JOCELYN THOMAS – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
“Cautious and reserved,” is how Philip Cann, director of the Nippon Institute of Technology (NIT) in Blairmore, describes the demeanour of the Japanese students on the Crowsnest campus in the wake of the trio of horrifying events in northeast Japan.
It began with the March 11 earthquake that registered nine on the Richter scale, followed 30 minutes later by a tsunami, and then, an ever-worsening damage to four overheated nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
In constant, close contact with the Tokyo head office, Cann learned that lines for gas were four hours long, rolling blackouts were creating havoc, and food store shelves had been emptied.
Cann’s counterpart at Miyashiro University near Tokyo said spring break had begun there yet not one of the 50 students from the affected area in the northeast around Sendai, near the quake’s epicenter, could be reached.
As of last week, more than a million households were without water or electricity, the displaced and homeless numbered 390,000, with the estimated number of deaths at 21,000 and mounting and 118,000 buildings had suffered damage.
Back in the Crowsnest Pass, it is fortunate that most students are from the Tokyo area. One student from the northeast had managed to contact his family only to learn that his home had been badly damaged; another had been unable to contact a friend in Sendai.
These dark days are drawing the NIT family, and inevitably, the larger Crowsnest family, closer together.
Tectonically, the Japanese archipelago is located where several continental and oceanic plates intersect, causing frequent earthquakes and volcanoes.
Tsunamis are triggered when earthquakes occur below or close to the sea.
The Fukushima reactors are 50 feet from the water and the tsunami barrelled on in at jetliner speed.
The “Great Kanto Earthquake” of 1923 killed 140,000. In 1995, the Southern Hyogo Earthquake that hit Kobe killed 6,000 and injured a staggering 415,000.
As if geologically “cursed” most of this country of 127-million souls is extremely catastrophe-prone, and there are tremors daily.
An old Japanese hand, Cann has visited Japan annually for almost 20 years to introduce prospective students and parents to the NIT experience.
Cann believes that, with the lengthening list of unimaginable challenges, the Japanese people will, even now, come together to rebuild.
Whether waiting in orderly lines for water or for a handful of rice; while standing on corners, waiting for a green light even when there is no traffic — Cann feels the inner strength and discipline of the national mind and spirit that is so accustomed to being either haunted or battered by geologic chaos, will still exhibit outward calm that bravely masks inner turmoil and silent panic.
Even the woman whose infant was violently wrested from her arms during the tsunami; perhaps even the young parents who located their still seat-belted daughter whose short life was snatched form her as the family car was crushed; and possibly even the man who lost what most would deem a reason to live — his siblings, children and grandchildren.
NIT is holding a one-day Open House for Japan Aid at the Nippon Institute of Technology on Saturday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the institute’s educational center, the former United Church (white building at 13405 21st Ave., behind Blairmore’s downtown).
Everyone is welcome to come experience many delightful facets of Japanese culture and life: fine food, a tea ceremony, origami (ornamental paper-folding), calligraphy, and a martial arts demonstration.)
Then, there will be an awe-inspiring variety of high-quality goods and services available for purchase or for silent auction. Donations will be accepted at the door.
Participants would be wise to bid and return to bid often to ensure bidding success. And that way, you will not miss out on any of the cultural activities. Bidding will close at 5 p.m.
Auction items include kayaking with world-class kayaker Adrian Cole (open to young females only!); a romantic dinner for two at the elegant Tin Roof; the chance of a lifetime to be “Mayor for a Day;” a beautiful day atop a mountain to observe more soaring eagles than you could otherwise see in a lifetime with Canada’s eagle expert Peter Sherrington; a customized fitness program designed by a kinesiologist; and all you need to become a quilter .
The items sold or auctioned will be NIT’s way of thanking buyers and bidders for their generosity. NIT is grateful to all item donors, both business and private.
One hundred per cent of money raised will be placed in an account for NIT to send to the appropriate agency in Japan, which reaches those in need most directly.
Philip Cann said the Japanese know the so-called “Big One” was way overdue and that the tragedy is not the “Big One.” Inconceivably, that one is still to come.
Cann describes the Japanese, wherever they may be world-wide, as being “somewhere between hopelessness and hope.”
Together, let’s help create much more than a little bit of that hope. Together, let’s make sure this fund-raiser-cultural event is like no other.
For further information, call NIT Director Phil Cann at 403-562-7704.