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Sympathy for Japan, and Admiration       そして、ろうそくを灯して・・・。

3/11の大震災から、1週間が経ちました・・・。
 新聞を読んでは、涙が出…、テレビの画面を見ては、涙が出・・・、こんなことではだめだ・・・と思いながらも、文字通り、泣き暮らしておりました。

 そんな中、読んだNYTの社説・・・、これも、読みながら、まさに号泣してしまいました。あちこちのブログでも紹介されているみたいですが、ほんとに、ほんとに、励まされたので、ここにそのまま、載せたいと思います。

 今まで、日本人であることに、それほど誇りを持てなかった私ですが、私は、この中で語られている日本人像を読んで、そして、テレビなどで見る被災地の人々の整然とした様子に、ほんとに感動しました。誇りに思いました。この900wordsの文章が、どれほど、日本人へのsympathyに満ちているか!!admirationにあふれているか!!
 私たちは、自信を持って、歩んでいけばいいんだ・・・と、強く思いました。日本人なら、乗り切れる・・と。そして、みんなで力を合わせて、乗り切らねば・・・と。


March 11, 2011, 10:33 am
Sympathy for Japan, and Admiration
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF
Our hearts are all with the Japanese today, after the terrible earthquake there – the worst ever recorded in Japan. But, having covered the 1995 Kobe earthquake (which killed more than 6,000 people and left 300,000 homeless) when I lived in Japan as Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times, I have to add: Watch Japan in the coming days and weeks, and I bet we can also learn some lessons.

It’s not that Japan’s government handles earthquakes particularly well. The government utterly mismanaged the rescue efforts after the 1995 quake, and its regulatory apparatus disgraced itself by impounding Tylenol and search dogs sent by other countries. In those first few frantic days, when people were still alive under the rubble, some died unnecessarily because of the government’s incompetence.

But the Japanese people themselves were truly noble in their perseverance and stoicism and orderliness. There’s a common Japanese word, “gaman,” that doesn’t really have an English equivalent, but is something like “toughing it out.” And that’s what the people of Kobe did, with a courage, unity and common purpose that left me awed.


Japan’s orderliness and civility often impressed me during my years living in Japan, but never more so than after the Kobe quake. Pretty much the entire port of Kobe was destroyed, with shop windows broken all across the city. I looked all over for a case of looting, or violent jostling over rescue supplies. Finally, I was delighted to find a store owner who told me that he’d been robbed by two men. Somewhat melodramatically, I asked him something like: And were you surprised that fellow Japanese would take advantage of a natural disaster and turn to crime? He looked surprised and responded, as I recall: Who said anything about Japanese. They were foreigners.

Japan has an underclass, the burakumin, and also treats ethnic Koreans with disdain. But compared to other countries, Japan has little extreme poverty and a greater sense of common purpose. The middle class is unusually broad, and corporate tycoons traditionally were embarrassed to be seen as being paid too much. That sense of common purpose is part of the country’s social fabric, and it is especially visible after a natural disaster or crisis.

I don’t want to overdo that. Japan’s civility masks problems with bullying from schools to the work place, gangs like the yakuza rake in profits from illegal activity, and politicians and construction tycoons exchanging favors so as to loot the taxpayer. But it was striking in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake to see even the yakuza set up counters to give away supplies to earthquake survivors. And Japan’s social fabric never tore. Barely even creased.

This stoicism is built into the Japanese language. People always say “shikata ga nai” – it can’t be helped. And one of the most common things to say to someone else is “ganbatte kudasai” – tough it out, be strong. Natural disasters are seen as part of Japan’s “unmei,” or fate – a term that is written by combining the characters for movement and life. I remember reading an ancient account, I believe from 16th century Jesuit visitors, of an earthquake devastating a village, and then within hours the peasants began rebuilding their homes.

Uncomplaining, collective resilience is steeped into the Japanese soul. We sent our eldest son to Japanese school briefly, and I’ll never forget seeing all the little kids having to go to school in shorts even in the dead of winter. The idea was that it built character. I thought it just gave kids colds. But it was one more effort to instill “gaman.” And it’s “gaman” that helped Japan recovered from World War II and tolerated the “lost decade” after the bubble economy burst in about 1990. Indeed, it might be better if Japanese complained a bit more – perhaps then their politicians would be more responsive.

