It’s that time of year again. New Year’s is the biggest holiday on the Japanese calendar, and as it approaches Japanese TV is full of “talent” (celebrities with no actual, recognizable talent) reflecting on the year that has passed.

And it’s been an awful one for everyone in eastern Honshu.

So I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the things I am thankful for thus far in 2011:

-I’m thankful we didn’t die in the earthquake on March 11. For two or three minutes there, I wasn’t so sure.

-I’m thankful my son was home with the flu that day. So many children ended up spending the night at school and daycare because their parents were unable to come home from work. Not to mention the parents who never came, or the children who never made it home from school.

-I’m thankful for my husband’s relatives in Kyushu who took us in for a few weeks when the stress from near constant aftershocks, supply shortages, not to mention a nuclear disaster got to be too much. Extra kudos to the cousin who made what could have been a horrible time into a fun, memorable one.

-I’m thankful for the fantastic new friend I made while I was there.

-I’m thankful that the rolling blackouts planned for the summer didn’t actually occur.

There is a lot about this situation I am still very unhappy about. Receiving a note from your child’s school that said, in effect, “We fed your child radioactive beef. Oops!” was kind of a low point.

Going to the grocery store a few days after the earthquake to find shelves absolutely bare, returning home and making due with what we have, unable to know when I would be able to buy more food for my children was another low point.

Waving to my newly minted first grader until he was out of sight on the day he walked to school by himself for the first time would have been a low point regardless, but having a rather large aftershock occur at exactly that moment was probably the worst moment of the entire year.

But we survived, no more traumatized than anyone else I suppose, and much, much better off than so many thousands of people to the north of us.

The year-end festivities will take on a somber note this year. There is still the power shortage to deal with, so the Christmas lights aren’t as bright as usual. Somehow that seems appropriate.

And I am left wondering, how will 2011 be remembered by the rest of the world?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from mother of two in Japan, Melanie Oda. You also can find Melanie writing on her personal blog, Hamakko Mommy.

Photo credit to Halleboo.  This photo has a creative commons attribution license. 

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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