JAPAN (NEWS1130) – In the face of disaster, the people of Japan remain quietly resolute.
As emergency workers sift through wreckage, the calls for survivors are accompanied by “pleases” and “thank-yous.” People found alive in the wreckage have been overheard apologizing to rescuers for the inconvenience and line-ups for water, food, and fuel have been single-file and orderly.
Even the quake and tsunami can’t shake a culture where the term “gaman” — which loosely translates as a calm endurance — is front and centre.
David Welch is chair of Global Security at Waterloo’s Centre for International Governance and Innovation. He says Japan is a culture bound by custom and responsibility. “You just wouldn’t be able to respect yourself as a person if you went and looted a shop in the middle of a natural disaster.”
Even at shelters, shoes are still placed carefully in rows at entrances. “The Japanese are an incredibly civic-minded, orderly, and rule-following people,” Welch explains.
“If you lose your wallet on the subway in Tokyo, the odds are somebody will turn it in to the lost and found with all the money inside of it,” he adds.
John Nelson, a cultural anthropologist and chairman of the department of theology and religion at the University of San Francisco, spoke to the National Post. “In Japanese culture, there’s a sort of nobility in suffering with a stiff upper lip, in mustering the spiritual, psychological resources internally.”