Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Events in Japan


I lived in a small apartment in Roppongi - which a crossing sign announced as a "high touch town" - for the best part of two years.  There were frequent quakes, and only one ever scared me.  I noticed while reading one night in my apartment, that the floor lamp was descending slowly toward the ground.  I simultaneously thought to grab it, and wondered what the hell would make a lamp fall that slowly?  Then the lamp was restored to its' upright position and I realized that an earthquake had occurred, then seconds later I realized that the earthquake WAS STILL occurring.  The building was older, with a long hallway to the stairs, and the doorways were a bit iffy so I stayed in my comfortable chair - it's not that I was either brave or indifferent - I thought that the building's corners might be the strongest place available.  That earthquake was a 6.2, and there was virtually no damage in Tokyo, the most prepared city in the world for preventing damage from quakes.

Now, seeing the Great Sendai Quake, and the tsunami which followed, and now the probable meltdown of reactors damaged by the tsunami, I feel a bit sickened.  Who doesn't?  I can't quite fathom that the only nation which has dealt with nuclear war, has now got to face a war with nature at the same time as it deals with one of the greatest natural disasters in memory.  I wonder about my friends in Japan, and the many people I met in office buildings all over the country.I fear for the consequences if the reactors meltdown and the plume reaches the area around Tokyo where over 39 million live.  Can 39 million people be evacuated?  I doubt it, which probably makes sup part off the reason that the Japanese are so prepared in their building codes, for earthquakes.

I hope that the radiation leaks are pushed out to sea by another, smaller divine wind, such as the one that drove the Chinese away many years ago (And I hope they settle quietly, neither reaching the winds aloft, of blowing as far as the US and Canada), and spare Tokyo dealing with radiation.

But, I must say as others have, that I cannot imagine another place on earth that the people would respond so brilliantly to Armageddon.  There has been no looting, no shoplifting of scarce rations.  Officials are being respected and though the lines are long, people are taking adversity calmly, and politely.  I suspect that the culture = likely the most nuanced, high-context culture in the world, is benefiting greatly from the respect for authority, calm and polite interaction...really, the zeitgeist that seems to value the person as an important part of an enormous organism (society), and as a result the first thought is all helping one another, versus "I'm gettin' mine."  Believe me, this trait can be very frustrating in business,  But I hope it brings out the resiliency it will take to rebuild and clean up.  I'm pretty sure it will.

Though it is not the New Year, I thought of the tradition, kadomatsu, consisting of a pine branch symbolizing longevity, a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity, and a plum blossom showing nobility.  The latter, there have been many examples of already.  The former two, in few words, I wish and hope for the people of Japan.

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Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
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