For days we have watched in awe the dramatic events unfolding in Japan, following the news that show big parts of that highly sophisticated and industrialised country laying in scatters what looks like aftermath of a war, one cannot but be impressed by the calm and altruistic spirit of the people reacting to this tragedy.
Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength:
Supermarkets cut prices, vending machine owners giving out free drinks and restaurant owners handing out free food as people work together to survive.
Nippon, that seemed in “hyber-nation” for the last decades of economic decline, with its population alienated and facing a lethargic new generation is putting an incredible collective solidarity on display. We can only guess what impact this catastrophe will leave on the collective consciousness of the japanese in the long run. As Japanese writer Ryu Murakami puts it in The New York Times:
“Ten years ago I wrote a novel in which a middle-school student, delivering a speech before Parliament, says: “This country has everything. You can find whatever you want here. The only thing you can’t find is hope.”
One might say the opposite today: evacuation centers are facing serious shortages of food, water and medicine; there are shortages of goods and power in the Tokyo area as well. Our way of life is threatened, and the government and utility companies have not responded adequately.
But for all we’ve lost, hope is in fact one thing we Japanese have regained. The great earthquake and tsunami have robbed us of many lives and resources. But we who were so intoxicated with our own prosperity have once again planted the seed of hope. So I choose to believe.”
(NYT of March 16, translated from Japanese by by Ralph F. McCarthy)
The altruistic spirit people encounter these days in Japan on their road to recovery manifest itself in a myriad of small stories. Inspired by this, Jun Shiomitsu, student at University of Cambridge created a blog “Voices from Japan” together with ten of his classmates and friends, sharing tweets from japanese twitter accounts. Some of these short messages, proof on personal experiences, we would like to share with you following. For more please see “Voices from Japan”.
Direct donations for Japan can also be made at: Red Cross Japan
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This earthquake has reminded me of that Japanese goodness that had recently become harder and harder to see. Today I see no crime or looting: I am reminded once again of the good Japanese spirit of helping one another, of propriety, and of gentleness. I had recently begun to regard my modern countrymen as cold people … but this earthquake has revived and given back to all of us the spirit of “kizuna” (bond, trust, sharing, the human connection). I am very touched. I am brought to tears.
(Original Japanese text) * 日本人の良さを再認識
— アジアの架け橋 Suzuki Viet (@VietL) March 12, 2011
My Boyfriend, Off with His Rescue Unit
Yesterday, I said goodbye to my loved one as he left for one of the hardest-hit areas, Minami Sanriku in Miyagi. He is a member of the Fire Department’s special rescue unit. As I bade him goodbye, I asked “Are you scared?” He simply answered “I just feel sorry for those people whose bodies are still buried and cold and lonely. I just want to help find their bodies as soon as possible so that they can be returned to their families.” This from my boyfriend who is normally so shy he can’t go shopping for clothes by himself. Seeing his quiet resolve, I stifled my tears and sent him off with a smile.
(Original Japanese Text)
Through the Eyes of a Child
A small child was waiting in line to buy some candy. As his turn approached, I saw him look intently at the cash register for a moment, deep in thought. He then trotted to the disaster relief donations box on the counter, dropped his few coins into it, and trotted back to the shelves to return the candies that were in his hand. As the employee called after the boy thanking him saying “arigato gozaimasu!”, I heard her voice tremble with emotion.
(Original Japanese Text)
Twitter / 松元恵: 子供がお菓子を持ってレジに並んでいたけれど、順番が近 …
子供がお菓子を持ってレジに並んでいたけれど、順番が近くなり、レジを見て考え込み、レジ横にあった募金箱にお金を入れて、お菓 子を棚に戻して出て行きました。店員さんがその子供の背中に向け てかけた、ありがとうございます、という声が震えてました。