Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts about the Japanese Earthquake

Just two weeks ago, while walking north of Tokyo on a sunny winter afternoon, I could have never imagined the destruction and pain inflicted upon a country I consider my second home.

My daughter begins her college major in Japanese language and culture at Tufts this  Fall.

My wife creates art inspired by Japanese themes.

I'm writing tonight while drinking a cup of green tea from Shizuoka, surrounded by the delicate smoke of Japanese incense and listening to the resonant sounds of a Japanese flute, the Shakuhachi.

It's hard to reconcile the immersion of Japanese culture in my life with the reality of the loss of life and property in Japan.

Like many of you, I've watched the news and read the articles.    I've contacted my friends and colleagues in Japan to check on their safety.

I've also reflected on the Japanese people's response to the crisis, which in many ways is unique to the special culture of the country.

128 million Japanese live in an area slightly smaller than California.

Despite hunger, thirst, and cold, there has been no looting.   There has been no public violence.

The government announced the need for rolling blackouts to address energy shortages.   The Japanese people conserved on their own and no blackouts were needed.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan addressed the nation Sunday night and said this is the most serious crisis since World War II, calling on people to come together using the phrase, “ittai,” which means to become one body.

The Japanese are a strong, resilient, and selfless people.

In this time of great sorrow, I will learn from their example.   May my family and I (and all Americans) show the same solidarity the next time we have to face adversity.

5 comments:

Cecil said...

I've been longing for this kind of perspective on the people and the culture. Thanks.

Suki Tsui said...

My heart goes out those who were affected by the terrible earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency that struck Japan last Friday. It is amazing how the Japanese demonstrate so much courage, resilience and perseverance in the aftermath of this calamity. It is unbelievable how humble, orderly and civilized they remain when dealing with one of the saddest and toughest moment in human history. The heroic and selfless act of those emergency and rescue workers who continue to engage in life-saving activities despite the threat and risk to their health due to exposure high-level of radiation is heartbreaking yet inspiring. I would like to extend my deepest condolences and sympathy, as well as my admiration, to victims of this tragic disaster.

kulbhushan said...

When strong are suffering it reminds the power of nature and us as her pawns.
Spirit of Japan is strong.Fear of foreigner is disapearing even in Japan.
In an article (whose author i do not recall)this Japanese resident of USA wrote about her family who were caretakers of Japanese Budhist shrine.When asked by her they reminded that job of the shrine caretakers was to take care of peoples need while on this planet as well as after life so they could not abandon the shrine as long as they were needed for any of the services.
In some ways jobs of doctors,safety officers and in this case technicians and engineers at the nuclear power plant takes the role taken by the shrine undertakers even if it only helps life as we know it.
Thanks for your perspective.

Guy St. Clair said...

Thank you, John, for sharing these kind thoughts. Like Cecil, I've been waiting for this kind of comment about what's going on, and we're all still so worried. But your thoughtful comments help greatly. Appreciate what you had to say. It helps us here on the other side of the world deal with this a little better.

Anonymous said...

I think it is great to see these types of comments and reaction. It makes it all the more obvious that we as Americans have a lot to learn from the rest of the world. With things like Katrina or the financial crisis, all we could do was whine to have others (the government) bail us out rather than do the work ourselves. Other countries laugh at us and realize it is only a matter of time before we are second or third rate in the world, unless we change our perspective. Thanks for this excellent view of how a people can pull together and fix their own problems rather than wait for someone to save them.