Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Fighting back

I'm not really qualified to write an update on what's happening in Japan right now. In this area life is carrying on as if nothing had happened; in fact if it wasn't for modern media and communications, you wouldn't even know that anything had happened. Just like the rest of the world, I'm relying on the TV and Internet to keep me informed and, just like the rest of the world, I feel helpless and rather guilty to be happily going about my everyday life.

Obviously, things are bad. 500,000 people who survived the earthquakes and tsunami are now living in evacuation centres, in desperate need of basic supplies. Thousands are dead or missing. For people who escaped the direct effects of the disaster on Friday, the nuclear power plants in Fukushima now cause the biggest worry, and lack of electricity is still a major problem for many.

In Japan though, crises seem to bring out the best in people. There's definitely a 'Keep Calm and Carry On' mentality. Yes, it can be hard to decide if reassuring messages in the media are genuine or not, but scare-mongering helps no-one. There is panicked stock-piling of basic food stuffs in some areas, but there is none of the looting or other criminal behaviour we see all too often following natural disasters. Most people seem to be getting on with their lives where they can, and helping others to the best of their ability.

Would you like some examples?

Here is a collection of heart-warming stories of people doing what they can to help. I'll warn you now - some of them made me cry...

Big companies are really stepping up. Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Toyota, Japan Tobacco, Honda, Hitachi and more are each donating 300,000,000 yen - that's about $3 million. Uniqlo is donating 400,000,000 yen and 700,000,000 yen's worth of clothing, while the boss is personally contributing 1,000,000,000 yen - $10 million. Other companies are offering essential goods: $1 million worth of disposable nappies and toilet paper here, 30,000 radios there, 1.4 million cup noodles here, 1,000 generators there. Restaurant chains are distributing meals and convenience stores have been throwing open their doors to people in need.

Ordinary people are doing their bit too. When supplies do arrive, you see people forming orderly queues to get their share. People who have managed to stay in their own homes are taking clothes and blankets to nearby evacuation centres. People further afield are being asked to donate cash rather than goods, due to difficulties in distribution; a 70 year old woman in Osaka has reportedly donated 100,000,000 yen (about a million dollars). News reports show people, who are basically refugees, stoically doing what they can to help the person next to them.

There's a long, long way to go, and Japan will need a lot of help from the rest of the world, but I can't help feeling that the people who rebuilt their country after 2 atomic bombs, and again after the devastating earthquake in Kobe in 1995, will pull together once more and show the world what a true community spirit can do.

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