No looting in Japan? Well, that's a myth.
Rumors of Looting in Sendai
Looting in Japan
It's just not done openly and violently. Very surreptitious. As the narrator in the video is saying, "Yeah, I guess it's for survival, but still... It's not right."
Ben, I've been in Japan for a very very long time. It is not a "foreign culture" to me. I see it the same way that you see China or the States (and my connection the States is just like yours, too. I also have a connection to Germany). I've had the same connection to it as you had with China. So I actually do know what I am talking about, and my criticisms are legitimate. It's unusual for me to feel offense at things you write (because I agree with almost all your points of view), but this time I felt you were being a little condescending.
Japan is notoriously slow to react in dire situations. They nearly always (though this time s little less) scoff at outside help, even when huge numbers of people are dying. That's one of the biggest criticisms of how the Hanshin Earthquake was handled. Hundreds died because the government took four days to respond, plus they refused help from very experienced organizations like Medicins Sans Frontiers and the American military. I have absolutely NO sympathy for "cultural differences" when people die due to plain stupidity and pig-headedness. NONE. You just do what needs to be done to save people's lives and screw cultural differences. Disasters have absolutely no dithers about killing whomever are in their way. They are not human and don't "care" about our little differences. As I sit here with unending earthquakes for seven days straight now I get no sense at all the the landscape could care less where we come from, what we like or don't like, whether or not we're scared, or whether the Japanese want me here or not. And It certainly doesn't care in any particular way about the Japanese, no matter how much the Japanese want to claim this place as their "homeland" and their "identity". All that stuff goes, "Poof!", out the window when an earthquake or tsunami or typhoon or volcanic eruption or mudslide or nuclear disaster strike.
The slowness to react and hemming and hawing over "cultural appropriateness" is causing huge amounts of problems with the volunteer help and rescue efforts, too. The Japan Red Cross is making things very difficult for other branches, like American Red Cross, to come in and do their job. The government's incompetent handling of the information about the nuclear disaster is due in great part to too much standing around discussing things before acting, and thereby letting things get out of control (I personally thing the nuclear threat is small compared to what is happening up north, but that's what the world media is focused on). By being slow to be honest about the nuclear power plant disaster, to make clear that there is no danger to Tokyo (Geiger Counter Reading from Tokyo at 4pm, 3/17/2011), or even the further areas around the site, and to allay everyone's fears. People are evacuating from Tokyo now in big numbers, heading outside the country or down south, even though there is no need to. There is no strong leadership at all. Tokyo is suffering huge food and gas shortages, in spite of supplies being reportedly perfectly fine, because no one in the government is stepping in to allay people's fears, and so the panic is rising, people are hoarding, and everything is running out. I can't find eggs, toilet paper, milk, rice, batteries, anywhere. Four days now of this madness. And where are the leaders? Tokyo's governor Ishihara is spending his timecampaigning for re-election, rather than stepping in to set up something in Tokyo for refugees to properly have a place to go. He officially gave a speech the other day and told the survivors of the tsunami,
"It is necessary to wash away the greedy mind... by using the tsunami," he told reporters.
"I think that it is divine punishment."
Just try to imagine the reaction to that. And yet he's most likely going to be re-elected.
This is the 8th major disaster I've watched unfold in Japan since I was a child, this one by far the worst, and every single time incompetence, slowness to respond, xenophobia, and apathy have turned it much worse than it should have been. Cultural differences? To me they just seem like excuses for not getting things done that are possible to do.
I'd like to ask what cultural differences have to do with sheltering disaster victims who have no homes, food, medicine, or family? The needs are basic. Offer a home. Get food and medicine to those who need it. Make sure they have companionship, both for safety and for mental well-being. Sure, the logistics are a nightmare, but, what, then just give up? Let the people freeze in the winter cold or starve to death?
(I'm sure we agree on all this... I'm just exhausted and scared and fed up with the way things have been done here so far)
PS: Also I'm not saying this whole thing is east to deal with, not at all. But something has to get started on a grassroots level among local communities. The government alone cannot handle something as massive as this.
PPS: Here is an article written by the Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami, on his experience of the quake and dealing with it. My take is very similar to his (after all, I am still here. I did not leave the country or run away either): Amid Shortages, a Surplus of Hope