Global Issues

After tsunami, the Japanese spirit: Ken Mogi at TED2012

Posted by: Rachel Tobias

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Ken Mogi, a Ph.D and researcher from the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Tokyo, bears a flag nearly twice his height, bright blue, covered with images of koi fish and Japanese letters. He begins by reminding us about a tragically transformative day in his country on March 11, 2011 that would change tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives, forever.

The 9.0 earthquake struck about 40 miles east of Oshika, Japan, killing nearly 16,000 people and injuring and displacing thousands more. To make matters even worse, the tsunami’s disastrous tendrils reached the Fukishima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, creating an international nuclear disaster that would have enormous economic and social consequences, beyond the enormous death toll, for Japan and the rest of the world.

Scientists, Mogi shares, said it was a once-in-a-thousand-years event. The tsunami washed away colorful houses and communities. Children cried, while their parents could do nothing but comfort them. Tens of thousands lost their loved ones, their homes, and their way of life.

In memory of those who lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami, Ken asks us to take a moment of silence. Quiet falls over the theater like a wave, as we remember the terrible day almost one year ago.

Returning to his talk, Mogi shares a slide with a saying used by Japanese fisherman. “Under the board, there is hell.”  These fisherman have a deep respect and healthy cautiousness of the ocean; for, beneath the safety of the boat itself lies a sea of turmoil, which could rear its ugly head at any moment, despite being a source of beauty and calm during moments of light. Once Mother Nature gets angry, says Mogi, there is nothing you can do about it.

Yet, every day, fisherman venture off into the ocean to make their living.

As the world becomes smaller, we are feeling the newly emerging oceans arise, yet, like the fisherman, we never give up. We proceed with a new understanding of how to live longer and better. Risk and uncertainties are the mothers of hope and wisdom.

Mogi alludes to the flag in his hand as being a gift from a fisherman, a reminder that while there is indeed hell under the board, this is the very reason why we should build happiness and prosperity throughout the world.

Despite the incredible difficulties encountered, the Japanese people never lost a smile on their face.

Comments (5)

  • commented on Jul 27 2012

    This is why I really love the Japanese people and their culture. Their spirit. Beautiful, Thanks!

  • commented on May 12 2012

    I have recently produced a documentary about the aftermath of the Tsunami – please feel free to post on your blog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vke30_Cne_0

    Synopsis:
    A Japanese woman in a kimono sits in front of a traditional calligraphy scroll breastfeeding while talking about “being worried about whose hands her child’s future is in”, an old Japanese Man on the verge of tears saying how there’s no work since the tsunami, not to mention the Anti-Nuke demo & interviews with the protestors, young girls lamenting on TEPCOs Price Hikes, Street sellers in the mall bemoaning the state of society and the memorial prayers at the biggest temple in Osaka commemorated exactly at the time of the Tsunami: 2:54pm…plus many others with both profound insight and sometimes profoundly disturbing ignorance of the disaster and the after effects of the Nuclear Meltdown…

  • commented on Mar 2 2012

    Never losing a smile despite all this post-earthquake/tsunami trajedy just speaks so loudly to the whole world about the spirit of our Japanese brethren! Bless them! Pray for them!

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