Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Equinox

I look out the window as I wash the dishes. The rain has washed the snow away, though the majestic peaks of the Mikuni Alps rise white amid the drifting clouds. Ten days have past since the earthquake stuck, a week since the explosions in the third and fourth nuclear reactors which led us to evacuate here.
Over the past few days the struggle to control the reactors seems to be winning, and the radiation level seems to be falling day by day. Each day, however, there is new news of contamination, ever more widely spread. First the drinking water in Fukushima, then the surrounding prefectures, Tochigi and Tokyo. Milk from Fukushima is contaminated, and Spinach from Ibaraki. The next day vegetables from Mibu in Tochigi, further from the reactors than Mashiko. The ocean around fukushima, the rain across the Kanto plain. Beans from Kagoshima that were contaminated while going through Narita airport on their way to Taiwan...

     The government spokesman and the experts tell us it is many times greater than the accepted limits, but still safe for human consumption. It does not inspire confidence, and I am glad we are here. I have checked the sites that some of you have recommended, the radiation levels in the air, the water, the rain. The Internet was made for times like this.

The relief work for those suffering in the earthquake and tsunami hit areas continues, and though supplies of heating oil and fresh water are still lacking in some areas, the roads are clearer. Supplies are getting through. People are being evacuated to safer areas in other prefectures to the west and south. Petrol is back to normal in Tokyo, I hear, but there is still none here. Milk and bread are hard to get here now. Maybe tomorrow. It will be a long road to recovery.

The rain has stopped and the sky is clear. I take Sora for a walk before dark. We talk as we walk up the steep hill behind the village hall, forest to right and left. We have had long family discussions over the last few days, trying to find a way forward. The house in Ichikai is unlivable as it is, to repair it would cost a great deal in time and money, and in the end it will still not be ours. The kiln needs to be rebuilt. There are still aftershocks and the risk of more earthquakes. There is still radioactivity, though less than before, and the reactors are still not completely under control. We cannot go back, we must find a way forward.

Sora and I crest the hill, walking past Mika's father's blue berry field. Last Summer we all came and helped him harvest them, though there were probably as many eaten as went into the baskets! I found some in his freezer yesterday and made blueberry jam last night. This morning we had it with yoghurt on drop scones for breakfast. The branches are bare now, but there is a hint of spring in the air.

Many of my family and friends in Australia want us to move there. Admittedly, there are no nuclear power plants in Australia, and I know that everyone would rally around us. I miss the sound of Magpies in the morning, the fragrance of the gum trees. I could start from scratch, Mika would be fine, but it is not just us. My children are in the midst of their schooling, and though it would not be impossible for them, it would be very difficult. Particularly after the trauma of the earthquake. I also remember how hard it is to make a living as a potter there, and I hear that things have not changed. Could I support a family of six?

We cross a bridge over a deep gully. From here we can see over the village and the valley below. The mountains march off into the distance. Across the bridge there is an orchard with an electric fence around it to keep the monkeys out. It has been good to watch the children with their grand parents, playing "Shogi" (Japanese Chess) with grandad ("Jichan") or listening to "Bachan's" (Grandma's) stories. My father passed away many years ago, well before I came to Japan, and my mother the year before Sean was born. It would have been nice for the children to have spent more time with her.....

We walk across the fields of Sukawa Daira, beside the Temple of Daikoku. We stop at a field, perhaps a quarter acre, which has a large plastic hot house. This field belongs to Mika's parents, and until recently was used for growing "Konyaku" potatoes. The hot house is full of the timber from the old shed where Mika's brother built his house, the house in which we now take refuge. They have offered us this land to build a new studio, a new home. We have accepted.

I will not return to Mashiko or Ichikai, though they have been my home for 21 years. I will not return to Australia, though I miss it sometimes. I will stay here. Where the earth is solid and the air is clear. Where there is pure spring water to drink and hot springs to relax in after a long, hard day. Where the children can spend time with their grandparents, and pick blue berries and grow vegetables. Here, where it is safe.

The studio and kiln shed will need to be built first. Then I can start working again. A house will have to wait, but we can stay with Mika's family till then. I have spoken to a local builder, and we are waiting for some quotes. I will do as much of the work as I can myself, to keep the cost down, and help the builders do the bits I can't do myself. Once the shell of the studio is built I can move my wheel and tools here, dismantle the old kiln and rebuild it here.

