I was just about to give up, when a phone call came in from a Japanese colleague who wanted to see if I could explain to him what happened in Japan after the earthquake that killed 1,300 people in July 2020.
The man was a journalist from the Kyodo News.
He was an outsider, an outsider from outside Japan.
When he asked if I had any ideas, I had no idea what to say.
The news of the earthquake hit hard, he said.
There were many, many deaths and a lot of injuries.
It was so shocking.
The earthquake had been a total shock.
It shook the entire nation.
I told him it would be an even bigger shock if I were still in Japan.
I was the journalist who was in Tokyo.
I had to go home.
A week later, I was back in Tokyo and my wife was at home.
I’d gotten an email from her.
It said she’d been struck by the earthquake.
It seemed that she’d experienced a stroke.
The next day I got another message.
It came from a man named Kazuya Nakajima.
He said he’d been at the scene of the quake, and he’d also been struck.
He’d been in the basement of his apartment building when he heard a loud thud.
It wasn’t a building collapse, he told me.
It sounded like a jet plane crashing.
The building shook like a building.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
I knew I’d never be able to explain what had happened in Tokyo after the quake.
The story of the tsunami that killed more than 6,000 people in Japan in March 2020 is a story of a country shattered.
A year later, Japan has become the epicenter of a humanitarian crisis, and a nation that has seen the worst of the pandemic.
As a reporter who’s lived in Tokyo for nearly 20 years, I can tell you this story.
The tsunami happened on a Thursday in April 2020.
It hit the Pacific coast of Japan, but it was the first one to hit Japan in a long time.
It brought the capital Tokyo to a standstill.
It also brought much of the country to a crawl.
In the weeks following the tsunami, many of the most vulnerable people in the country were forced to flee their homes.
The country was so swamped with evacuees that many were forced into temporary shelters.
I spent three months reporting in Tokyo as I traveled across Japan, documenting the devastation and the desperate need to get back to normal.
I went from being a reporter with a newspaper, to being a human rights correspondent in a foreign country.
I’m grateful to the people who have stood by me, to my family, and to the news organizations who covered the story.
There’s nothing like the experience of a journalist coming back home to the United States.
The people I’ve met in Japan tell me how much they miss the American people.
They’re not sure how I can explain to them how they missed it.
But I do think they’ll appreciate it.
I’ve never been to Japan, so I’m a bit of a foreigner myself.
After I returned to the U.S., I was asked to write about the earthquake in Japan for the National Geographic magazine.
I wanted to do the best I could.
But when I wrote about the tsunami in Japan, I said something I wish I’d said to my American colleagues: I’m just reporting.
There are a lot more journalists covering this disaster than in the past, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of telling it.
There were two kinds of stories I could tell: the stories I wanted and the stories that mattered to me.
The first was about what I thought would matter to Americans: what I knew of what happened.
I tried to make sense of what had gone on in Japan and why it happened.
The second was about the people of Japan who were trying to understand the disaster and the people affected by it.
In my work as a reporter, I’ve spent time with the Japanese people.
I met the families who had lost loved ones in the tsunami.
I watched them struggle to recover from the shock of the disaster.
I heard stories from survivors about how their loved ones were treated by police officers and firemen, and how they had been ignored by their Japanese friends.
I talked to people about the ways in which they felt they were unfairly targeted by the Japanese government, about how they feared that they’d become targets for political retaliation.
In those conversations, I heard the same questions that people in other countries were asking themselves: Why are we so shocked by the news of this disaster?
Why are the Japanese so surprised by the way their society has treated this earthquake?
How could I, a foreigner who was living in Japan when the tsunami hit, not understand the people in that country? I’ve