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Upon Returning Home

Pamela Runestad, a PhD candidate in medical anthropology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, is back in the US from Japan and continues her account about post-earthquake Japan.

This is the first time I’ve been so acutely aware that I’ve left a collective consciousness behind. I’m usually more focused on the re-integration part. But this time, I feel like I’m supposed to be part of what is happening in Japan and suddenly, I’m not. Reading emails and blogs by Japanese friends, and checking the NHK website for Japanese news feels different now that I am not in Japan––much in the way that reading about news in the U.S. feels distant when I’m not here. I feel the physical disconnect. It’s a reminder that being embedded in a media matrix is not the same as being embedded in a social matrix.

To read her previous accounts from Japan, go to the Triangle Center for Japanese Studies and check out Part One, Part Two and Part Three of her “Inside Looking Out” series.

Inside Looking Out, Part Two

Pamela Runestad, a PhD candidate in medical anthropology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, continues her account from Japan. Here is an excerpt:

I really wish I knew how dangerous the situation really is. On one hand, the Japanese government doesn’t want people to panic and the local media keeps repeating that current radiation levels (where?!) are not hazardous to health. On the other, the non-Japanese media seem to feed on the idea of impending doom. Most recently, the Japanese government via a bulletin on NHK World English actually asked foreign governments to calm down, to “accurately convey information provided by Japanese authorities concerning the plant.” In this squabble, each party has a vested interests; digging out helpful information is tedious and disheartening.

Should I stay or should I go?

To read the full “Inside Looking Out, Part Two” or the first part, go to the Triangle Center for Japanese Studies.

Inside Looking Out: A Perspective on the Japanese Earthquake

Looking for a first-person account from an anthropologist in Japan? Guest blogger Pamela Runestad, a PhD candidate in medical anthropology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, shares her experiences during and after Friday’s earthquake in a piece called “Inside Looking Out: A Perspective on the Japanese Earthquake.” Here is an excerpt:

At 2:40 pm on Friday, I got on the highway bus to make a trip I’ve made several times this year in the course of my research in Japan: Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Nagano City. It takes about 3 hours and 40 minutes and, much like Japanese trains, the bus runs on time to the minute more often than not. Friday was different.

We’d been on the bus long enough for me to take off my coat and shoes and settle into my seat with a book. I made it to page 4 when the bus, stopped at a traffic light, started to bounce. Yes, bounce – like a bounce house kids play in. I looked out the window and saw the traffic lights and electric poles moving wildly, violently. Earthquake, I thought; BIG EARTHQUAKE. People began running out of buildings covering their heads, then clinging to each other on the sidewalk. I hastily pulled my shoes back on, tying the laces with fingers made clumsy with adrenaline. (Yes, I was getting ready to be urban survival woman.) I noticed that the bus was completely silent. Really? No screaming?

The bouncing stopped.

In a flat voice, the driver made use of the microphone to say, “It appears we experienced an earthquake.” Well, YEAH! He kept driving.

Stunned, I turned my eyes from my silent, terse fellow passengers and fixed my eyes on the scenes we passed outside. As I looked at the people on the other side of the glass, I realized: Shinjuku had stopped.

To read the full piece, go to the Triangle Center for Japanese Studies.


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