“A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.” A Japanese proverb says it best. In the days after the 9.0 earthquake and the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan, something needs to be said for the integrity, grace, and sense of community of the Japanese.
Those who travel to Japan always rave about it. The cleanliness, the food, the culture, and the people are amazing! I traveled to Japan in the Spring of 2006 and while I did enjoy it, it definitely wasn’t one of my favorite places in Asia. This perhaps, was due to the fact that it was the end of my Semester at Sea voyage, I was broke, it was raining the entire time, and I had just found out my grandfather had passed away. All of these factors definitely contributed to my somber mood.
I did think the cities were amazingly high-tech. The transportation, efficiency of everything, bars, internet rooms, and 4 story porn shops-crazy! I loved Kyoto. Picturing old Japan really brought me into my favorite book at the time, “Memoirs of a Geisha”. As I walked through the cobblestone streets under cherry blossom trees, I enjoyed MY idea of Japan.
The Japanese didn’t’ strike me as the friendliest and didn’t stand out as particularly welcoming. No one initiated conversation with me; in fact, I felt most avoided eye contact. The friendliest they got were after a few bottles of sake while stumbling home at 2am in their business suit.
Is being super friendly and welcoming to foreigners really all that important? No, absolutely not. After seeing the character of the Japanese when faced with such crisis, I will completely retract any negative idea I’ve ever had of them.
We can learn a lot from the Japanese on how they deal with disaster. Instead of whining, and finger-pointing, they are showing a true sense of community by pulling together. No one is grabbing media attention in attempt to prove they’re the hero; instead they are working together in attempt to help.
There have been no reports that I have come across on looting or taking advantage of situations which would benefit individuals. In a time of utter disaster, they are still focused on the collective good.
The Japanese are graciously accepting aid, not expecting it. In a television news report, a reporter tells a story of a woman who is blown away by the help from a foreigner. “You came all the way from England to help?”
While no country deserves disaster, the Japanese are a good model in times of crisis for the rest of the world to follow. I would hope that if this type of “end of the world” disaster were to happen again, we would react like we’re Japanese.