If you’re like me, you’re finding it hard to care deeply about much of anything this week knowing what the people of Japan are going through.
Even though I didn’t feel the jolt of the earth, or see the crash of the tsunami at the beach, I’m experiencing deep sadness brought on by the destruction and loss of life on the other side of the Pacific
I’ve been to Japan many times and once enjoyed an extended stay at Tokyo Disneyland when I worked as a Disney Imagineer in the 1990s. The people there were wonderful and I got to spend many magical days exploring the park as well as nearby Tokyo.
The park is about ten miles from downtown with a subway stop at the gates, easily linking the two. It’s a beautiful place, perhaps the most stunning park that Disney ever built. I remember it being amazingly tidy (even by Disney standards), and being shocked by the overall honesty of the Japanese after witnessing them reserve spots for the parade by leaving purses and cameras on the sidewalk, which no one disturbed.
The park was built on land that was reclaimed from Tokyo Bay. I remember referring to it as “Tokyo Disneylandfill” at a meeting I was attending, which must have sounded hilarious to the Japanese ears, because E.J.-san was thought to be amazingly clever after that.
I quickly grew to love the park and to fear for its safety, as only a berm separates the property from the sea. And being that it’s on reclaimed land, I dreaded the day that I knew would eventually come when a major earthquake would liquefy the land, turning it to the consistency of Jello.
My fears were realized this week with the massive 9.0 earthquake off of Japan’s northeast coast and the accompanying tsunami, which has killed thousands, and brought new threats of massive radiation poisoning from hobbled nuclear plants.
Although Tokyo Disneyland lies hundreds of miles from the epicenter, it still experienced some liquefaction, which resulted in the closure of the park and its sister property Tokyo DisneySea (which was built after I was there – I’m told it’s spectacular!). They will remain closed until the damage can be fully assessed.
70,000 tourists spent the night after the quake huddled in the park. Knowing the Japanese, I’m sure they remained calm, polite, and respectful throughout the ordeal.
And I’d be surprised to hear that a single purse or camera turned up missing.