This paper describes the experience of people who were caught in the 2011 Japanese earthquake. Various individuals, foreign and local, who were located in Japan and also witnessed the tragedy from other countries, express their feelings and experiences of what they had to go through during and after the earthquake. With the help of those individuals’ testimonies, those stories provide a comprehensive picture of what actually happened in Japan.
Keywords: earthquake, aftershocks, experience, testimony.
The book entitled “Aftershocks” provides a comprehensive picture of the earthquake in Japan, made with the help of the personal experience of people who actually were there at that moment. Both the book title and short story titles reflect all the spectrum of emotions and experiences that the victims had to go through. When one reads short personal testimonies named "Shaken", "Tremor", "Relief" and "Recovery", one can't help becoming sympathetic with the Japanese people who suffered through that tragedy in general and the people who wrote them, in particular. The titles are selected in such a way that all sides of the catastrophe would become tangible and vivid for the reader. Titles also reflect not only experiences and events but also feelings. Such names “Waiting”, “Voices” and “Window” display a wide picture of emotional atmosphere that surrounded the earthquake victims.
The following gives a spectrum of feelings and experiences people had during and after the earthquake. When they felt the earthquake, they thought about a) personal safety (“Prepared”), b) safety of their loves ones (“Rebuilding”), c) felt terrified (“Remoteness”), d) distressed (“Tremors”), e) agitated (“Underground”). Once the earthquake was over they were a) relieved (“Tremors”), b) worried about their families and friends (“Understanding”), c) confused (“Vertical”), d) found themselves taking action (“Voices”), e) were eager to express support (“Waiting”). When they learnt about the earthquake being away from the affected area, they a) felt helpless (“Really?”), b) feeling guilty (“Relief”), c) cried (“Remoteness”), d) were sympathetic (“Strong”), e) worried for their friends (“Understanding”). And here are the emotions that people had in response to the earthquake: a) horrified (“Waiting”), b) desperate (“Window”), c) confused (“Test”), d) shaken (“Shaken”) and e) decisive (“Same”).
It is displayed in many short stories that Japanese people were prepared to earthquakes. However, it still affected them both emotionally and physically. Whereas many tried to hide their emotions (“Same”), (”Vertical”) and just turned pale when first tremors were felt, others showed more emotion. They ran and cried (“Tremors”). Judging by the above reactions and feelings, there was a lot of confusion, fear and distress. At the same time, people showed decisiveness and action. They helped one another and showed a lot of sympathy and support. Reactions certainly differed depending on whether the person experienced the earthquake personally or not. While people in the earthquake showed more fear and distress, those who were at a distance had a lot of sympathy and, strange as it is, felt “survivor’s guilt”.
There are several conclusions that can be drawn from those stories. Firstly, if people are trained, they survive earthquakes more effectively. Secondly, although cultures differ in many things, people act very similar in emergencies. Thirdly, there is a lot of compassion in the world despite historical and cultural differences (“Strong”, “Tremors”).