemed to cut a path that lead you to believe someone was following us and we were trying to lose them. But after an hour and a half of playing hide and seek with ourselves amongst the outcrops we arrived at the tiny holiday resort town of Riuzenitsuka. The summer crowds had gone but you could see from the number of signs promising Lotto ice cream and Asahi beer, this little village existed for the pleasure of those wanting to escape the terrors of the crowded Tokyo for a while. Beyond the low sea wall rows of souvenir shops stood quietly facing the sea. My wife added to her small collection of Kikimmi dolls in one before an old lady lured us into her cafe for a lunch of baked fresh fish, miso, rice and Asahi. She would not let us past.

Riuzenitsuka was the ideal spot to relax. But as with all of Japan, fear lies just under the surface. These islands are constantly trying to shake, blow or wash everyone off. And if that’s not enough there’s the odd volcanic eruption. A sign on the foreshore made it pain that a tsunami was expected. There was no time or date, just a very plain warning that as with death and taxes, a big wave was coming. ‘Run’ it said in words and graphics. Run for your life. Run.

It said ‘not if… but when’.

I suppose that what the old lady did when the deadly wave came. She would have run.

She and her fellow shop owners would have made their way to the sandstone cliffs just two or three streets behind them. Probably carrying nothing of their lives or possessions with them. They would have been able to climb past the meditation hollows the monks from the local temple had carved centuries ago. They would have been able to reach the safety of the wooded sandstone ridge and from there have a panoramic view of the breaking wall of seawater as it crashed over the lawns and playgrounds. They would have seen their shops and cafes resist for a moment and then be reduced to splinters and swept along in this churning, deadly king tide. The old lady would have seen her humble red wooden rice blows mix with the sisters of my wife’s kikimmi doll as the wave enveloped the ‘May peace reign on earth’ post at the foot of the cliff.

They would have seen their livelihoods being swept away in a tide of mud and debris and the bodies of those less quick… as though their whole existence had been put through a paper shredder and reduced to confetti… but they would have been safe.

I can imagine their expressionless faces whispering ‘Bansai’ into the snowy wind – ‘May you live a thousand years.’

Should their wish be granted I expect they may never want to see such a terrible sight again.

Submitted by: Andrew Millar

#Quakebook money handed to Japan Red Cross

8 Sep

Some numbers I think you folks will be interested in:

The good folks at Amazon have sent a cheque for $39,848.10 to the Japan Red Cross on August 9th for sales from the Kindle edition.

The good folks at Goken have donated ¥707,180 the Japan Red Cross from sales so far of the bilingual edition.

Still to come are figures from the English paperback on sale at Amazon and the English hardback available from any bookstore in the world. Not bad. And the revenue continues to flow.

To all the good folks who have bought a copy, or told others about Quakebook, you are making a difference – thank you.

Picture from here.

#Quakebook: The full story

7 Sep

If anyone wants to know the story of #quakebook, you could do worse than buying English Journal’s October issue at Japanese newstands now. But if you want the full, unedited free and frank version, go here and click on the audio. You have to follow links at the end of each bit, but it’s fairly painless and tells the whole story. If you want all the words in one place, Our Man took the liberty of cutting and pasting them on his blog here for posterity.

Many thanks to Owen Schaefer who did an excellent job of letting Our Man talk and moving him on before he lost track of what he was saying. Our Man meant to plug Barry Eisler and Jake Adelstein, but forgot. And many others. Sorry. Next time.

#Quakebook now available at any bookshop in the world

5 Aug

Just got confirmation this morning that 2:46 -Stories from the Japan Earthquake – Quakebook to you and me – is available to order from any bookstore in the world. Not only Amazon. Not only selected bookstores in Japan – everywhere.

The edition is a hardback, English language. Print on Demand from Lightening Source (you demand it, they print it – no expensive print runs and it can stay on sale forever). Recommended retail price is $14.99 or 9.99 pounds, or similar in other currencies, less any discount retailers might want to give.

All you have to do is go to your favourite bookshop and ask for the book and they can order it. You want to support your local bookshop don’t you? Tell them to order the book – and quote the book ID number ISBN 978-0-9568836-2-9.

As ever, all proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross. Quakebook Inc. makes nothing from this (there is no Quakebook Inc. by the way).

