UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Ry Beville has been in Japan as a researcher for four years, studying early modern Japanese literature as part of the East Asian Languages and Cultures program. He has lived a total of 11 years in Japan. Beville had planned to revisit campus this spring, but after the March 11 quake and tsunami, he chose to remain to interpret and to help with relief efforts. The following is his first dispatch to UC Berkeley Public Affairs and gives a rare look at how people are faring in small towns hit hard by the disaster.

building debris from earthquake in Japan
Debris in the city of Rikuzentakata (photo: Ry Beville)

Rikuzentakata, Japan (Mar. 25) – With most major news organizations having long since left Japan’s tsunami disaster areas to pursue other headlines, remarkable narratives of survival, acceptance, and recovery are starting to emerge from witnesses to the March 11 disaster.

The destruction, of course, has been well documented. Professional camera crews circled above in helicopters, recording the tsunami as it chewed through buildings, bridges and farms. Amateur video is still appearing on the Internet as survivors increasingly are able to bring those recordings out from evacuation shelters. Photographs will continue to capture scenes from the rubble.

But few people, beyond domestic newspaper journalists, are recording the stories on the ground. There are tens of thousands of them… Read the full dispatch

(As part of his Ph.D. work, Ry Beville is at the University of Tokyo on a Fulbright fellowship, rearching for his dissertation on form in 20th-century Japanese poetry.  He earned his M.A. at Berkeley in 2004.  His English translations of poems by Nakahara Chuya are available online.)