Winter on Foot in Japan: Life after the Tsunami

Update posted by Heidi Ng On Mar 28, 2017

On Saturday, Mr and Mrs Osada from Sendai drove all the way from Sendai to Ofunato just to come and support me in my journeys and to feed me meat. They have already made one such journey thus far and it is always with awe and gratitude that I look at this couple and think about all the trouble they willingly went through just to come and support me!

To have a long story short, Saturday they came to meet me and then drove me to Ofunato Catholic Church; my accommodation for the night. It was then I realised with horror, with just 14% of battery life, that my phone could not be charged. No matter the myriad ways I plugged the cable in, different cables, different sockets, my phone could not be charged. On the other hand, my other electronic devices (yes yes I really am a child of the Modern Times) could be charged easily enough. With just 2% of battery left to go, I did a factory reset..1% restarted the phone, tried to charged it with no effect, 0%, my phone gave its last bright signal and went to sleep. If I was a swearing person (and I am, just in my head) all manner of expletives would have come out.

There goes my phone, my map, my way too search for accommodation and to book them, my camera to take pictures and record videos, my entertainment device, in short my one and everything this trip. Many things went through my mind, and dismay shrouded my heart. I thought of several possibilities a) get a new phone in Ofunato and continue the journey b) continue the journey without a phone (highly unlikely), c) go back to Sendai, get a new phone and come back again d) end the whole trip.

It was tempting to call call it quits there and then. Or even just to buy a cheap phone, and continue the journey without much updates. However what immediately solidify my resolve to get a phone with good camera capabilities and carry on despite the cost it would take was the desire to share the stories of the people in Tohoku. Everyday, I have many encounters with people, and most tell me their story, their memories of the tsunami and express gladness at meeting a person journeying through their area despite how inconvenient/devastated/isolated it is. 6 years on, most of the world, even the Japanese, would have moved on, however for those who have experienced the Disaster, they are not able to forget. They still live and work from temporary shelters, or have businesses affected, or still just remember the fear as if it was yesterday. Waves that can destroy buildings cannot destroy the memory. And it was in this moment, the reason why I am walking became even more clarified. That I really want to continue walking all the way to Fukushima because I want to meet, share and show my support for Tohoku in my little way, just like how the Osadas drive hundreds of kilometres on weekends to come meet me. Because of that human thing call connection.

So as a Catholic, even from a little personal disaster of a damaged phone I learn to give thanks. So I counted my blessings a) my phone died when I was safe in church with accommodation for the night, and not in those scary forests I had to walk these few days. B) the Osadas were there! They could help me with accommodation new phone and basically their presence just lighted my heart a lot c) I need not worry about finding accommodation the next day because, I had already booked it in advance and I rarely book accommodations a few days in advance, usually on the day itself or the night before. D) all the photos and videos I've taken that day of the people I've met were already automatically uploaded to cloud. E) suddenly my walk became a mission I wanted to complete

So despite the sadness of having lost my trusty phone to technological illness, I still felt grateful. I left the charger plugged in for the night, morning came. Phone was still dead.

I told the Osadas and we had a morning meeting in the car and they told me their plan, I will attend Mass, and Mr Osada will go looking for phone shops. I had hoped they would attend Mass together with me. Just for a last check, Mr Osadas wanted to see if he could charge my phone, so I gave him my phone to let him see how it was with it. He plugged it in, and I said, "there you see it is not cha--"

A green charging signal appeared in my phone. If I was a swearing person (and I am, in my head) I would have let out all manner of disbelieving expletives. No..freaking...way. And there you have it. My phone managed to charge.

And I will still tell you that it is still super ridiculous because it is not as if I suddenly turn stupid for that day and cannot charge my phone, because I am not one to panic, and I already tried everything and Mr Osadas just plugged it in casually and there it goes.

So....

OK 2nd day, after the Osadas were gone, and late at night, my phone screen suddenly went black and could not even be shut off. It was still running applications, still making sounds, but the screen just wouldn't turn on (except display a little white X at the corner) and I could not even shut it off. So again I resigned myself to stopping the journey and find my way back to Sendai in the morning (feeling like I want to stop this walk completely) and getting glum again. At daybreak, my phone was still black and even when the alarm rang I couldn't find a way to stop it since there are no keys to press and the home keys do not work.

