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Canaries in the Coal Mine | The Nation

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Canaries in the Coal Mine

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We were in the car on our way to pick up our child at school when the earthquake struck. It’s hard to put into words what I felt as I watched the rooftops of the buildings in the distance swaying back and forth. I thought, Things aren’t going to go back to normal for a long time.

About the Author

Banana Yoshimoto
Banana Yoshimoto is the author of several novels, including the prizewinning international bestseller Kitchen, that...

Afterward, I tried countless times to push away that thought—in Tokyo, I told myself, there hasn’t been much damage; things will soon go back to the way they were—but now I think my first instinct was right.

The hardest parts have been the rolling blackouts and brownouts in the cold. Sitting in my dark house in my down coat, I watched as the news grew darker and the severity of the damage to the nuclear power plant came to light.

It was even sadder to think how much colder the people were in the northeast, closer to the disaster. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that terrible feeling as long as I live. Hearing about all of those agonizing experiences, I thought my heart would burst.

I heard that in the region hit by the tsunami, there are stone markers that say no one should build their house from that point to the shoreline. We knew the importance of listening to our ancestors. Rules are rules, no matter what the government or the real estate agents say.

In times like these, writers are the “canaries in the coal mine” and must speak their minds freely. There is no way we can go back to how things used to be. What has happened has happened. We can only look to tomorrow.

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