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Japan, How We Can Help, and My Experience Living There

“… the March 11, 2011 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and resulting nuclear disaster becomes an epic devastation …”

Today, in light of recent devastation in Asia, I am changing my weekly post order to reflect on what is happening in Japan. I lived in Tokyo for three months in 1990, and I grieve for the people there and their great losses. Sharing some of my experiences there …


Jennifer and Leslie Bibb, in their Tokyo apartment

In our Tokyo apartment, Jennifer on the right

Why I lived in Japan at age 16:

In 1989, I was 15 years old and 5’10” tall. In a combination of being at the right place at the right time, and being the right height, I was part of the ensemble of young women who gathered in Paris for Elite Model Management’s annual Look of the Year, a contest for a few dozen girls around the world to compete for modeling contracts with Elite.

As it turned out, I was selected for one of those contracts, and, during one of the many late-night parties that went on as part of the LOTY, I met Hiromi, the head of Elite Japan. She asked if I would consider going to Tokyo to model for them the next summer. I don’t remember much of the decision-making from those years, but I do remember boarding the plane for Japan. It’s not often a sixteen-year-old flies around the world for a summer on her own.


Leslie Bibb, Tokyo Tower, 1990

Leslie Bibb, Tokyo Tower, 1990

The first thing I remember in Japan was the measuring tape. They practically greeted me with it as I disembarked the plane. Actually, within the first ten minutes of being in the Elite office in Roppongi. Luckily, I passed, and soon after, a sweet college grad brought me to my apartment, in Roppongi, just steps from the Tokyo Tower.

The most memorable thing about Japan: the earthquakes. We had many that summer–the worst one being very small compared to the March 11 quake–but I will never forget my bed bouncing across the floor as I woke from the rumbling ground. Scary, even when they’re small.

The apartment was a standard issue “models apartment”—about three-hundred square feet, amazingly fitting three “bedrooms” and a miniscule bathroom. I shared the apartment with my roommate, Leslie Bibb, of movie fame now like Iron Man and Talladega Nights. She was also sixteen at the time. She happens to be in all of my photos … which seems funny now, but I suppose we were always together when we weren’t working.


Leslie Bibb, Jennifer Lyn King, Japan, Elite Models, 1990

Leslie (left) and me, Jennifer Lyn King (right), in Japan, 1990

That summer I learned so much—I could write a few books about it all. Shopping (in a non-English environment), transportation (in a bustling Tokyo all written in Japanese), cooking (on a two-burner stove), eating (foods that had no explanation for what they were)—the education was endless. And it all was gentle and kind to an American teenager just trying to figure out where the next go-see was.

Japan, from my 1990 summer experience, is a beautiful country full of hard-working and forward-thinking people who are kind and gracious.

Above all, the Japanese people taught me that despite our differences, we are the same. We share similar values: we love our children and our lands, the warmth of family, good foods and drinks, and the beauty of a stunning sunset.


At Kamakura Beach, Japan, Leslie Bibb

At Kamakura Beach, Japan (Leslie with the cool cat glasses)

Despite other differences, we are all of one world—one earth where nature vents her wrath, and we can’t know why. God has His reasons and His power, and in the thousands of heartbreaking images we can see from events like this, we are reminded of just how small and fragile we really are. But when we band together and help each other, we can be strong and rise up as one. And it is then that human beings can really sing.

Japan needs our help. She is our neighbor.

We don’t know what the future may bring, but we do know that when we help each other, we can be more of who and what we were created to be. We need to help.

Watch this Tsunami Footage by James MacWhyte from the first tsunami wave arriving in a town to complete decimation 6 minutes later. Unbelievable. We are so fragile.

Places to help:

The Red Cross: www.RedCross.org

World Vision: www.WorldVision.org

Do you have other links and ways to help Japan? (Leave a comment below– thanks!)

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Beautifully put. I spent

Beautifully put. I spent 1981 to 1983 in Japan and treasure the memories. I read an article yesterday that said Japan might not need our money, that it had enough of its own, and I've read complaints about what charities do with targeted funds. An ocean away now, all I can do is send money, so that's what I'm doing. If it goes to give a few rescuers lunch, that's good, because survivors need rescuers. If it goes to help fund a bulldozer, that's good, because survivors need the rubble cleared. If it goes to pay for soap for a shelter, that's good, because survivors will feel better after a bath. Give, trust, and pray. If we all give a little, it adds up to a lot.

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Thank you, Susan-- I'm so

Thank you, Susan--

I'm so glad you stopped by to leave your thoughts. And I'm happy to hear you also had a great experience in their country. It is a really special place.

Maybe I'm sheltered from the pessimism from the American media, but here in Prague (we don't have access to live US news) and in Europe, I believe that the stance is that money is crucial, needed, and necessary to be able to help. And that is where I stand, too. I believe most of all in giving, to increase the size of our own hearts, and to look beyond our own lives to the plights and suffering of others. And certainly, Japan needs our help.

Glad you're in on the giving! Thank you!



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Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your pictures and thoughts. Positivity instead of crude negative images. Personally had to shut the tv off b/c it was giving me anxiety. My writing partner/ best friend and her family are over there.

Thankfully they are in Tokyo and are but still suffering. I feel very helpless and want to help but am left to sit on pins and needless. When things open up and the mail system and transportation back to normal, I'm sending her a care package. Small but I know she will cherish the American stuff I send her b/c she is originally from NY and CA.

I'm just grateful for the few hours she has electricty so that we can email each other and keep updated.