Day 310. The Japanese One.

The devastation we have seen from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan have been unimaginable. With every passing day, the imagery that comes from this small country gets more alarming. I hate being old enough to not only have pain in my heart for what has already happened, but to have too much comprehension of what work lies ahead to restore this country and its people to where it was only a few short days ago.

Admittedly, I have always had a soft spot in my soul for Japan. I have forever admired their culture, their art, their philosophies. At age 8 I was eating sushi like it was my job. At 15 I started studying the language as soon as it was offered at my school and continued through college. I have a life's dream to someday go to Japan. I've been enamored with all things Japanese a) because I liked Japan and b) because stuff like Sushi is damn good; for a long long time.

But watching this coverage has helped crystallize one of the reasons I have such affection for this country. While the destruction is unfathomable, have you noticed the absence of things like violence, total hysteria, looting? Divert your eyes from the massive walls of water pummeling through towns and watch the people - always acting with respect towards another even in times of sheer panic. Hundreds wait patiently to receive even a small ration of food, others check on their neighbors or...

...this was the moment. On "Good Morning America" this morning, Diane Sawyer visited many of the most devasted areas. Walking up to a small group of locals, Diane practices the manners she was obviously coached in - a proper bow..."konnichi-wa"...and a man, with obviously almost nothing left offers her food as an act of welcome and hospitality. (watch the video below starting around the 2:00 mark - although the whole thing is powerful)

Now here's my point - you can't tell me that this man doesn't know enough to know that an obviously western reporter probably has enough resources to get some food if she wants it - she clearly had access to resources to fly halfway around the world, with a translator and camera crew. Diane Sawyer is experiencing nowhere near the hardship that this man has and will continue to experience and he knows that. And I would bet that he is painfully aware of just how little food and water he has. But, his spirit overrode that logic. Be it programmed manners or the "Japanese way" something led him to care more about his guest...even if his "home" was a bunch of stools pulled up around a table. It led him to say "we have enough, please take this" and it came across so strongly that, humbled, Diane and her translator knew to take the offering because to not do so would have offended this man deeply.

Ask yourself, if you had lost everything - EVERYTHING, EVERY THING - would you still care for others? Would you give the last of what you own - clothes, food, water - to a stranger? The heart that empowers a man to do this is a powerful thing. The fact that this appears to be the heart that rests in not only this man but in an entire nation is a beautiful thing.

And so - while the tragedy continues with every passing minute, I stand in awe of this one Japanese man and his simple act of generosity that embodies a culture that could teach us a lot...if we let it.

My prayers are with you, Japan.


nevrothwen said...

Beautifully said.

You brought up a point I hadn't thought about and you are absolutely right. There is no looting, no violence (at least I have heard nothing about it in the news). When you compare this to other recent disasters, of which there have been too many, this makes such a welcome change.

We can all learn something about the respect that seems omni-present in Japanese culture.

Anne-Sophie (aka. anneso87) said...

1. Your blog post sums up everything that I talked about for the last few days, just a lot more eloquently. Words simply cannot express what they must be going through, but yet they carry their burden with a kind of grace that I have never seen before. The video makes me want to cry, but at the same time I am in complete awe - just like you - of this man. And I can honestly admit that I am quite certain that our culture would never react in such a way.
Some might say that the Japanese are still in shock, stoic or that they will just not show their real feelings, but I agree with Winnie. They have a way of respecting each other that is not known to us.
2. I had no idea you spoke Japanese. Let me just stay that I admire you for that. This is majorly cool. And Alison, you WILL get your chance to travel to this fascinating country.