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There are many great things about the Japanese people, but the biggest problem is that they judge people by one perspective. With regard to their criticism of foreign residents — the so-called “fly-jin” — who left Tokyo after the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis began, I am sure that some Japanese would have reacted exactly the same way to local crises in other countries.

I still remember how some Japanese visitors to India panicked and returned home after the Mumbai terrorist attacks began (Nov. 26, 2008). Many canceled their scheduled business trips. No Indian cried that returning home was a betrayal. On the contrary, Indians accepted it as a very natural reaction on the part of foreigners.

Then there’s the communication problem. Many Japanese think that not telling a lie is a virtue. But hiding a truth, or not speaking it, to avoid saying something negative is at times worse. When Prime Minister Naoto Kan himself doesn’t seem to know how much truth Tokyo Electric Power Co. is speaking, why criticize foreigners for being skeptical? And how about the mayor of Minamisoma (Fukushima Prefecture) who, speaking to the world via YouTube, called on the world for help, since he wasn’t sure what his government was doing? Do the Japanese consider that a betrayal? Or was it a genuine SOS call?

It is true that foreigners come to Japan and some of them live here “for various reasons.” Don’t Japanese go to foreign countries and live there for similar reasons?

Let me say that I admire Japanese people for their extraordinary spirit. But they need to look at the world with more compassion. I have not left Japan during this crisis. I am aware of the externalities and the consequent pressures to leave.

r. gurumurthy

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