From the Experience of the Mega Earthquakes in Japan

Destruction in Japan
Light planes and vehicles sit among the debris after they were swept by a tsumani that struck Sendai airport in northern Japan. (KyodoNews/Associated Press)

On the Day of the Mega Earthquakes Happened

When the mega earthquakes hit us, it was a little before three o’clock in the afternoon. I was at my office in the Sunflower-center of Konohana Family, a Japanese ecovillage. All power was cut off soon after the first big shake and the after-shake continued with certain strength. I felt something was totally different from what we have experienced before. Most of the members who worked inside of the buildings and infants got out to our big parking lot in front of the center. I went to the dining hall and turned off the woodstove. No one gets panic. Since we cannot connect to a TV, we checked internet news on a mobile phone. Some other members who work at different fields came back to the center, and confirmed damage. At the same time, we tried to gather correct information. Finally, we found a portable radio to find some information. Other members were preparing for flashlights and candles.

How My Community Reacted

Konohana Family is an intentional community which was established 1994 by 20 members, now it grows 70 members including 20 children. We produce vegetables, rice, grains, and fruits organically, and our food self-sufficiency would be more than 800%. We are about working to improve energy generation, and then the earthquake hit us. Even we have a good well behind of the center, we need electricity to pump water up. While still outside is light, guys brought up water from the well manually to barrels. So, we had to bring a private electric generator to put light during dinner for 100 people including 20 guests.

Fortunately, electricity came back on the next morning, and many of us watched TV, and found out the earthquake was magnitude 9.0 at the epicenter, and tsunami gave significant damages to many coastal towns and the Fukushima nuclear power plant. We are about 350km from the power plant.

Members of Konohana Family
Members of Konohana Family in January, 2011
Destroyed street after earthquakes in Japan
A pedestrian road collapsed in the massive earthquake (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

More Earthquakes?

On March 27th, a Japanese media reports the number of deceased and missing caused from the earthquakes are more than 27,000.

We are really hoping the whole movement will stop and settle. However, the national meteorological agency predicts we have 70% of probability to have aftershake which is magnitude 7 level.

On March 16th, we had another reasonably big afterquake which was magnitude 6.4, and later we found the epicenter was where we are located. Fortunately, we almost did not have any damage, and we were all together having a daily meeting at night. In anytime, it is really nice to be with people who share lives together.From the mental and spiritual point of views, an ecovillage living create such a strong support. Currently, things seem calmed down; however, we constantly feel shakes which are magnitude 3 to 4.

 

Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant is located very close to the predicted epicenter of Tokai Earthquake.
Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima on March 27th. Photo: Japan Ground Self-Defense Force

Nuclear Power Stations on the Country with Frequent Earthquakes

As I asked to sign for a petition (see the end of this article) to many of you already, twenty-seven of the fifty-four nuclear power plants in Japan are still operating. And five of them are located about 80km away from our community, and two of the five are still operating. So, all of Konohana members and our friends signed for the petition to request to stop all the nuclear reactors of the closest one, Hamaoka power plants.

Also, I called the power station, and managed to talk to the public relation’s officer. I told him that we request to stop all the reactors since the power station is standing on a very unstable plate in comparison to the Fukushima power stations. Also, we are told that we have very high probabilities to get hit the Tokai mega earthquakes which is predicted 15 times more than the Kobe earthquakes happened in 1995. If it comes, the Hamaoka power plants will get much larger damage and has possibilities to release larger amount of radiation. Once the radiation spread around the area, that does not only pollute the land, the ocean, and the air of the current generation, but also of the future generation. He was listening, but what he kept insisted was, “Do not to worry since the safety of the power station was secured. The Fukushima #1 plant got damaged, but the safeguards of the Fukushima #2 plant and another nuclear power plant which is located close to the epicenter worked well and now, they stop properly.” He insisted the safety even I continued to explain possibilities of the danger and damage of the power plant. After all, what I said was, “You work for the company, so as other colleagues. So, you do whatever the job in front of you. However, please feel your good inside of you and listen to the voice, and do not seal it with obligations. Please act as a human-begins. Before you are the employee of the power company, you are a human. Do not forget it, and act honestly to your heart. Please pass this message to your bosses as a message of one of your customers.” I do not know how much he could accept my word. I hope he and his colleagues could feel something as a human being.

It has been two weeks since the mega earthquakes happened, and presently, more than 243,000 people take shelter in uncomfortable surroundings. Not only these people are sufferers, but also people live around the Fukushima nuclear power station needs to evacuate to somewhere safe. 

Sufferer evacuated to a gymnastic hall of a primary school in Fukushima.

