Time Heals

Published on Monday, 25 February 2013 01:05 - Written by Justin R. Johnson

Editor’s Note: The following is a diary from Tyler’s Justin R. Johnson that will appear in the Tyler Morning Telegraph periodically. It will follow Johnson as he plays basketball around the world. Johnson plays for the Fukuoka Rizing in southern Japan. Johnson, son of Cynthia and Michael Johnson of Tyler, played for John Tyler High School, Tyler Junior College and the University of Iowa before playing professionally in the NBA-Developmental League (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Romania, China, Japan and Canada.

Aw man!! What a great week! We won both games this week, and moved into second place in our division standings. These are the moments I live for in this game of basketball; having great teammates, knowing our hard work in practice is paying off, working as a unit on and off the court, determined on one goal which is winning the championship.

As I told you guys in my last blog, I am here in the great country of Japan playing the best game in the world (in my opinion) and getting to call it my occupation. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel blessed with the opportunity to play the game in countries I only thought I would see in movies and the game I have been dedicated to since wearing Ninja Turtle underwear.

I have really become a huge believer in the quote, “Never say, never.” This is because I said to myself, about two years ago, “I will never step foot in this country ever again.”

Please don’t get me wrong. I had the best time ever playing in Tokyo. It is by far the cleanest most Americanized place abroad that I have been, with some of the nicest people you will ever meet.


As many of you know, two years ago, Japan was hit by one of the most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record; hitting a magnitude of 9.03.

Guess who was in Japan for only two months and got front row seats to the party? Yes, the country boy from Tyler, Texas. This was my first and only shake I ever felt next to the ones I really “enjoy” at Whataburger…ha! ha!

I know some of you can relate to what I’m saying. We live in an area where we will get tornado warnings and Mother Nature will throw a few curveballs here and there to keep us humble with the weather. But, I want you to put yourself in my shoes, well not even shoes, but in my socks that morning. You know, just a normal morning; waking up, doing your morning duties in the bathroom, eating your morning cereal and thinking about your plans for the day. Then out of nowhere, there is this huge vibration around you, but the vibration doesn’t stop. You hear utensils and plates crashing to the floor from the kitchen. You run just in time to catch your TV and PlayStation from going to “tech hell.”

Alarms are going off outside and the vibration continues on and on for about 5 minutes or more.

People who I have shared this experience with and who have never experienced an earthquake, tell me what they would have done. But that is just like asking single people for relationship advice. They wouldn’t know what to do in this situation, because I didn’t know.

I was thinking if I go outside, the buildings would be collapsing; so that would be a bad idea. I was also thinking going outside is the same reason I should not stay inside. My mind was doing a 360 within minutes.

When the shaking stopped, I went to my balcony and yelled to the local Japanese below, who were all on their cell phones, asking them “What do I do?” No one answered me of course, and I understood as they had no time trying to understand what a panicking American on the fifth floor was screaming while they were probably trying to get in touch with loved ones.

I decided to call my American teammates; no answer. called my manager; no answer, then I called my parents who I knew for sure were asleep due to the 15-hour time difference. They woke up turned to CNN, and once they told me it was on CNN I knew “this was real.”

I had to rush off the phone with them because they couldn’t help from miles away and it was a possibility the situation could probably get worse, and it did. Just seconds after I hang up, out of nowhere another quake comes and shakes things up again. It is not as big as the first one, but it was still a huge quake on an almost normal day with a magnitude of 7.4.

It is at this very moment that I am thinking and saying, “This can’t be how I go out, in an Earthquake????”

As soon as that thought crosses my mind, my Skype from the computer rings and my manager tells me to run for the park; which is way down the street. After his last word, I must have made a world record for getting shoes, a jacket, passport and putting on a backpack. So many people were filling the streets, but not one of them were moving as fast as the tall, black guy, who looked like he had just seen a ghost.

I stopped one time going to the park as there was a crowd in front of the news station, there was the Japanese CNN and English CNN on television behind glass. They showed a huge Tsunami that wiped out a city that was just an hour away from Tokyo. That’s all I needed to see to get back to my “ear to pocket” run to the park away from buildings.


Long story short, the other four American teammates and I were on the first airplane back to the USA that following day. We were saddened to leave and say goodbye to our Japanese teammates. It was a horrible situation leaving teammates in a place of hourly baby quakes, possible nuclear radiation floating in the air and even in the water, and knowing they couldn’t just leave like we could.

The Japanese were so united throughout that whole tragedy, from turning off their house lights avoiding blackouts, to letting complete strangers who lost valuables stay with them. I really was expecting the airport to be chaotic as we were about to leave but everything went smoothly. I thought for sure the flights to America would be crazy but majority of the Japanese were going to Australia, and Europe.

Everything happened so fast at the time, but we were so blessed to come out of that situation unharmed. Our Japanese teammates, coaches, and their families are doing great as we all keep in touch through the various internet applications .I’ve even had the chance of playing against some of them this year.

Now, I hope some of you can learn from this situation by never saying never.

Don’t give up on that person or place just over one incident. A week after my huge incident in Tokyo I was already telling people I could never see myself going back to Japan. The thought of: being in another country, a thousands of miles away from home, by myself, on the fifth floor, no family or friends, with no one speaking my language, and one of the biggest earthquakes in history shaking me like table salt, I thought would put an X on Japan for sure.

But as you grow up you start seeing that “time heals”... life is too short to hold grudges with people and in my case countries. I’m going to live life to the fullest and absorb everything I hear and see on this journey.

Word of the day “Konbanwa”

Konbanwa — good evening

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