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Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya: What have you learned about Japan and the Japanese people from 3/11 and its aftermath?

by Ally Mackenzie

Mina Jeon, 36 (Tokyo)
Office worker (Korean/Japanese)

I saw and learned many good things. However, sitting in a crowded Tokyo izakaya just one week after the disaster, I saw everyone trying to enjoy themselves a little and put the tragedy out of their mind. At that moment I felt, “life goes on.”

Harris Mathura, 32 (Tokyo)
Wealth manager (Canadian)
I remember as I walked home through Tokyo on 3/11, restaurants were giving out free miso soup to passersby. It was an example of how Japanese people come together in times of need. And now, a year later, life in Tokyo is back to normal.

Mary Hillis, 35 (Osaka)
Professor (American)
I realized that people who live in Japan are strong and able to cope with difficulty. Also, the fact that many people worked together to raise money, volunteer or help — their dedication is inspiring.

Hirohide Kito, 47 (Nagoya)
Buddhist priest (Japanese)
On the 3/11 anniversary, we held prayers for the souls of the dead. The anguish people suffered, losing loved ones, houses, ships, cars, was appalling. The way they cleared away almost insurmountable obstacles, physical and mental, moved me profoundly.

Milos Skoric, 62 (Nagoya)
Plasma scientist (Serbian)
I was impressed by the endurance of Tohoku’s people, but the nuclear catastrophe uncovered a serious weakness in crisis management, based on the nuclear safety myth. Inherently safe reactors, such as those based on fusion, could be possible future energy options.

Natasha Sandal, 27 (Tokyo)
Student (Norwegian)
I felt a closer connection to people in my neighborhood and at school. I saw how nicely people lined up to buy goods at the supermarket, and it made me gain respect for the Japanese, because they are considerate and think about other people, not just themselves.

Nozomi Tajima, 33 (Nagoya)
Receptionist (Japanese)
The aftermath has proved that bonds between people are even stronger than we thought, and reinforced how important family ties are. However, there is very little humans can do when confronted by such terrifying forces of nature, far beyond our capacity to control.

“Pi Pythagoras,” 21 (Osaka)
Engineer (American)
Trust in the Japanese government and nuclear power seems to be failing. International news seemed to consider the Japanese people in its coverage more than the Japanese domestic news did.

Miwa Nagai, 43 (Nagoya)
Accountant (Japanese)
There have been no horribly destructive quakes in this region in my lifetime. But the Tohoku quake made me think more about the consequences if a huge quake did strike here. As I live alone, I need to take careful precautions until I find someone who can look after me.

Hitomi Shintani, 26 (Osaka)
Mechanical engineer (Japanese)
I learned how important giving aid money is. Before, I doubted whether the money would really go to the people who need it, but I saw the aid after 3/11 actually helping people directly. The importance of fund-raising became much clearer after 3/11.

Heath Rose, 35 (Tokyo)
Assistant professor (Australian)
The Japanese bonded together in a very orderly way, with the people and the communities they lived in collaborating to overcome disaster. I understood the power of people coming together — and my impression of Japan has only become more positive as a result.

Yutaka Yoshimura, 71 (Osaka)
Chef (Japanese)
Compared with the period after the World War II, Japanese people are relying on the government or somebody else too much. Nobody can really help you if you don’t have the initiative to think and act independently.

Interested in gathering views in your neighborhood? E-mail community@japantimes.co.jp