Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Deep Kyoto: "Three years ago today" recounts an encounter with Japanese grace & generosity when stranded in a rural train station on 3/11/11

In "Three years ago today,"  Michael Lambe of Deep Kyoto, writes about being stranded during a sight-seeing trip in Wakayama, a rural region south of Kyoto, three years ago, when trains stopped running on  3/11.

Lambe, part of the KJ community, captures Japan's diverse facets and complex textures — missed by those who would paint Japan in flat negative or romantic stereotypes. The long-time resident of Japan recounts his contradictory experiences, with sensitivity and understanding.  Lambe acknowledges the discomfort that accompanies awareness of the few in Japan who support whale and dolphin killings; and the few more in Japan who would wish to reinstitute WWII-style authoritarianism and militarism that resulted in so much death and destruction in the  Asia-Pacific, including within Japan itself.

At the same time, Lambe pays tribute to the natural and cultural beauty of the archipelago, and the spontaneous kindness, generosity, and grace of many Japanese people.

His eloquent thoughts resonate with all who know and love Japan.  It was difficult to excerpt this beautiful essay/blog; every word and image contributes to the meaning of the whole:
On this day of remembrance, I would like to share with you some simple memories of March 11th that have taken me three years to properly digest. I was far removed from the disaster then, but of course the events of the day made a big impression on me...

Finally the railway company gave up on our stranded train, and buses were hired to carry us to Osaka. It was now evening and I will always remember what I saw from the window as our bus pulled away. The railway staff, who had never stopped apologizing, lined up outside the station, doffed their caps and bowed, and continued to bow to us until we were out of sight. And we in turn bowed to them. I suppose this is not an unusual gesture in this country. But something about that simple, gentle civility touched me then and continues to touch me now. There are those who would have you believe that Japan is best represented by its nationalist politicians, or its bureaucrats, or by whaling and dolphin hunting communities in some coastal areas. These are aspects of Japan that should not be ignored, but they are also a tiny part of the main. It is people like those who helped us that day, the cheerful local shopkeepers, the bento lunch box makers and the railway workers, always doing their best, looking out for those in need, taking responsibility for a situation as it arises – they make up the backbone of Japan. People like that raised funds for Tohoku. They were the ones who volunteered. They keep this country ticking. Simple, working, well-mannered people concerned for their fellows. They doff their caps, and I love them for it.

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