One factor may also have to do with our relationship with nature. Americans see themselves as in confrontation with nature, taming it. In contrast, the Japanese conception is that humans are simply one part of nature, riding its tides — including many, many earthquakes throughout history. The Kanto earthquake of 1923 killed more than 100,000 people. The Japanese word for nature, shizen, is a modern one, dating back only a bit more than 100 years, because traditionally there was no need to express the concept. In an essay in the Times after the Kobe quake, I made some of these same points and ended with a 17th century haiku from one of Japan’s greatest poets, Basho:

The vicissitudes of life.
Sad, to become finally
A bamboo shoot.

I find something noble and courageous in Japan’s resilience and perseverance, and it will be on display in the coming days. This will also be a time when the tight knit of Japan’s social fabric, its toughness and resilience, shine through. And my hunch is that the Japanese will, by and large, work together — something of a contrast to the polarization and bickering and dog-eat-dog model of politics now on display from Wisconsin to Washington. So maybe we can learn just a little bit from Japan. In short, our hearts go out to Japan, and we extend our deepest sympathy for the tragic quake. But also, our deepest admiration.



 今日は、私の56歳の誕生日でした。いつもなら、夫とおいしいものを食べに出かけたりしますが、今日は、静かにおうちでお祝をしました。電気を消して、ろうそくを灯して・・・。静かに、家族で、誕生日を祝えることに感謝しながら、そして、被災地の方々にも、一刻も早く平穏が訪れますようにと祈りながら・・・。


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 そうです。ブログのタイトル「56才までに英検1級」は、実は、今日までには英検1級を・・・という意味だったんですけど、残念ながら、達成することはできませんでした。でも、あきらめず、56才中の達成を目指して、新たなスタートを切ろうと思います。
[PR]
by atsu2co | 2011-03-18 23:21 | Comments(7)
Commented by KIYO at 2011-03-19 06:57 x
atsu2coさんお誕生日おめでとうございます。

被災地の方々だけでなく、東京に住む私にとっても
今回の大震災は、まだ「過去」のものではありません。
余震、放射能漏れの恐怖は続きます。
被災地の方々の事を考えれば、弱音を吐いてはいけないのでしょうが、早く落ち着いて英語学習ができるようになって欲しいものです。

atsu2coさんなら英検1級に合格できますよ。
”56才までにこだわらず、英検1級!!”
で無理せず頑張りましょう。
Commented by ゴン at 2011-03-20 05:16 x
あっちゃん、お誕生日おめでとうございます。今年こそ1級、6月あたりに合格しましょうね!今日は雨で、家から一歩も出るな、と従兄からきつく言われました。。。。
Commented by マッキ at 2011-03-20 17:30 x
お誕生日おめでとうございます!記事をなんとも言えない気持ちで読ませていただきました。私も日本人であることを誇りに思い少しでも被災された方たちのために今自分ができることをしたいと思います。英検の勉強もどうかあきらめず続けてくださいね。私も甘えた考えてを捨てて一日一日を大切に感謝しながら生きていこうと思います。
Commented by atsu2co at 2011-03-23 20:23
KIYOさん、こんばんは。
そして、お祝いのお言葉、ありがとう!!
「56歳までにこだわらず、英検1級!!」には、思わず、笑ってしまいました。
はい、そうします。ただし、最年長にだけは、なりたくない・・・ってのが、乙女心(ハハハ)の偽らざる心境です!!
Commented by atsu2co at 2011-03-23 20:25
ゴンちゃ~んっ!!お祝いのお言葉、ありがとう!!
そうだよね、6月に決められると、うれしいんだけど・・。
まっ、あきらめず、コツコツと・・・!!!
Commented by atsu2co at 2011-03-23 20:26
マッキさん、お祝いのお言葉、ありがとうございます。
この記事、ほんとに、号泣しました。
実は、サマライズの問題として、読んでいたんですが、途中、涙、涙で、文字がかすんで読めないぐらいでした。
お互い、がんばりましょう!!
ところで、マッキさん、合格でした?
Commented by マッキ at 2011-03-27 22:41 x
いやあ不合格Aでした。でもあきらめませんよ~。次こそ~。受験料もばかにならないですもんね。被災された人たちが本当に大変な生活を送られているのにゆっくり勉強できることに本当に感謝しなきゃ。。お互いがんばりましょうね!!!
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