Japanese have their own way to cope with things

Reporter's Notebook: The streets were filled with happy shoppers, and it seemed like everywhere I went muzac was playing in the background.

March 18, 2011 01:36
2 minute read.
Collecting charity for Japanese tsunami victims

japan charity 311. (photo credit: gil shefler)


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OSAKA – As the US on Thursday declared radiation emitted from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactors was “extremely high,” I set out to the streets of Osaka, a city which is part of Japan’s second largest urban sprawl, to try and gauge Japanese public opinion.

To my surprise, there were no signs that the country was in the midst of its worst crisis since World War II.

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The streets were filled with happy shoppers, and it seemed like everywhere I went muzac was playing in the background.

Hampered by the language barrier, I spoke to a handful of Japanese in rudimentary English. Each said roughly the same thing: that they were troubled by what was going on, but that life must go on.

At one point, I came across a group of about 50 people queuing in an underground passage.

Could this be where they are distributing food rations or iodine pills in case the worse happens? But it wasn’t. It was a line of customers waiting to buy bird-shaped cakes from a department store.


Eva Martinez, a Spanish journalist who interviewed people on the street of Osaka that day, admitted that the Japanese way of coping with things was different than the one she was familiar with from home.

However, coming from a country experienced with terrorism, she said it made sense to her.

“They try to have empathy, like ‘yeah, we are sad,’ but at the same time they are buying shoes,” she said.

“But I think it’s in the back of their head in terms of life goes on.”

After walking around town for a few hours, I came across what appeared to be one of the only visible signs that something is amiss here: On several street corners young volunteers dressed in white raise money for victims of the disaster.

“Arigatu,” thank you in Japanese, they shouted and gave big bows each time a passerby slipped loose change into their boxes, which was quite often.

I stood a few minutes watching the spectacle from afar. It was reserved and respectful, and it seemed to me like a very Japanese way of dealing with disaster.

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