If you can’t get to a bookstore, order here from Barnes & Noble, or Amazon Japan here. Should be available from Amazon worldwide too shortly, but hey, don’t wait…


Make a difference: Download Fatblueman's "Black Water"

1 Aug

Don’t you want to make a difference? Maybe it’s just me, but I have a sneaking suspicion it may just be the human condition. From media moguls buying elections to mothers sitting down with their daughters to do their homework, we want to make a difference.

At any rate, I think Quakebook appeals to the better side of us to shape a world that cares about those less fortunate than ourselves. And more than that, get off our backsides and do something to make that difference, no matter how small.

Well, here’s your chance, Quakebook fellow travellers.

It gives me immense pleasure to tell you that JJ of Fatblueman – the musician whose songs inspired me to come up with the idea of Quakebook – has released his excellent tune Black Water to download for $0.99. You can buy it from iTunes here or CD Baby right here (if you can, buy it from CD Baby, their administration fees are only 9% as opposed to Apple’s 30%). JJ is donating all proceeds to HOPE a charity he has worked with personally that is helping tsunami survivors in Tohoku, Japan, and destitute people around the world.

Please buy a copy. It will make a difference to people who need help.

Picture of a Fender in rubble of Ishinomaki from here.



Quakebook number crunching: The story so far

31 Jul

Some numbers you all might be interested in:

30,666 people have downloaded 2:46 Aftershocks – Stories from the Japan Earthquake for Kindle.
$43,099.95 has been raised directly from the ebook alone.
3,000 The number of copies of the paperback Amazon will produce 100% cost free for benefit of the Red Cross
1,000 copies of bilingual Quakebook edition by Goken sold in June alone.
865 downloads of Quakebook from Sony up to June.

Incalculable: The total amount of donations made by people moved by the stories; the amount of awareness of the meaning of 2:46 to Japan and the world; the difference it has made to the people directly affected by the disaster to know that people care.

To all who have bought a copy, read a copy, donated, worked on the project or just told others about it:

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


And there is more news to come…

Quakebook: We're going green!

24 Jul

I’m delighted to announce that the bilingual edition of 2:46 – Stories from the Japan Earthquake (that’s Quakebook to you and me) has been chosen as Hotel Green Plaza’s book for their nationwide charity campaign GREEN YELL. What that means is Quakebook is the featured book at lobbies and gift shops in Hotel Green Plaza’s 14 resort hotels throughout Japan through the summer.

That means hundreds of thousands of Japanese will have a chance to see and buy Quakebook. Many thanks to the good folks at Hotel Green Plaza. Welcome to the book business!

And, don’t forget, from now on, every copy of the bilingual Quakebook sold means at least ¥900 goes directly to the Japanese Red Cross. No one but the victims of the tsunami and earthquake profit from sales of Quakebook.

Carry on all, and stay tuned for further updates.

post quake diary [Photos]

26 Jun

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Submitted by: Björn Neumann

Verse for a Lucky Island [Poem]

24 Jun

Open up the ground we walk;
This Earth has sought to make it known
Despite our smarts and all our talk
We fall by tremor, water thrown.

A power smacks of anger, brings
Destruction’s wave to our feet
A hand that comes to take all things
Then leave us little but defeat.

All this, yet somehow discontent
Fate decides to scare us still
For handmade power waters went
To loosen further dangers’ yield.

So much of that we knew became
Laid to waste by earth and sea
Yet through the loss the heart remains
Willing return of life, of peace.

Whilst one could sooner close his eyes
Lay down with strain these days have brought
Touched by tears that one has cried
Others band, take up the cause.

For now fate holds us in her wake
Since shaking us from what we’ve known
But from our heart she will not take
Away our Lucky Island,

Submitted by: Nicholas Bartlett

Buy Quakebook at a Japanese bookstore today!

14 Jun

The Bilingual Paperback edition is available in stores across Japan from today!

[Download press release]

Please print out the message below (or display it on your phone screen) and bring it to your nearest bookstore. Enter (or say) the number of copies you want in the blank, then show it to the person at the register or the information counter to order your copies of Quakebook.

単行本『2:46 Aftershocks 午後2時46分 すべてが変わった』(語研刊 本体価格1,400円 ISBN978-4-87615-237-7)を____部注文します。

Remember – ordering in your local bookstore is important! It helps expose Quakebook to more people and spread the word. Simply ordering online loses that value, so only do so if you can’t get to a bookstore :).