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[11.03.17] Dongwan’s memolog: Thoughtfulness in the face of catastrophe (A Naver article)

March 19, 2011

this is an editorial piece from Joongang Daily that Dongwan shared on his blog 2 days ago. It’s a long piece, so read on only if you’re keen to do so.


(Joongang Daily = Reporter Kim Hyun Ki)

① Giving Way at the Refuge Center
10 bowls of udon, and 50 people tell one another, “After you”

② No Pushing of Blame
No scenes of resentment or protest are seen on TV

③ Hand-in-hand in the Face of Disaster
Assemblymen call a truce to political strife… Put on their overalls and head to the disaster areas

④ Composure and Calmness
Not a single case of looting in the whole of Japan

⑤ Putting Others Before Self
“If I cry, I’ll cause more trouble for victims who have suffered greater losses”

On the 12th, boats were washed up ashore in the port city of Kesennuma in Miyagi. Washed ashore by the tsunami, large vessels are stuck between buildings after the floodwaters receded. In the aftermath of the earthquake, on the night of the 11th, most of the tsunami-struck city of Kesennuma was destroyed by fires caused when the tsunami overturned an oil tanker and the flames spread inland along the river towards the city centre. (Kesennuma AP=Yonhap News)

# “Osaki ni” (“After you”), “No, I’m fine, I’m not hungry yet.”
After the eastern part of Japan was struck by a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 and tsunami waves of more than 10 meters, at about 6pm on the 11th in Akita, extraordinary scenes played out in the lobby of Hotel Grantia Akita, which was pitch dark due to a blackout.

When the hotel announced, “Until the power comes back on, we will not be able to take in any guests”, the 50-odd guests in the lobby quietly started to form into lines. Without anyone saying anything, lines were formed with the elderly in front. In the darkness, neat lines were formed. There were no arguments over the standing order. Moments later, the hotel announced, “Due to the blackout, we will not be able to serve dinner”, and 10 bowls of udon were served for emergency. Far from rushing for the noodles, everyone was more concerned about whether others were hungry, and the bowls of noodles were passed on and passed on, into a “relay of giving way”. Including the hardest-hit areas of Miyagi and Iwate, there hasn’t been any news of looting taking place in empty shops.

# Miyamisanriku, situated in the northeastern part of Miyagi in the Tōhoku region. Most of the town has disappeared, leaving only the blackened remains of the forest which had been ravaged by fires. Boats, washed ashore by the tsunami, are stuck into the ground, with their sterns pointing skywards. In this place, which has been the hardest-hit by the earthquake, there are news that there are about 10,000 people missing. But one doesn’t hear any cries or grievances. The 100-odd residents taking shelter at the refuge center are seen on Japanese news, speaking in low voices, “Just hoping for everything to recover soon. Tomorrow.” They don’t blame anyone else. Touching scenes of people comforting one another, sharing insuffcient water supplies and blankets are circulating around.

Operations Director Shirota of the Japanese Red Cross said on the 13th, “Personal and corporate donations, as well as relief supplies are pouring in.” Opposition party members, who have always been fighting with the government, put on their overalls and sprung into action to save their country. Having the community spirit to join hands in the face of crisis is the strength of the Japanese society.

# In Korea, when reporting on disasters, coverage is usually on the victims, and scenes of the mortuary and the hospitals where the bodies rest are constantly showing. But in reports of the earthquake in Japan, news and media outlets are different. Although we keep seeing scenes of buildings and cars being swept away by the tsunami on TV, no channel actually broadcasts images of people being swept away by the tsunami. Because “even if one person dies, the world still remains” is generally the Japanese people’s characteristic view on life and death, it’s rare to see scenes of them wailing and sobbing. A rep from TV Asahi said, “Unless it’s for disaster prevention, the implicit rule for reporting on disasters is not to restrict images that would greatly shock and upset the general public.” After the earthquake occurred on the 11th, until the dawn of the 13th when the tsunami warning was lifted, hosts of all TV programs were wearing safety helmets. In the face of an earthquake of this scale and such an extent of damage, Japan has been frighteningly calm and composed. There’s a reason for this.

Take for example, at the 12-storey fire station in Yotsuya, in the suburban district of Tokyo’s Shinjuku, there is an eye-catching line drawn on the outer wall up to the 10th storey. This line, drawn from the ground up, measures 30m in height. Beside it is a sign that reads, “This height is the height of the tsunami waves, triggered by the Hokkaido earthquake in 1993, that hit Okushiri Island”. This is to promote awareness among the public that tsunamis can strike anytime, and that preparation is always necessary.

The Japanese have constantly been educated about disaster response, starting from kindergarten. Safety bonnets to be worn during times of disasters are always hooked next to their tables. If an earthquake occurs, “put on safety bonnet→take shelter under the table→evacuate to the playground→maintain order”, they can do it even with their eyes closed. The first lesson of this comprehensive disaster prevention education is “meiwaku kakeruna 迷惑かけるな (do not cause trouble to others). This is the underlying value of Japanese education and the key to their composure in dealing with large-scale disasters. The generally Japanese characteristic of accepting their circumstances as fate also comes into effect here.

The Japanese victims themselves almost do not sob or wail loudly either, and that’s because of their extreme consideration – “If I act like this, I will cause more hurt to the people who have suffered greater losses”. This is what you see in the disaster areas in Japan now. This is “There’s Japan.”

Correspondent Kim Hyun Ki

◆ Meiwaku 迷惑 (めいわく) = Japanese word meaning “being a trouble to others”. The core of Japanese education and social ethics is “do not trouble others.

“Great Tōhoku Earthquake”
This powerful earthquake rocked 6 prefectures in Tōhoku (east of Japan), and was initially termed “Tōhoku Earthquake”. With powerful aftershocks occurring in the Kantō region as well, the term “Great Tōhoku Earthquake” is now commonly used.

Credits: Joongang Daily + Naver + Dongwan’s memolog + Absolut Shinhwa

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