The Best MMA Writing of 2011: Daniel Herbertson on Enson Inoue's Journey to Fukushima and Beyond

Not every tragedy is created equal, and for the residents of Japan, 2011 was a shared nightmare of mother nature's sometimes vile indifference. The March tsunami of 2011 cost $300 billion, and claimed 20 thousand citizens across the Japanese coast.

The story continues to unfold, as Japan must deal with the physical fallout. Unfortunately there's also a political fallout, similar to what Americans experienced during Katrina. Reports of faked repair records spanning over a decade and a 2009 warning by seismologists at a government safety panel informing officials of significant vulnerability to the now infamous Fukushima Daiichi Plant are the uncomfortable but necessary narratives within the rebuilding process in Japan.

But rebuilding Fukushima (which translates to "fortunate island") and its now uprooted population will come from the strength of Japan's community, and as Daniel Herbertson reported in April, former MMA fighter Enson Inoue has become a formidable representative for the healing process.

While the memories of Inoue from hardcore MMA fans will never that of a great fighter, you'd be hard pressed to think of a fighter more respected. In the Pride ring, Enson had a tough-guy perception of 'heart', where resolve and hubris collide. But as he himself communicates to Herbertson, that 'heart' has extended beyond resolve, away from hubris, and into community, charity, and a deep appreciation for the trivial.

More after the jump...

In what ends up being a nine part series, Herbertson takes us on a journey with Inoue as he travels to the city of Minamisanriku (one among many places Inoue ends up visiting): an area that lost over half its population of over 17 thousand by a tsunami five stories high.

With each entry, we learn what Inoue has had to sacrifice, though it's always apparent Enson is at peace, and that his only regret is that more can't be done. His work at the evacuation centers, getting people simple items like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes reveal the lost art of altruism.

Enson himself has battled his own demons. In the ring, his fight with Igor Vovchanchyn likely had a permanent effect on his health (he spent 4 months in the hospital). And he spent time in jail for possession of marijuana. He's an interesting figure in MMA lore, and not just because he can claim to being in a David Mamet film. But thanks to the work of Daniel Herbertson, he can now be remembered for something far greater, and far more important.

Below are some of Enson's final words, reflecting back on his journey, and on life. But I suggest you ready each entry, as it's well worth your time.

Just getting a bottle of water from someone was amazing! When I was in jail I knew what it was like to have nothing and on the pilgrimage I had nothing there too. Before I would say thank you and forget about it. But now, I'm so appreciative! I still haven't forgotten the people that helped me!

Appreciation is what drives me to go up north. I can understand what they are going through, to some extent. I can't compare going to jail to what the tsunami victims and people from Fukushima are going through, but I know what it's like to have everything taken away from you. I know how good the small things can feel.

Daniel Herbertson can be found on twitter @DanHerbertson.

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