Earthquake and Cultural Values

I’ve been terrible about keeping this blog up to date, especially after all of the devastation with the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan. It’s almost surreal watching the news videos of the tsunami swallowing whole cities and the earthquake destroying buildings and homes almost effortlessly. My dream has always been to travel to Japan, and it breaks my heart that it will never be the same again.

One story I found particularly interesting among all the coverage of the past few weeks was one of my fellow classmate’s observations about the cultural values of Japan, post-natural disaster (http://www.newsy.com/videos/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan). Her story focuses on how despite all the destruction, the people were helping each other by sharing their food, cleaning up fallen stores and essentially not stealing or looting, despite how easy it would be. It touched my heart in one clip showing a Japanese man offering his meager pot of soup to one of the American reporters talking to him, smiling humbly and persistently offering a bowl.

It made me wonder if the New Madrid fault line here in Missouri were to suddenly trigger an earthquake, would Americans do the same? The culture of the Mid-West is much different from anywhere in the US, stereotypically portrayed as honest, down-to-earth people who will wave you through the intersection even if they clearly stopped first (I won’t even get into this story, since it drives the Southern girl in my insane!). But if we were to wake up tomorrow and everything was destroyed, what would happen? Sadly, I imagine a “everyone for themselves” type of attitude, especially in a college town like Columbia. I imagine chaos well before the City could restore order. I imagine nothing like what I saw in the Newsy video.

This realization makes me want to fight even harder to travel to Japan one day, to always keep this image in the back of my mind when I interact with people or when someone asks for help. I want to embody this miraculous part of their culture, if not to respect the tradition, but to carry on and hopefully even inspire a similar sense of camaraderie among American people. If there’s one thing we can learn from this tragedy, it’s that money isn’t the answer for quick recovery. It’s unity and tolerance that will help us immediately, and humbleness and strength of will that will carry us forward to the future.

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Shinmoedake Volcano Erupts

Just saw an AP story about a volcanic eruption in southern Japan. The Shinmoedake volcano first erupted last Wednesday, but the recent blast was reportedly five times larger. Residents of Takaharu weren’t ordered to evacuate–how crazy. Let’s pray for their safety.

It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new natural disaster devastating parts of the world I really want to visit.

Back to School for Princess Aiko

TOKYO —Princess Aiko, the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, attended school Monday for the first time in six days after expressing anxiety since being ‘‘treated harshly’’ by boys at her elementary school.

The 8-year-old princess was accompanied by the crown princess in going into the school and attending the fourth period of morning classes. They then left the school together, the Imperial Household Agency said.

Princess Aiko, the granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and a second grader at Gakushuin Primary School in Tokyo, has not attended most of her classes since March 1, the top aide to the crown prince and princess said during a regular press conference Friday.

Issei Nomura, grand master of the crown prince’s household, said Princess Aiko has been complaining of anxiety and stomachache after being treated harshly by boys in her grade, while a school official denied the princess was directly subject to rowdy behavior by the boys. (newsonjapan.com)

Japan's Princess Aiko, led by her mother Crown Princess Masako, on an outing two years ago.

I can sympathize with poor little Aiko on this one, but at the same time, she seems a little dramatic! I think it’s safe to say that in most shojo mangas, the heroine is bullied by boys (and girls) at one point in the storyline, and most of the reasoning is jealousy or love. Yes, that’s right, these boys are just flirting the only way little boys know how to do: push, fight and shove.

I wouldn’t assume so much if this archetypal love story didn’t pop up time and time again in Japanese mangas, which I believe mimic cultural norms better than the other “reality TV” and game shows we see too often from Japan.

The first scenario that pops into my head is from Kodomo no Omocha (one of my favorite series)–Kurata Sana, the main character, is terrorized by class bully Hayama Akito for challenging his actions as trouble maker, calling him the “king of monkeys.” Akito is immediately attracted to her strong will, but targets her because he doesn’t know how to deal with his feelings.

And the story goes on… In my opinion, Princess Aiko will one day understand this “cat and mouse” chase of a young boy’s inability to accept feelings. For now, she needs to channel her inner Sana and fight back.