Cultural Values and the Response to the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

Keiro residents participated in the LA Tanabata Festival, which originat

Keiro residents helped make tanabata for the L.A. Tanabata Festival, which originated in Sendai, the city devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

On Friday, March at 2:46 p.m. (Japan local time), the world changed, as the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the northern area of Japan.  The current estimate is that 10,000 people have perished, the coast of Japan moved eastward eight feet, the Earth’s axis shifted four inches, and the economic toll to the country is incalculable at this point.  Yet, the world is awed by the spirit and courage of the Japanese people.

The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial: “After a once-in-300-years earthquake, the Japanese have been keeping cool amid the chaos, organizing an enormous relief and rescue operation, and generally earning the world’s admiration.”

The ordered response to Japan’s disaster is due to the high level of education and “collective values” of the Japanese, says Takehiko Kariya, professor in the Sociology of Japanese Society at Oxford University. “In this situation it works well for people to work together and take care of each other,” he says.

The news videos have shown Japanese showing calm as they search for loved ones or wait for basic necessities. There is not a hint of looting or violence.  Some English-language sources have spoken of the Japanese as “stoic.”  Rather, I believe that it is the cultural values of caring for each other collectively as a community, enryo (restraint, reserve), gaman (patience, endurance, perseverance, tolerance), and all the other values that your grandparents and parents tried to teach you that are foundational in how the Japanese people are dealing with this unspeakable disaster.

As President Obama said, “When you see what’s happening in Japan, you are reminded that for all our differences in culture or language or religion, that ultimately humanity is one.”

Keiro Senior HealthCare is deeply concerned for and sympathizes with those affected by the Japan tragedy. If you would like to help contribute to the relief effort, please direct your monetary donations to an organization such as the American Red Cross or the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles.

  • American Red Cross, Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief, 2025 E Street NW, Washington DC 22206, (800) RED-CROSS

For information about preparing for earthquakes, see the Genki Woman blog of November 9, 2010, on The Great California ShakeOut.

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One response to “Cultural Values and the Response to the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

  1. Counting our blessing everyday… best regards to those in hard times. Thanks.

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