People from all around the world are raising money to help rebuild Mashiko, and it is heart warming to see the ceramic community pull together like this. The Leach Pottery in the UK and the Ceramics Council in the USA are accepting donations to be sent to the Mashiko Potters Fund, an NPO created to help the potters in Mashiko rebuild after the earthquake. Mashiko will be rebuilt, but, alas, I will not be a part of it.

Sora and I walk home, back down the hill by a different path. The full moon rises huge and orange over the jagged horizon and dusk begins to fall. We stop at the general store on the way past and buy a litre of milk. It has been rationed here to one per family, which for us at the moment is nine.

Light is spilling from the kitchen window as we arrive home. Canaan hugs me in the hall way.

He turns his face up to mine and says, "We're all really happy, Dad."

I smile and kiss him on the forehead. "Yes, son, I believe we are."

I will make my own path forward, with my family. I thank you all for your kindness and encouragement, and I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

You can always contact me by email at ; euan.craig@gmail.com

And if you wish to find me, or visit me, I will be here;

Euan Craig,

C/O Shimazaki,

362-4 Fuse,

Minakami-machi,

Tone-gun,

Gunma-ken 379-1414

JAPAN

God bless and keep you all.

27 comments:

  1. Our hearts are with you.
    In 2008 we were hit with a bolt of lightening out of the blue-it burned down our work studio and put us out of work in minutes.
    It took about a year and a half to rebuild and get back to work.
    Then our hearts have been hit by the deaths of my brother and 5 months later a sister.
    Life does go on.
    I fully expect you will do this with grace you have and the loving suppot of family.
    Keep us posted and maybe somehow we can help.
    Best-M

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  2. Euan - I am amazed that someone whom I have never met and most likely never will continues to move me to tears and yet inspires such hopefulness for the future! I, who could not be more of a stranger, wish you and your family the best in this very challenging time.

    thank you for sharing your experience. I continue to think of you and wait to hear what is happening...

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  3. You are a talented writer. I am moved and inspired by you every time I read your blog. Perhaps you could sell some of your writings to help pay for rebuilding your studio and home.

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  4. I found your blog just few days before the earthquake. I'm so glad that your family is OK, despite the fact that you have to start building your life again.

    All the tragedy and suffering that Japan is going through touch me deeply, and in a way remind me of a war my husband and I lived through 20 years ago in Croatia. We moved in USA after, but memories will always stay.
    Few years ago, we thought about moving back to Croatia, but decided to stay mainly because of our three children and their future. It would be difficult for them to go through such a change, and also a possibility for my husband and me to earn a living there as artists is quite slim.

    I wish you all the best! It is great that you have your wife's family as support. It really means a lot. Your family is beautiful :)

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  5. May fortune smile upon you in your new home. Wishing you and your family all the best. We will continue to hold you in our hearts and prayers.

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  6. You are moving on, yet you are with family.
    What could be better.

    The best to you and yours in your new venture.
    Blessings Be.

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  7. I am happy for you that you have made your decisions, God bless you all too.

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  8. Thank you for your moving accounts of the past days.
    Priscilla Mouritzen
    Denmark

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  9. Good luck, & stay safe. Life is more important than any other considerations.
    Regards, Keith aka Le Loup.
    http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com/

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  10. Dear Euan,
    What a journey you and your family are on. I pray for you all everyday and today I just checked in to see how you all are. And I see you are strong. May the earth treat you with kindness in your new home. Love, Jannett and family

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  11. Euan, I wish you and your family all the best in these new beginnings. My thoughts are with you.

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  12. Home is where the heart is and your heart is your family. We send you all our love & best wishes for the future Euan, good luck my friend. I hope to meet up with you one day. x x x x

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  13. Hi Euan,
    It is wonderful that you have made a descision in these really trying times. Unfortunately you are right about supporting a family on a potter's income in Australia - pretty well impossible. I have just read an inspiring story from a lady in Sendai -http://www.odemagazine.com/blogs/readers_blog/24755/a_letter_from_sendai
    Best wishes, Noela

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  14. It must be a very difficult decision. It sounds like a wonderful place for the children grow up in. Mika, too, will be happy to be close to her family. Surely it will be as positive for you and your work. Peace.

