Yesterday Japan announced the annual Chinese character chosen by public ballot. The character chosen to represent this year was KIZUNA, which means bonds or ties.
Every year the Japanese Chinese Character Calligraphy Society challenges the public to select a character and then a calligraphy temple priest in Kyoto will announce the character by writing it in ink by brush. (picture from the Internet)
In English the word isn't very impressive. But in Japanese the nuance is the connection between team mates, between family members, between people. And one of the reasons why kizuna was chosen was because of how the bonds between people during and immediately after the earthquake developed. Couples who had resisted marriage suddenly were made aware of the importance of their beloved and wedding "knots" were tied. Connections were made between strangers thrown together in evacuation centers. The compassion of the international community linked Japan to the wide world. Families found comfort in togetherness.
As many of you who have been reading my blog since March know, I was with Lorraine from Australia when the earthquake struck. We escaped from the bottom of a rock quarry and spent the next two days in a cold house keeping each other calm and trying to clean up. (Tetsu, stayed with the convalescent home). Lorraine and I were patchwork friends before the earthquake but experiencing a major earthquake together definitely strengthened the bonds between us. I understand how she feels about her family here in Japan maybe more than her Australian friends. She has seen me at my panicked, distraught worse. For the rest of my life, when I recall the hours of the March 11, 2011 earthquake I will see Lorraine's face!
When Lorraine and I were racing out of the quarry a young couple sped past us, the young man protectively leading the girlfriend to safety. As we all sat around outside hanging onto benches while the earth shook, the young man comforted the frighted girl even finding her something to drink from a nearby vending machine. It occurred to me that if that young couple hadn't been seriously dating before, the boy sure racked up positive points in the girl's eyes for his gallant actions after the earthquake! She will never forget him, that's for sure!
When I told one of my friends this story she sighed and said,
"Yes. My son was visiting Tokyo with a classmate (female) when the earthquake hit. They ended up walking for hours, had to stay in an evacuation center over night, huddled together to stay warm. He even brought the girl back to my sister's house until transportation arrangements could be made to get back to college. That relationship may be sealed thanks to the earthquake."
So here and there, new bonds between people were made this year and old bonds were strengthened as we realized how important our loved ones are to us. People have supported each other through radiation scares and the plummeting economy, and banded together to commit to rebuilding northern Japan. (Calligraphy care of Tetsu!)
I write to and hear from Lorraine in Australia quite a bit. She is even planning another trip to Japan in January! (Tetsu's comment was "a courageous woman coming back to who knows what!")
And when we sign off on our e-mails Lorraine and I always write,
Your comrade from the quarry."
Yep. Bonded for life! KIZUNA!