As the world watches in horror at the unfolding catastrophe in Japan, many of us in the arts ask ourselves, how can we think/talk/work about or on art during such as time as this? We can’t. And yet, our doors are open, we have visitors coming in, and we must deliver.
I emailed all of our docents and storytellers today with some suggestions as to how they might be prepared for questions about Japan’s disaster in their interactions with visitors. I suggested that, when appropriate, they incorporate into their tours information about the recent earthquake and tsunami and Japan’s unique geography, which has been shaped by geothermal thrusts and volcanoes over many millennium. Japan, being an archipelago, has a culture inextricably intertwined with the sea. The Japanese are among the world’s greatest (and most voracious) fisher-folk. They have a tradition of landscape art in which nature is refined to its most idealized expression, and a religion focused on nature spirits–Shinto. Think of the meisho-e, or pictures of famous places, and of images of plum trees or streams abstracted into patterns of gold and line. And yet, behind the beauty of Japanese art is the reality of a cruel, impersonal natural world. Today thousands suffer and have perished in a natural disaster in Japan from which it will take many years to recover.
Mount Fuji and the beach at Miho no Matsubara
I advised our docents and storytellers to show our visitors the impacted areas using the maps in the galleries. Some helpful information about the earthquake and tsunami may be found on the BBC news site:
BBC also have an animated guide about how tsunamis happen
For those who wish to find out how to help, NPR has a full listing of agencies working in Japan:
Japan Society has created a disaster relief fund to aid victims of the earthquake. More details can be found at this link: http://www.japansociety.org/news
This is the link to the Red Cross’ Japan Tsunami relief:
We hope for the end to the suffering of our friends in Japan.