Monday, March 21, 2011

Japan post-earthquake: Glimpses of Stoicism, Humanness and Strength

This is from a friend of mine, a Japanese translator and interpreter, Yoko.

Compilation of personal episodes, comments, and tweets from earthquake-affected people translated (by me) from Japanese:

1. Tokyo Disneyland started distributing sweets and treats from the Disney shop. I saw conspicuously dressed up high-school girls demanding more than they should need for themselves, and felt dismayed. Later I saw the same girls distributing the treats to little kids in the Earthquake shelter. Mothers with small kids could not stand in the line to receive the treats, so the high-school girls' action was very much appreciated.

2. In a supermarket where all the merchandise were still on the floor after the earthquake, shoppers picked up the merchandise and put them neatly back on the shelves as they shopped, calmly waited in line for their turn to check out, and paid for their purchase as usual. In the packed train, an elderly gave his seat to a pregnant woman. Many foreigners were speechless to see such acts. Japan is extraordinary.

3. When the lights turned green, typically only one vehicle could get across the intersection before the lights turned red. But all the drivers were calm. The traffic would come to a standstill at a more complicated intersection, but during the ten hours of traffic jam, I never heard any honk other than to thank other drivers. Despite the fears that had engulfed me, I came to love Japan even more.

4. When I was walking home from my university late last night, a baker-woman was distributing bread to people who were walking home. The bakery is normally closed at that hour. In this time of confusion, she had discovered what she could do to help. I was warm inside. Tokyo is not a bad place to be in right now.

5. I received an email from my Korean friend: "The only country that has ever received atomic bombing. A country that lost the WWII. A country that receives typhoons every year. And earthquakes. And a tsunami...A small island nation, and yet, it always knows how to stand up after it fell. That's Japan. Keep it up." I'm crying right now.

6. When I was getting really fed up waiting for a train on the platform, a homeless man gave me a cardboard box and told me to sit on it to keep myself warm. We always ignore the homeless people. Now their warmth has hit me.

7. I walked for four hours to get home. I saw a woman who was standing in front of her house and showing a large sketchbook to the many passers-by. She had written on the sketchbook, "Please use our toilet if you need." Perhaps Japan is one of the most hospitable counties in the world. When I saw her, it was hard not to cry.

8. I had to walk four hours to get home and the streets were packed with people walking home. But it was not chaotic as people marched in a very orderly manner. Convenience stores and other shops were operating as if nothing had happened. Network infrastructure withstood the huge quake. Many shelters for stranded people were instantly set up in many locations. The train services came back on the same day and the trains run throughout the night to carry people home. It is a great country. This is something you wouldn't know from a simple GDP ranking.

9. A friend in Chiba told me this. An old man in a shelter murmured, "I don't know what's going to happen now." A teen-age boy started stroking the man's back and said, "Don't worry. When I grow up, I will bring everything back to normal." We will be all right. Our future is bright.

10. The man had been rescued after 42 hours of being trapped in a destroyed house. When he came out, he smiled at the TV camera and said, "I was there when the tsunami from the Chilean earthquake hit us. It's all right. All we need to do is rebuild." What is important is what we do from now.

11. "Operation Tomodachi" [meaning, "Operation Friends"] is the name of the U.S. military's rescue operation this time.

12. It's so dark with the power down, so the stars are shining the brightest ever. My fellow earthquake refugees in Sendai, let's look up.

13. M9.0. One of the greatest earthquakes in the human history. Well then, let's make the passion to rebuild and love for each other one of the greatest in the human history.

Japanese migrants' communities across the State are preparing for fundraising activities. The activities will typically involve paper-craft cranes and in some cases music or dance performance. If you see one like that in your suburb, please make generous donations, but make sure the fundraising activity is legitimate. (Normally the organisation that receives the funds, such as Red Cross, issues an official letter of authority. If you are not sure, you can always ask the fundraiser to show you such a letter before making donations.)

Thank you very much for your support for the earthquake victims in Japan.


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