I randomly pressed all the keys, and suddenlythe phone managed to restart itself and tada! The phone screen became normal again! Like. What the €[email protected]£×&$ ok so now I seem to have my phone back to normal again, but I really don't know when there will be a relapse and how long my phone will remain with me. I also lost my messaging apps, WhatsApp and Line because of the restarting so even if my friends want to contact me, they can't via WhatsApp or LINE. And I can't even tell my Japanese friends that I can't use LINE anymore! But all these is part of the journey. So please keep me in your prayers (and your pockets). *wink*

Here is a picture of me and the Osadas at the Goishikaigan Coast.



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Update posted by Heidi Ng On Feb 19, 2017

I've travelled from Hirosaki to Mutsu today, albeit by train because official walking starts from the less dangerous region of Hachinohe. However I've got a chance to take train rides till my butt may have permanently changed shape, enjoy the running scenery of snow forests and white farmlands.

I stayed over at the Sisters of Ottawa in Hirosaki yesterday and then had Mass at the Hirosaki Church yesterday. I think at the top of what moved me so far is a picture of Sister Aogi paying for dinner for me. That back hunched over, as she reached over the counter made me feel unexpectedly move. I'm staying over at their convent without paying, be provided with food, and even had my dinner paid for. She even came all the way in snowy weather to pick me up and showed me around Hirosaki, and I can do nothing but pray for her and everyone else along the way. Like God's love, the care of the sisters is gratuitous-- something done without expectation of repayment. And there's an even more amazing tidbit, the house that they are living in will be given over to an association of elderly with disabilities, without asking the group for any payment at all. It will be given, entirely, without charge. Sister said it is because their founder, Mother Elisabeth Bruyere had started the Congregation for the purpose of serving the poor. And therefore, even if the convents are not exactly corporate giants hoarding mountains of money, the Ottawa Sisters will follow their founder's way in remembering that their purpose is in caring for the needy. I too will have to try to do my little, little part in making everyone's day brighter, wherever I go.

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Update posted by Heidi Ng On Feb 17, 2017

Don't know how to adjust the photo on my phone so I'm sorry if it's horizontal!

I'm currently in the first, first part of my journey. Not quite beginning the walk yet since I'm taking the bus to travel up North and trying to visit the Akita and Aomori Churches first before I get to Hachinohe on the 22nd of February.

I'm carrying probably 7kgs worth of luggage and it's not a walk in the park. Hoping to lose most of this (plus my weight) as I progress on. Winter hiking means more need for equipment. I am carrying the Singaporean flag because I happened to have it and I think I'm probably the first Singaporean to do such a foolhardy thing, not only walking the trail, but in winter.

Making my way to Yokote, Akita first for the Kamakura Festival and then to Higashinaruse Village, listed as one of the villages under the Most Beautiful Villages of Japan. It supposedly has the most beautiful view of the starry sky in Japan.


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Hi Heidi, thanks for the reply! I am very encouraged and inspired by your work in Japan. I’m glad you are sharing your experiences and hope you will find the strength in God to keep doing what you do. I hope one day i will have the courage to go on such an adventure in Japan like yourself! Take care!! =)

Dixon Ang

Update posted by Feb 20

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By the way for Mr Dixon Ang who asked (thank you for sponsoring!!) I have a website at contemplationsofapilgrim.blogspot.com however it is not really updated with posts about the journey..yet! I also have an instagram account @cradled and my Facebook updates will be set to Public! Thank you once again! ^^

Heidi Ng

Update posted by Feb 17

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Update posted by Heidi Ng On Jan 15, 2017

Being a Catholic, you are bound to have a collection of rosaries, each with significance and carrying different memories.

Yesterday I received a handmade rosary from a Sister of St Paul, who had been thinking of what the sisters could do for me for my trip. Of course I asked for prayers, because their prayers would be more effective than a thousand dollars. To pray for someone is to carry that person in your heart, and whenever you meet with God in a conversation, you will bring that person up as if he/she is the most important thing in the world to you, because you have given your heart to that person. "Remember so-and-so? I love this person. Please help her." And this would be enough for me, from the sisters. And a rosary from them that I will attach to my backpack so that I too carry their prayers with me in my own heart.

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What an awesome adventure, do you have a blog or site documenting the journey? Would love to read about it :) I pray you will have a safe journey, God Bless.

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May it be a special spiritual journey for you!

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