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From Dave Sigaty
I read John's post around 13:00 Wednesday, just before rushing off to a meeting. At that time my office, on the 25th floor of an office building in Tokyo, was shaking in the midst of one of the hundreds of aftershocks that we have experienced. I am still in Tokyo, currently watching the television news on Saturday morning. I did not have time to post a reply until now. But I would like to do so now.
I believe that the events of March 11 were a great tragedy for thousands of families in Japan and elsewhere, who lost family members to the earthquake and its aftermath. Those losses have yet to be fully measured and we should extend our sympathy both to all those who know what they have suffered and those who are still waiting for confirmation of the worst.
March 11 and its aftermath were also an economic and social disaster for Japan. It fell most directly on the residents of Northeastern Japan, hundreds of thousands of whom lost their homes and livelihoods and are struggling right at this moment to cope with winter weather, disrupted infrastructure, stress, and grief. As experience in Japan and elsewhere around the world has shown time and time again, it will take many years and great efforts to rebuild and recover to some (new) level of "normalcy".
Tokyo as well is facing long-term disruptions resulting from the damage to the Fukushima power plants and the subsequent shortage of electrical power generating capacity. We have had chaotic travel conditions all week with train lines running below capacity and at times some of them completely shut down. Various neighborhoods have had power cut in rolling black outs in order to match load to the available supply of power. This was particularly acute Thursday due to the cold temperatures. That is supposed to ease today as some warmer weather moves up from the south. However, the potential is high for similar, serious problems when summer arrives. It is possible that it will take years to repair Tokyo's power supply.
I believe that Japan is greatly in need of, let me call it, positive thinking. After a week of relentlessly serious coverage of the situation in the Tohoku region, local television has returned to at least a blend of normal programming (with news updates scrolling across the bottom of the screen). I never thought I could be so happy to see the return of Japan's utterly nonsensical variety shows, but I am! Grief is an intimate part of the human condition. At the same time, we should all realize that the rebuilding , both physical and psychological, will require positive acts. The necessary money will come from the creation of replacement wealth in daily life across Japanese society. That society will divert a larger than expected portion to the northeast. People and families will gradually come to terms with what has happened, though obviously those in the Tohoku will do so with much more effort and perhaps less success than those of us in places like Tokyo.
I believe that all the parts of art and culture that allow people to enjoy life and bond with those who share an interest are of great value in a situation like this. I very much hope that the WAGC is able to go ahead as planned (though I will support any decision that the sponsors make). I will welcome the participants and thank them for their support in these difficult times. I am similarly glad that the pro tournaments continue. I enjoyed watching the coverage of the baseball pre-season on television this morning. Various players were interviewed. Everyone is aware of events. Everyone is supportive of those currently suffering. At the same time, they are aware that their role is not to rush to Sendai and help clear the rubble. Society has assigned that task to others. Their role is to support an essential balance in Japanese daily life as a whole. Go also has that role.
This is true for me personally as well. This last week included daily meetings at my company on efforts to first find (happily yesterday we were able to finally establish contact with the last of those employees that had been unaccounted for) and now support our 800-some employees in the Tohoku area. That is an ongoing effort that will last for months. My company has assigned me no further work over this weekend (absent a new emergency arising). So in about an hour, I will leave for the Nihon Kiin in Ichigaya. After closing the building for a week, its activities will resume today. I will take the opportunity to reestablish contact with various friends, doubtlessly exchange stories of our experiences this last week, and play Go. I feel that this is an appropriate use of my time. I will find relief for myself from the stresses of the last week and hope that my presence can offer the same to my friends. It will be our shared interest in Go that makes that possible. I welcome all Go players who come to Japan to support this country and our great game under all circumstances.