• One Year Later

    Written by Jörgen Axelvall

    After 15 years in NYC I made my move to Tokyo
    On March 11 2011, at 2.46 pm I was landing at Narita Airport
    Or trying to land that is
    The now infamous Tohoku Earthquake struck at the exact same time
    The landing turned into what they call a “touch and go”
    And without a word from the crew we set course for Nagoya
    I knew this from looking at the flight map on the display in front of me
    After 20 minutes the captain announced that there had been an earthquake
    All major Tokyo area airports were closed
    And Nagoya Airport was already getting congested
    from diverted traffic
    Maybe Osaka, with Japan’s second largest airport, the captain said
    I had some selfish little thoughts,
    not aware of the devastation on the ground
    I worried about having to move around
    with my filled-to-the-brim bags
    Another 20 minutes and the captain told us we were going to Yokosuka Military Base
    This is close to Tokyo and close to where we where at the moment
    The captain explained honestly and sincerely
    Coming from NYC we simple don’t have enough fuel to keep circling
    Or to make it all the way to Osaka for that matter
    Then, a flawless landing with calm and relieved passengers
    Military Bases don’t want to deal with civilians so we all had to remain in the plane
    And wait for refueling and some airport that could accommodate us
    During our four hour wait the single landing strip started to fill up
    Big planes from all over the world
    We got reports of the magnitude and the tsunami that followed
    And we started to worry about our loved ones on the outside
    Mobile phones were shared and passed around
    The network was unfortunately not working very well
    After what felt like a very long wait,
    the neighboring big planes started to depart
    One by one, all heading to Osaka
    Being first one in, meant being last one out, since we where cornered
    Shortly before our turn came, Haneda,
    Tokyo’s second largest airport reopened
    We made the 25-minute flight there
    Got off the plane, through immigration and claimed our bags
    I started smoking again
    Tokyo’s infrastructure was closed down
    No trains no subways no highways
    Camped out on the floor watching the news
    It was a long night
    Got fed delicious fresh rice balls when daylight came around
    Got hold of my boyfriend who had been in a train when the earthquake struck
    He had walked the tracks to nearest station and spent the night there
    Been reading magazines in a convenience store
    He was on his way to meet me
    About 30 hours after scheduled landing time we finally embraced
    And then things started to move little by little
    Together we got on the bus and made it to our place of rest
    To the Nakameguro neighborhood where we have been living since

    This is my personal story with a happy ending
    For many more there was no happy ending
    I didn’t lose anything, just gained an experience
    My thoughts and love go to those who had real losses
    As we all know there was, and is, a serious aftermath
    The Fukushima nuclear power plant
    I will talk about that some other time

  • Illustration by MICHAELA MYHRBERG

    The Ideal Female Form

    Written by Sally Kennedy by Michaela Widergren

    The female body means many things to many people. It’s the focus of an enormous amount of attention, a source of unlimited power and money, an essential aspect of life and the production of it, and for far too many women, a cause of much suffering and angst. A historical review of the ideal female form, however, does nothing less than prove that there is no ideal female form. Whatever women are striving for at any given moment is directly linked to their place in history, geography, culture, and in many respects, the limitations of human development. Like fashion, the one consistent element about the ideal female form is that it constantly changes.

    We’ve all run into cultural differences as far as the ideal female body is concerned. Jamaican women apparently clamor for chicken pills in order to develop bigger bottoms. Carolyn Cooper, professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, claims that “big bottoms” equal power. “If you have no meat on your bones, the society can’t see your wealth, your progress, your being.” In Tanzania, thighs are considered the ultimate sexual part of a woman. And it’s hard to miss the breast fixation in the United States, where bigger always seems to be better.

    But even when we restrict ourselves to the examination of the ideal female body in a particular region, there is a consistent level of inconsistency. Take, for example, western European culture. Up until the late 1800’s, the rubenesque woman dominated the ideal. A very curvaceous, distinctly plump body screaming with inactivity was equated with ultimate femininity and beauty. As the 1900’s approached, the ideal became thinner. The wasp-waisted figure of the Edwardian Gibson Girl cinched in the wider girth of the previous era. Then, women’s liberation took hold in the 1920’s and the ideal female shape de-emphasized reproductive characteristics. Fashion toned down curves, and a more boyish figure was sought. This clearly happened again in the 1960’s when “the Pill’’ became available and Twiggy became a household name. But jump back just one decade to the 1950’s and think Marilyn Monroe. Size 14. In today’s standard, a frequent cause for both diet and the gym.

    Sadly, the underweight woman has had a stronghold on the ideal female form since the 1960’s. There have been occasional periods of athletic relief, during the fitness craze of the 1980’s and perhaps today, when exercise is considered an essential part of any healthy lifestyle. But the waif, with her distinctly unhealthy overtones, has made an appearance more than once and she doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. She’s walking around right now on the catwalks.

    How in the world you might ask, do I find all is all this comforting? Quite simply, because history and cultural differentiation prove that the obsession with the ideal female form has very few lasting truths. The ideal is dictated to us, and it changes like the wind. Virtually every woman fits perfectly into one ideal or another, be it from this decade or from another century. And for those of us whose genetics happen to match a current ideal, beware: the ideal will change again. Seems like a very good reason for women of all ages and sizes to focus to health and happiness, and start enjoying the fact that they have what everyone can’t stop talking about—an imperfect, fabulous female body.