Curry, Chai and Kobe

Curry, Chai, and Kobe / カレーとチャイと神戸

Among the volunteers in the shelter were two Pakistani emigres, Anees Ahmad Nadeem and Najib Ullah Ayaz, who work with an organization called Humanity First. They cooked for the survivors in a shelter, providing them the first hot meals they’d had since the disaster. The menu included Indian curry and chai (spiced tea with milk, sweetened with sugar), the same things people from Humanity First offered the survivors of the Kobe Earthquake in 1995.


Before the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, one of the greatest natural disasters to hit Japan was the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that shook the Hanshin region in 1995. Over 5,000 people died, more than 35,000 were injured, and more than 300,000 were evacuated to emergency housing. And just as in 2011, people were there, reaching out a hand to help those in need.


Japan learned from those terrible events. So, in 2011, while the world watched and marveled at the restraint and orderliness of the general Japanese response to the Tohoku disaster, the Japanese people simply went on doing what they do.

The truth is, they know that they can rebuild and they believe that they can recover because they have done it before. For centuries, they have survived typhoons and storms. And, in a time when no one was sure that any nation could recover from the ravages of a nuclear bomb, they rebuilt from the ruinous scars left by two of them. They resurrected Tokyo from the ashes of the firebombing. They pulled Kobe out of the wreckage left by the earthquake, and the entire nation was made stronger for what they learned from it.

Though the recovery of Tohoku will be long and hard, it will be all the better for a cup of chai in a time of need, shared with those who care.

(Note: the Japanese word for tea is o-cha/お茶. Chai and cha come from the same Chinese ideogram, or hanzi, 茶. A different prononciation of the same hanzi is ti, where the English word tea comes from. It is thought that all tea — leaves of the camellia sinensis plant — originated in China and spread through trade. Thus, all words for the beverage stem from the Chinese language.)

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