Friday 1 April 2011

Japanese stoicism

There have been a number of comments about the stoicism and quiet determination shown by the Japanese people in the wake of last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. Just four days after the quake, for example, in spite of power cuts, transport disruption, fears of aftershocks and nuclear radiation, people patiently queued to make sure they handed in their tax returns on time.

This is not a new phenomenon. After the earthquake of 1923 that killed perhaps 150,000 people in Tokyo and Yokohama, and left nearly two million homeless, the Times of London reported: ‘There is no panic and marvelous patience is shown by all classes.’

All day and night, wrote the correspondent, there was an endless procession of people ‘carrying portable goods and their salved belongings, or using trunks and carts....a whole family pushing them along, often with the grandparents riding on the top of the pile…. the weak were carried on the backs of the strong.....they exhibited patience beyond praise. Many jested; some even began to rebuild their homes before the ashes of the old homes were cold.’ Within days, businesses and shops were starting up again in the stricken areas.

For the full story, see A Disastrous History of the World.

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