I woke up at 1:00 a.m. to yet another alarm blaring throughout the city. It’s a normal part of living here, at least once a month either a phone alarm or city alarm going off to warn for either the typhoon smashing into Japan or an earthquake shaking things up. I groggily got up and listened.
For the first time ever, the alarm announcement was in Japanese and then in English. It took me a second to register, “There is a tornado warning in effect.”
Cue the Kentucky resident rolling out of bed, grabbing her purse, and settling into the bathroom for the next hour. The odds of a tornado touching down in the Tokyo and Kanagawa area is generally low, but Saitama and Ibaraki thought the same thing until they got hit with twisters.
I was just watching YouTube videos as the wind howls outside last night. I couldn’t do anything about the weather besides keeping an eye on the radar. I waited the hour as two different red splotches on the radar pass my area. During that hour, I tried to call and text friends to let them know about the warning. Only one person was awake, so, success I guess.
As I sat there waiting for the storm to pass, I supposed this would be the place I would go if I got a missile alarm. As I live farther down south, I have yet to receive one of the missile alarms, but with a navy base just a few miles away the odds of my area being a target wasn’t out of the question.
All of my Japanese friends and co-workers all respond the same way to how they’re dealing with the missiles: “Shouganai, yo.”
しょうがない is the idea that “it can’t be helped,” as in there is no use worrying over something because it’s out of your hands. It can be both a boon and a curse. In some situations, like earthquakes and tornadoes, shouganai makes sense. There is no use in panicking over nature, she’s going to do what she’s going to do, so just find a safe place and wait. Other times, it can be a great excuse for laziness, like say a co-worker can’t be bothered to speak English in class because he’s a twit, and when you tell him it’s a damn English class so SPEAK ENGLISH and his response is “shouganai-!!” That is just an excuse to not do something.
For me, I’ve adopted the shouganai attitude for the “missile crisis” (which is apparently what the Western media is calling it?). I can’t control what North Korea is doing, and I can’t exactly move and quit work over the possibility of danger and death. I could die from any number of things, like getting hit by a car on my tiny narrow street while walking home, so letting North Korea dictate how I live my life isn’t feasible.
When the missiles went over Hokkaido, my school and co-workers started talking about evacuation plans and possible bomb shelters. The truth is the best place would be somewhere underground, but what homes in Japan have basements? The answer is few to none. Ok, so what about subways? Great for inner city Tokyo, but all of the trains in our area are above ground.
My school eventually decided the best thing is the same as the earthquake drill: Get under a desk and wait. So basically, waiting to see if we die or not, which is morbid to say, but still true.
My co-workers and students keep focusing on other things. The Cultural Festival (bunkasai) is coming up and we’ve got to plan for it. We have a plan if the worst is to come, but until then there’s no point in driving ourselves crazy thinking about it. Japan and the Japanese people refuse to live their lives in fear, and I’m doing the same.
After the storm finally settled, my apartment was fine and I was just mildly annoyed at my interrupted sleep. I checked the Japan Meteorological site to make sure the warning was over before heading right back into bed. Whether it be storms or missiles, I’m not going to let fear control my life.