I haven't really been sure what to say, or how to address, what has been happening in Japan the past few days. We are of course still recovering from our own devastating earthquake here at the bottom of the world, and now our friends in Japan have also suffered a terrible, terrible tragedy.
Although New Zealand and Japan fought on opposing sides in World War Two, and have different perspectives on things like whaling and nuclear power, as a country and people we have a good, friendly relationship. Both my hometown of Richmond, and nearby Nelson, each have great 'sister city' relationships with cities in Japan. We have a Japanese Gardens in Nelson created to celebrate the relationship. I studied Japanese for three years at High School. Several Japanese exchange students came to Nelson each year. Some people I know have studied, worked, or taught English in Japan (I was considering the latter myself a few years ago). Many New Zealanders travel to or work there (including several of our rugby players). One of our greatest All Blacks, John Kirwan, is the coach of the Japanese national rugby team.
New Zealand and Japan are also both island nations, of similar geographic size, sitting on 'the Pacific Ring of Fire', so we're both all too familiar with earthquakes and their effects. But that doesn't make the sudden devastation that we've both recently suffered any easier to bear.
To see such a lively country, packed with tradition, modernity, and natural beauty, suffering, hurts my heart. The Christchurch situation was and continues to be very tough to bear, and now the numbers in Japan are just staggering (we may be the same size geographically, but Japan of course is far, far, far more densely populated than New Zealand), thanks to an earthquake followed by a tsunami and now the risk of nuclear disaster.
More than 500,000 people have been evacuated from tsunami-ravaged areas of Japan as authorities try to avert meltdowns at three nuclear reactors. Officials now believe at least 10,000 people were killed in one area, Miyagi, alone following Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake and 10-metre high tsunami.
Even though we are still in the recovery phase here in New Zealand ourselves, we've sent specialist Urban Search and Rescue teams to Japan to help out. It's just so sad that we are now reciprocating Japan's own generosity towards us in our hour of need, so very soon.
You can stay up to date with the Japanese situation here.