To my Readers in Japan

I wrote my translator-friend Akemi Tanagaki in Tokyo a brief email note.  She answered,

“Thank you for your concern.
I’m all right and my family is all right.
Only we feel so sad, helpless and worried.”

And she asked if I would put a brief and simple message on my site for my readers in Japan —  “but I know that it is very difficult to find words with which to talk to those suffering very much.”

Yes, dear Akemi, it is difficult, it is impossible.  But I am honored by your asking me to try.

To My Japanese Readers:

There is an ocean between us, yet that ocean joins us.

The great tsunami that struck Japan travelled on, growing weaker, until it came to the west coast of America.  Here it did little harm.  But with that wave came to us the great wave of your grief and suffering.

I hope you know that there are many, many people here who are thinking of you now, and crying for you,  and praying that the worst will soon be past.

I admire, more than I can say, the quiet courage the ordinary people of Japan have shown amidst so much loss, suffering, and fear.  Your strong and patient faces are beautiful to see.  I look at them and cry.  I wish you strength and the hope of better days.

With love,


Update 16 March 2011: Japanese translation of this post at



To my Readers in Japan — 12 Comments

  1. Le Guin san,
    Arigatou gozaimasu for your brief.
    I’ve been your reader for more than forty years.
    I can not write english well, but I just want to tell you that all my friends who are also your readers are moved when I told them about your brief.
    Sorry, the power going to cut soon.
    (I always read your blog with the help of my diccionary…)

  2. Haya san, and all other in Japan: I am sitting here listening to the news from Japan and my heart is breaking. We are all thinking of you and hoping that the news will get better.

  3. Thank you, Ursula, for expressing what we’re all feeling. Even my little granddaughter is watching the news and asking how she can help, feeling helpless in the face of such great grief. Feel us reaching our hands over the water…

  4. Beautifully put. Thank you, Ursula. I cannot keep back the tears. I have lit a candle, which is only a small symbol, but my heart is with those suffering in Japan.

  5. Well done. You put into words what I was struggling to say. May all the people of Japan have strength and hope and abundance to fill all their needs now and forever.

  6. Thank you, Ursula and the others,
    I live in Tokyo and it took 2-3 days to find out that my and my husband’s families were alright although they all live away from the pacific coast. Knowing that there are many people suffering, I feel so helpless. But I also know that many friends from my school days, Mayor of Miyako City, doctors, school teachers, local government officers, etc. are on site working hard to get over the disaster. Once the transportation is available, I will visit them with your words and books. Please pray for them. Thank you.

  7. Thank you for your kindness, Ursula sann.
    I felt a sense of relief when I read your words of deep feelings.
    Just after the first big quake I picked one of your books up from many things scattered on the floor of my flat in Tokyo. I’ve been carrying it around and reading underscoring (because it’s in English) while transportation chaos make me wait. Multifaceted view I learned from your books is helping me again.
    Fortunately, my relavants are all right. My parents are talking about inviting some of them to Tokyo.
    I feel helpless but ready to make forward progress.
    Thank you.

  8. Thank you very much for your kind concern.

    We are all very grateful to generous aids and sympathy from all over the world, which warm our heart and give us courage and hope to cope with the disaster.

    In fact, I keep finding that people are good, people are kind, people help each other when they are in need of help, … many such evidences every day.

    The disaster area looks like a war zone, but it actually is quite different. There is no enemy but friends around us. There is no hate but sympathy around us. No vice but virtue hidden in people are being revealed.

    Thanks again, and please pass our thanks to all the people around you for giving us courage and hope we need.

  9. What is your feeling about American moral life (presumably enlightened, contemporary westerners)?

  10. Ms. LeGuin:

    First, I share your admiration of the Japanese people for enduring with grace and strength events which would bring out the worst conceivable behavior in other cultures.

    Second, I meant to comment when you first published your thoughts on the “F” word. Yes, I am old enough to avoid using it in print and to be embarrassed when I use it in speech. Thank you for calling out -it in such a charming yet effective way – the weak vocabularied fools who use it as a substitute for nothing.

  11. Thank you, Ursula —

    for saying, with such eloquence, what is in our hearts. In the face of such devastation, there is such a weariness, a numbness of waiting — to know if loved ones are safe, to figure out what to do next, to face what little may be left of your physical life. I’ve had to dig out and toss large portions of my life destroyed by flood, so I have a tiny kernel of understanding here about what lies ahead.

    I send you strength and grace across the many miles, and admire the courage of your nation and the ability of your people to look around and say, All right, where do we begin?

    My prayers are with the Japanese people. You will rise above this. When our turn comes, as I fear it will, I hope we can handle our natural catastrophe with as much patience and endurance.

    May all your families be safe.