That Day


There are only two days left until Godzilla 2014 opens around the US and the world and I’m excited. However, I must share this serious note. I was reading “Post-Fukushima, Godzilla may never go home again” when I came to this paragraph:

“Godzilla gains his strength from nuclear power and he spews radiation everywhere,” said Toshio Takahashi, a literature professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University. “If Godzilla appeared [in Japan] now, he’d ultimately force people to ask themselves hard questions about Fukushima.”

I’ve been living in Japan since 2008. I was living in Karuizawa on March 11, 2011. Karuizawa is about 150 miles from Fukashima. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It is a day I will never forget. In all seriousness, it was the day that I met “Godzilla.” And no doubt he is still with me until this day.

I had never experienced an earthquake. On 2:45 PM Friday afternoon while seated around a table in our teachers meeting the room began to shake. I looked up and our dean looked up and we both knew. We sprung to our feet and ran to evacuate the students and staff.

Karuizawa is high above the sea level with an active volcano, Mt. Asama, situated in its heart. Our building sits on stilts hanging off the side of a mountain. Everything just went around and around.

Upon returning to the building, we turned on the television where an hour later we watched “Godzilla” come ashore in the waters of the tsunami. We could not believe what we were watching. It was surreal. Everyone was crying and teary eyed. We were helpless and did what we only could do, pray. One student’s family was from Sendai. He would not hear from them until several days later. But for others the tsunami stole their lives.

But we never imagined it would destroy the Fukushima nuclear site. If we had thought that we had escaped “Godzilla” we needed to think again. Personally, I was seriously considering returning home early. I was scheduled to go home in about two weeks. My brother and family were very concerned. I am a former junior chemist with experience working with radiation. So my concern made some irritated. I was concerned for everyone’s well being and safety. But we stayed together and made it through.

Weeks later some students went to support the refugees and to help rebuild. A year later I was privileged to go in support.

Today, I understand the metaphor and meaning of Godzilla in a personal way. Godzilla is that force of nature we have no control over and the danger of our own making. “Godzilla equals radiation,” as the writer penned. Godzilla is an uncontrollable earthshaking force. He embodies our fears of the fallout of the radiation made from our hands. There is no doubt I was exposed to increased levels of radiation. So today, I carry a little of that day and “Godzilla” in my body.

I wanted to see Godzilla 2014 here in Japan. But the timing will not permit it. I wanted to see and hear the reactions of the Japanese. But I understand that Godzilla may not be welcomed home now because of the ever-present memories of a not-so-distant past. “Godzilla” is not dead and is only barely contained. But Godzilla is not far from any of us.

When you see Godzilla, remember the victims, and say a prayer those who still live in the wake of 3/11.