The day my upbeat post on Japan's upcoming Cherry Blossom Season was scheduled to be published, I arrived at the gym, and everyone was watching TV.
I have never seen such intense interest on a television programme at this gym before – unless it was a Korean soap opera.
That's the first I knew of the tsunami. But I had no idea just how tragic it would prove to be.
Or that one of the most heavily affected regions was a city that I had spent six happy months living and teaching English in three long decades ago.
I posted something on Facebook about my unfortunate timing, and got this very sweet email from a good friend (and faithful reader) in San Francisco, California:
I've been watching all night. A very sad event. It's OK, Michael. It makes us feel closer to everyone in Japan. I learned something from your post. “Sakura” means cherry tree. My apartment building is named The Sakura here in Japantown in San Francisco.
Thanks for that! When I arrived at the gym tonight, everyone was glued to the TV screen I had been out … didn't know anything about it. OMG! I spent six months in Sendai.
I got this message on Facebook from my cousin in Pleasanton, California:
Did Hong Kong feel anything from the earthquake? There were three foot tides at Santa Cruz (California), and they evacuated Crescent City (California), but not much there, either.
Tragedy Rekindles Fond Memories
Reading about the events in Japan, I started to remember things that I hadn't thought about in years. My first memories were not about the city of Sendai (I couldn't even remember, at first, what it looked like), but rather, the people that I had met there – and the fun that we had had together.
Rather than publishing my post on when and where to view cherry blossoms in Japan, I decided to postpone it and publish a tribute to the wonderful people I had met in Sendai instead.
After my story on My Six Months in Japan: Arrival was published, I got this very sweet email from a good friend in Macau:
Your story on Sendai was very, very touching. I hope they are safe and unharmed from the earthquake and tsunami.
And this from my nephew in Hawai'i:
What a completely touching and beautiful story. The impression that book made on those two women must have been profound. In this time of disaster and survival, it is those special moments that help remind us that life is what we make it.
My traffic was way below normal today. I was a bit disappointed, until I received emails from friends in both Bangkok, Thailand, and Hong Kong informing me that they couldn't access my blog today – despite repeated attempts. Has the earthquake affected the Internet?