We flew back from Japan last Thursday midnight, less than 24 hours before the earthquake struck. Partly, we feel like we escaped major disaster. However, we were in Tokyo from March 1-8 and then in Osaka from March 8-10 so we were generally safe there, far far away from the epicenter and the tsunami. They do say there was an earthquake while we were in Osaka but we had not noticed or heard about it.
When disaster struck last Friday, I was just shocked to hear the news and see the images but mostly, we were just very relieved we were home to be with our daughter. The thing that struck me most in the news reports was how they kept saying how orderly the Japanese remained even at the height of the disaster.
Unlike other disaster aftermath news reports, there were no incidents of looting, stealing or violence in the streets. The CNN News Blog provides some insight on why the Japanese are this way. They say it is deeply ingrained in their culture, that they put value on community over individuals.
And this was one of the first things that stood out with me during our visit there. People were generally considerate. They were very thoughtful of others. In the subways, it would be crazy but people would always be letting other people through. There was no such thing as subway rage. If you did something nice for a Japanese local — like my husband who offered his seat to a woman carrying a toddler on the subway — she thanked him profusely and kept bowing even though she still declined the seat as she was going down at the next stop. In our ryokan, there were signs everywhere to keep quiet after 10pm to be considerate to other guests. In subway stations, restaurants, malls, the noise level was noticeably low. There were no raised voices and loud laughter (which we are so used to here in Manila). The noisy ones were mostly tourists. Most restaurants requested to refrain from using your mobile phone.
And I loved this about them. They were not selfish, very considerate, very decent. This is the psychological and emotional reason why they are an O.C. orderly people. And I believe these traits will help them survive this tragedy. My prayers go out to, probably, the most considerate, and thus orderly, people on Earth, the Japanese.