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  15. Dear Euan and Family,
    I've been following your blog for a couple of months now, and since the earthquake, often with tears flowing. I haven't commented until because each time I started to write whatever I said just seemed inadequate.
    I'm just so glad you have found the place to rebuild, and that it's near your extended family.
    I'm a potter too (part time now because I'm back at uni doing a PhD in archaeology with Japanese language on the side). Mingei pottery was the inspiration for me to become a potter, and I'm heart broken about Mashiko. I will ask the Scottish Potter's Associaton if we can take donations for the rebuilding project at our 'potters weekend workshop' at the end of this month.
    I wish there was more I could do....Friends and I are having a fund-raiser on Saturday to raise money for Red Cross's tsunami relief, but somehow it all seems so little in the face of so much destruction and loss.
    I so desperately want to just get up and go to Japan, to be of practical help in some way to someone.....but my Japanese is not good enough yet, and really, what could I possibly do?!

    Once again, I wish you all the luck and very best of everything as you start to rebuild. This time it will be a home and studio that is completely yours,and that's priceless.

    Best,
    Oli

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  16. so touching to read and learn- yesterday i looked at Mashiko on "google earth" and looked at kilns and the Moshi Moshi Cafe...and wonderedwhat has happened. A potter named Keiko Namai lives nearby, I heard her kiln cracked but can be repaired.... be strong, feel deeply
    vernon BC Canada

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  17. i am so glad that you have found a way forward and that you have the support of family. what a decision to have to make, and yet you do it with such courage and love. i will be reading.

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  18. anna , eugene oregon24 March 2011 at 14:10

    this afternoon found a link to your blog on facebook through the Potters Council, i couldn't stop reading your experience with the earthquake. i have children as well and i was right there with you as you went to each of their schools. this evening i opened my new issue of ceramics monthly and there you are again with your son but in a completely different light. Even thought this first hand reminder of how life can be altered so dramatically from one moment to the next didnt happen to me, i am being reminded not to take the small thing for granted. i am blessed with a beautiful family and i gather you are as well. i wish you days of joy as you rebuild.

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  19. Keep writing, it is a way forward!

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  20. Euan, Jean told me you made a new post that didn't pop up at Facebook. I shared it at your Facebook page. The news is not good at the reactors today. They've found heavy contamination in the ocean. Michio Kaku says they need do like Chernobyl and cover the reactors with boric acid, sand and then concrete. I think he is right.http://youtu.be/7DkCD5IInMY Tepco and the Japanese government have been extremely incompetent.
    I am glad you are with family in Gunma. There is no way to know when it will be safe in Tochigi, from the reactor. Hey, On a bright note: I was raised to the Sublime Degree on Tuesday! The ceremony was done by Past Masters. Take Care, Lee

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  21. I am so pleased to hear you and your family are happily moving forward. I admire your bravery to be able to make such decision and to face the difficulty that lands on you. Best wishes for starting a new life out there. Home is where your heart is, wherever you are. Hoping that to be safe and happy one for you all.

    One day we would love to come and visit your smile there, for sure. xm

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  22. I read everything you write. Fantastic writing.
    Best wishes from Tokyo.

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  23. We love to see you writing. Keep it up:)

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  24. Euan,
    I am so grateful for your writing. Your words keep me grounded in what is happening on the other side of the world and put perspective on my Western World life. Though I try, I cannot imagine what it is you must be feeling. Your worlds have so much power, thought and reflection that I feel almost as though I am walking with you. Thank you and know that I am thinking of you and your family always.
    Pam

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  25. I found your blog through Ceramic Arts Daily.

    Thank you so very much for taking the time to give us a window on the disasters you and your family survived. By giving us your personal views and thoughts you have made everything more real in a way that news items and pictures have not done.

    I hope all is well with you and your family and that you will have your studio and kiln up and running in good time.

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  26. Yesterday radioactivity was picked up here in Ireland. We are indeed one global family. Your blogging is inspirational and very moving. I know you and your family will endure and we pray that your God will give you strength.

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