Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Will Recover

Having spent two weeks in Japan in 1998, I am convinced that if any country can recover from a disaster like this week's earthquake and tsunami, Japan can.  After all, they've done it before - after the atomic bombs that ended WWII.  Japan is a curious mix of the old and the new.  Sure it has its punk rockers, indoor ski facility on stilts, high-speed trains, Disney Tokyo, and high-tech manufacturing industry.  But it is in many ways an ancient land with ancient values.  People there have lived together in close quarters for eons and have thus developed intricate societal rules based on respect for others.  (One of the biggest insults in Japan is to sneeze or cough on someone, hence the omnipresent surgical masks in everyday society.  And there is no spitting on the sidewalks.  North America, take note.)  Respect for others, cleanliness, punctuality, efficiency, pride in doing your job well, zero tolerance for crime, and an inherently industrious nature are all Japanese attributes I observed while there.  (They are so fastidious that they actually had workers with tweezers picking bits of flotsam out of the bushes everyday along major thoroughfares!)  High-density populations result in highly-interdependent citizens.  Everyone must do their job, do it well, and do it on time or everything comes screeching to a halt.  Japan will survive, and thrive, because they know how to pull together without anyone having to tell them to do so.  In fact, Japanese society is so rigidly structured that anything out of the ordinary (and this week certainly was) is often regarded as an opportunity to advance oneself, so I suspect Japan may recover more quickly than expected.