Important Points to Allocate Sufferers

One of the member organizations of Ecovillage Japan Network was Iidate village Eco-center in Fukushima. They are subjected to danger of the strong radiation. Mr. Shoji Ozawa, an environmental journalist says that when the sufferers evacuate, it is very important to move as a community unit. The most of the sufferers lived in rural area this time.

Currently big cities like Tokyo and Osaka indicate to accept those sufferers. However, if they evacuate and live in a public housing in a city, it is better to live together as a community since living in a new environment and isolation becomes a lot of stress to them. We learned about this when the Miyake Island erupted in 2000, and all villagers evacuated to the suburb of Tokyo. Ideally, it is better to evacuate smaller municipalities, and larger municipalities support the smaller ones financially, and also it is important to send them some staff. The evacuation may take longer than expected, and some of them may not go back their home town during their lifetimes. However, their goal is rehabilitation of their home town. For that, they need to maintain community, and others need to think from that aspect.

 

Michiyo with one of daughters of Konohana Family and Mt. Fuji. January, 2011

Role of Global Ecovillage Network

Through this experience, many people are shifting their values towards more sustainable way of life. Those who evacuated will create a new community or those who will go back their home town and rebuild their community, they will start from the physical rebuilding of their community. However, some of them will face difficulties and realize important elements of community building. These elements are indicated as the four dimensions of the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE). I am hoping that we can get involved in the rebuilding process of the community from the scratch to apply the Ecovillage Design. Ten days before the earthquakes, members of GENOA in Japan were talking about to approach Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to offer some kind of educational program. That was originally thought to be a measure for depopulation problem, but now, the idea can be applied to rebuild communities which were affected by the earthquakes and the nuclear radiation. Once the basic needs get satisfied, they try to make a community again, and they will realize a new type of leadership and decision making process. They face difficulties to create employment opportunities in the conventional economic system. Some of them must have realized that we need to transform our consciousness to change the society.

GEN hold big resource with full of experience and examples. So, please share your experience for these cases if you have, and give us some ideas when we need to get consulted. Then, our experience will be resource for others.

 

Towards New Values and New Society

We, Konohana Family think of this earthquake is a beginning of the end of the past lifestyle which dominated by money and technologies that consume excessive natural resource. Japan has achieved the status as an economic leader in the world while we have certain spirituality which lives in harmony with nature. We tend to get panic when a big incident happens; however, we create the cause of them in our daily life. This earthquake and the incident of the nuclear power station make people in Japan and the world realize the power of nature, preciousness of life, and what the most important things for human life are. Then, people help each other and do volunteering. However, most of them had not done it before in their daily life. By now, life was based on making one’s happiness come true. In that context, electricity consumption was big part of it, and that have led to the nuclear power generation. However, we are the part of nature, and if we look the earth as one life form, this world is the same as us. So, we must be able to love us as we love others. Let’s make the world with this thought. We can take this happening not only as a tragedy, but also big learning opportunity, and utilize the experience to a next step. Utilize means that the lost lives live in our lives. We must be receiving big and significant messages in order to make a next world.

The most important thing is to commune with each other in daily life, not only for a special occasion. As Prince Shotoku stated “Harmonizing Ourselves Comes First”, we, Japanese have that kind of spirit. That is why we are given this phenomenon and we can turn this opportunity to show the real harmonious world that is different from the current civilization to the world. We do not have fear, but we feel the significance of the death of so many people. So, it is important to humbly accept the message from the earthquakes rather than fomenting disorder.

What we feel in the current Ecovillage movement is that missing the spirit of humbly receiving and being utilized by the will of the earth. However, this is not a criticism to deny people who do not do that. They are also a part of diversity. So, we work together with them for whatever we can do for the entire being because difference in diversity creates a lot of possibilities. If each individual think of the world and think of others in the given circumstance, we will be able to make a harmonious world.

As Mother Teresa said, “Whatever the small things you do, if you do it with love, it gives pleasure and brings peace to people’s heart. It is important how much love you can put in rather than what you do”, if we really think of others, we can convey love and peace. That is what we do here. We have a role to connect to the future by demonstrating the possibility that human beings can communicate each other and live with love.

In Japanese, we say Thank you as “Arigatou Gozaimasu”. Arigatou means “it is difficult to exist” and Gozaimas means “to be/have”. In every moment, we face difficulty of survival. In another word, we are always living in miracle.

Living in Miracle,

Michiyo

P.S. One more request is to send love to the power plants. I believe that they also have consciousness. They worked hard and suffer now.

After all, what we need is LOVE.