Japanese Orderliness Endures in Adversity

      March 15, 2011 12:09

      The legendary orderliness of the Japanese asserted itself amid devastation on the fourth day since the island country was hit by deadly earthquake and tsunami. There were few signs of the looting and pillage that characterized, for instance, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

      Subway trains resumed operation on Monday morning, the first day of work since the magnitude 9 quake, but due to limited electricity supply the trains were even more crowded than usual. Major subway stations such as Tokyo Station and Shinjuku Station were thronged to bursting, but no chaos ensued.

      Left: People line up for kerosene in Hitachi in Ibaraki Prefecture Monday, three days after a powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami hit the country's northeast coast. /Yomiuri Shimbun-Yonhap; Right: A woman cries while sitting on a road in the destroyed city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan on Sunday, two days after a massive earthquake and tsunami. /Asahi Shimbun-Yonhap

      In emergency shelters hastily set up on the Northeast coast that was worst hit by the disaster, people showed stoic endurance and neighborliness. Some people halved their blankets to share with others, and at makeshift food supply booths people formed orderly queues several hundred meters long without complaining, and bought just enough for themselves so that others behind the queue could eat too.

      As of 2 p.m. Monday, a mere 40 cases of theft of money and food had been reported in Miyagi Prefecture, the most seriously affected region, and no violence.

      Everyone knew how to find what they could do to make contribution to a wider community. Japanese are trained from a young age how to act in times of natural disasters, and they have faith in their government and the society. Those who were isolated did not dramatize their plight but quietly went to higher ground, wrote big SOS signs and waited for the rescue team.

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