The Japan earthquake and tsunami


On March 11, 2011, still another catastrophe (not close to home in America but 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean) defined our lives. On the worldwide stage, Japan reacted to the force of nature and the devastation left in its wake. We who are Japanese by ancestry can understand (and be proud) of the courageous spirit of our relatives, friends and counterparts in Japan. The human emotion of losing loved ones, homes and businesses has no ethnic differentiation. But the surge of nature, not once by the earthquake, but by the blow of the tsunami still could not “take out” the Japanese people.

The way Japanese people handle tough times comes from within the Japanese spirit. Instead of analyzing and trying to rationalize what happened, everyone went to work to “fix things.”

The people unified and gathered what little they had and went to shelters. They stood politely and patiently in food and supply lines. Those that could lend a hand, helped their neighbors. The government and scientists immediately implemented plans to analyze and react to the immediate nuclear threat. These actions were already under way as world assistance was on its way. I am sure the global assistance teams were surprised to find that the Japanese people were already doing what they could to “stop the bleeding” and taking the initiative to stabilize critical needs: locating people under the rubble, providing health care, shelter and eventual settlement for the thousands of people affected. The Japanese people were not interested in doing well before the global audience. They would have done what they did and are continuing to do without NHK or CNN coverage.

What can we learn from what is going on in Japan? As Japanese (Americans), we have a vested interest in Japan. But were we as interested in the earthquakes in Haiti and Asia? Myself included, probably not as much.

I felt very emotional and thankful when the news indicated that President Obama had directed several U.S. ships to steam toward Japan as soon as the tsunami hit to provide relief. This is brother helping brother, and jubilation is felt whenever a distressed person or country sees a blanket or food supply extended by a rescue person with a reassuring smile and big hug: “How are you doing? We’re going to get past this!”

Planet Earth is our home. When neighbors had problems, our forefathers in America helped. As Americans do, we should not forget prayer and pray for Japan. Despite its technology and financial resources, Japan will hopefully begin to build its spiritual fortresses. The future will unfortunately bring more disasters beyond Japan. We must learn from hard lessons that we are not just Japanese, we are residents of this planet.


Wayne Tada is a former San Franciscan who is interested in Japantown issues. He is slowly making his way to returning to his hometown. The views expressed in the preceding commentary do not necessarily reflect that of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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