Travels Through the Wreckage of Japan’s ‘Triple Disaster’

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  09.02.11 | 7:59 AM ET

World Hum contributor Daisann McLane’s Well-Traveled dispatches about her travels to Sendai, Fukushima and Tokyo four months after the 9.0 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster struck Japan has concluded at Slate. It’s an amazing series, powerful and heartbreaking and beautifully written. From the first of three parts, Sendai Rising From the Wreckage:

Even after four months, it’s a mess of Augean proportion: uprooted pine trees, splintered wood beams, crumpled abandoned cars, wooden fishing boats tipped on their side, trying to sail away on a sea of mud. Your first reaction is to throw up your hands in desperation—how on earth do you begin cleaning this up? But the Japanese have passed that shock stage, and have whipped themselves into action: a squadron of earth movers is busy, steadily organizing the endless wreckage into tidy haystack-like hills. “This was the town of Natori.” Akawa-san points over to a spot on the eastern, coastal side of the highway. There’s nothing there but a solitary house without walls, its soggy furnishings and books spilling out the way junk tumbles from an overstuffed closet.

McLane, whose extraordinary writing career has ranged from contributing to Rolling Stone during its heyday to her current spot as the Real Travel columnist for National Geographic Traveler, explained how writing about the triple disaster affected her in an email to friends and colleagues:

The experience overcame me. Those of you who are writers, photographers and editors will understand: Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of an extraordinary story that makes you want to write your heart out. This was one of them.

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