Japan, One Year Later

By Susan Harris

On March 11, 2011, the Tōhoku region of northeastern Japan was rocked by a violent earthquake and tsunami that triggered an accident at a nuclear power plant. We mark the anniversary with poems by two Japanese writers, both translated by Jeffrey Angles. In "Do Not Tremble," Sayaka Ohsaki finds the shifting earth "an unruly cradle  / A cruel cradle that lets / Neither adult nor child sleep"; Toshiko Hirata's "Noisy Animal"  declares, "I am an animal that walks about speaking endlessly / I am not unable to speak only about what I have seen."

In the wake of the disaster, Japanese writers grappled with the question of how, and whether, the events should be addressed. In response, Waseda University's literary journal, Waseda Bungaku, solicited stories and essays from Japanese writers; commissioned English translations from, among others, WWB contributors Michael Emmerich, Allison Markin Powell, and Ginny Tapley Takemori; and made the collection available online, with proceeds going to relief efforts. This month, Bungaku continues its fundraising by publishing a print version. One year later, the country still grapples with the devastation. As Toshiko notes, "I do not know where 'this disaster' begins, nor where it ends."


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