This is why I love Japan

I was going to make a blog about my Kagoshima/Yakushima adventure today.  Then the following happened, and I decided it was much more important and amazing:

Hopefully most of you know that the city of Nagasaki is one of two places in the world that knows what a nuclear weapon attack is like.  The atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, after the United States had waited three days post-Hiroshima to hear whether Japan was willing to unconditionally surrender.  With the government still mum, Truman decided to release the second monster.

Because it was a smaller city than Hiroshima, and because of its scenery (surrounded by mountains), it did not reach the same destructive power as the earlier bomb.  Immediate casualty eatimates range from 45,000 to 70,000.  By the end of the year, that number had reached a fairly agreed-upon 80,000.

Iki, my tiny, beautiful island, is part of Nagasaki Prefecture.  (They gave all the northern Kyushu islands to Nagasaki, pretty much.)  I’ve been to Nagasaki City several times, and it’s a beautiful, fun place.

As many of you know, I’ve been fundraising for my favorite charity ever, charity: water, for the last two months or so.  I’m attempting to raise $5000 raise $2500 (I fail) which is about the amount needed to build one half a well.  That well serves approximately 250 people and lasts for 20 years, which if you do the math means one person’s water for twenty years costs a measly $20.  After feverous writing and editing, I’ve appeared in the Iki Newspaper, Iki magazine, and the Nagasaki Daily Newspaper. Despite the language and cultural barrier, I’ve raised (to date) about $1350.

This is a lot of introduction for the main event ahead.

On Monday I got a call at school from what I could tell was a very old man.  I could tell because 1) he sounded old, and 2) I really did NOT understand his Japanese.  At all.  I ran the phone over to one of my English teachers, and once they hung up she told me that we were going to visit him on Wednesday to pick up a donation.  She didn’t say so, but I realized we needed to go pick it up because he can’t move very easily.

Great! I thought. I love getting donations, and it’s always wonderful to meet new people.

Today dawned windy and rainy.  It is the most blustery day I’ve had on Iki even counting our “typhoon.”  At roughly 4:45pm, Nice-sensei and I braved the elements and the winding, confusing Iki roads to make it to this man’s house.  He gave me an envelope with his donation, said something in Japanese that took a bit to process in my brain, and then sent us on our way.

As Nice-sensei and I drove away, my jaw dropped as comprehension finally dawned.

Here’s what he said:

I came to Iki after the war, you know.  I’m originally from Nagasaki city.  I lived in the city during the war, an dI survived the atomic bombing.  I remember the heat from the bomb.  I remember walking for hours each day to get water afterward.  When I heard about the charity, I decided to donate.

And that was it.  No self-righteousness.  No self-pity.  Just the cold hard facts from a man who has more kindness than I know what to do with.

Seriously, I’m close to tears right now.  Japan: I love you.

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