A 9.0 earthquake, a massive tsunami, and an unfolding nuclear catastrophe would each be overwhelming in isolation. The mind can scarcely imagine what the people of Japan are going through right now, simultaneously dealing with three disasters of historic proportions. My heart breaks for the survivors who have lost their loved ones, their homes, and the lives they once knew. When I was a child, my family moved to Takasaki, Japan to live with my Japanese grandparents for several months. They had a traditional Japanese home with tatami mat floors and rice paper screens between rooms. Ojiisan, my grandfather, had a special tea room that housed his collection of antique Japanese sword fittings. Obaasan, my grandmother, ruled the kitchen, the only room in the house that had Western-style chairs and a table, plus a small TV where my sisters and I watched Japanese soap operas. Although that house was torn down years ago, in my mind’s eye I can still see the traditional gate at the entrance, immensely tall to my eight-year old eyes. And though Takasaki is not near the sea, I can picture a giant tsunami wave washing over that gate and sweeping through the house, destroying those delicate rice paper screens and everything else.
I was moved to write this prayer for Japan in haiku form. The crane can symbolize many things in Japanese culture, including good fortune and longevity. I was thinking primarily of the story of Sadako, a girl with leukemia who hoped that if she could fold one thousand origami cranes, it would bring her back to health. Since then the thousand cranes have become a symbol of peace, and of hope for healing. While disaster survivors in Japan have lost everything they had, I wish them hope for a better future.