Earthquakes and tsunamis on Facebook, and why I love the Japanese

Japanese people at Osaka Castle

Shortly after news of last week’s earthquake in Japan broke, I wrote about my own tiny earthquake experience and tried to send my best thoughts and wishes over to my friends in Japan. Almost a week on, and amidst catastrophic news of thousands of deaths, absolute devastation, and as if that wasn’t enough, nuclear meltdowns to go with it, what sticks in my mind the most – after I try to block out the more horrifying images I’ve seen – is how beautifully the Japanese seem to be dealing with it all.

Now obviously beautiful is not a word you’d usually throw around when talking about an earthquake and tsunami disaster zone, but when I look at all the messages from my Japanese friends on Facebook then I’m reminded of how much I love the Japanese character. A (non-Japanese) friend of mine made the comment, just as I’d been thinking, that unlike pretty much any disaster zone in any other country, there were no reports of looting or opportunistic crime in the wake of this disaster. I made the joke that in Japanese there’s probably no word for looting. In any case, a Japanese reply came, and paraphrased, it went like this:

People are quietly waiting for check out for hours at a shop to get one tiny battery. Office workers may take three hours to get home on foot but no one complains, they know the train stopped to send power to households and they know emergency vehicles need petrol more than them … you see the true nature of humanity and characteristic of culture through these difficult times.

That sums up pretty well for me the big difference between Japanese people and, well, pretty much anyone else! I’ve also noticed so many of my Japanese friends thoughtfully posting “Don’t worry, I’m OK” messages on Facebook, often closely followed by links to agencies like the Red Cross where you can donate to help, or in the case of ex-pat Japanese, links to fundraising activities they’re involved in.

I’ve already blogged about how generous the Japanese are in a material sense, but the two years I spent living there, the Japanese I’ve met in other parts of the world and their reaction to this horrible disaster just confirms it – they’re a reliably kind and good people.

(And if you’re US-based – which a lot of my readers are – then this round-up from Matador on how to help Japan might be handy.)

P.S. Just after I published this I found another Facebook message from a sweet former student of mine, who is thankfully far in the south in Kyushu. Just the same, she wrote, and I now share:

Lots of people from all over the world are arriving one after another to help Japan. We Japanese really appreciate it!


  1. a really lovely post amanda! it’s so true about the resilient nature of the japanese people. it is one of my favourite places in the world and i have the best memories of my time living there…all three times!!

  2. Thanks Rach. Japan will certainly always be a special place for me too, I’m looking forward to my little one being old enough to appreciate it too and we’ll be making more than one trip there I’m sure!

  3. Great post Amanda ….love your blog n followed you …

  4. Thanks Sheril, I’m really glad you liked it. I’m trying to do my bit for Japan without getting too bogged down in scary disaster detail!

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