Thursday, April 28, 2011

Seven Weeks Gone By

Our trip back home to the United States was a welcome relief to the stress immediately following the earthquake and it’s aftermath.  We visited our families and friends.  We all ate, drank and made merry for two weeks.  It was a lovely time.

I purposely didn’t read or look at any news when I was home.  I was there to relax, and reading about devastation is certainly not on my relaxation list.  Besides that, I knew I would just hear the sensationalist news and have to spend far too much time digging for facts. 

We hoped that the situation in Japan would improve during our time back at home.  To be perfectly honest, I am not sure it got better or worse.  I really had no idea.  As far as I can tell, things where I am are completely back to normal.  Trains are running on their usual schedules, there is no more panic buying, there have been no black outs. Things feel normal.

I was surprised at how happy I was to be back in Japan.  I have become so used to my life here that I found myself missing Japan while at home in the States.  I missed teaching, I missed our cute little apartment, I missed the language, I missed the trains, but mostly, I missed the people. 

I have grown to love Japanese people and their culture.  One thing I really missed was the politeness of the Japanese people.  It is so nice. 

During our trip to the States, we spent some time at a fitness center swimming, hot tubbing and using the sauna.  I went with a close friend.  She and I were sitting in the sauna talking about Japan.  I was explaining some Japanese etiquette regarding my experiences teaching at Japanese elementary schools.  Another lady who was sitting in the sauna seemed very interested and began asking me questions.  As I was answering one of her inquires, I was suddenly interrupted. 

Another lady who was sitting in the sauna-who had been silent up to this point-had acted on her urge to share her opinion.  She began by asking me if I had ever heard of the march of the batons.  She then proceeded to inform us that her father had fought in WWII.  She did not hold back any of her very strong feelings, letting us know point blank that is very prejudice against “Asians.”  I had been talking about schools and the terms of politeness that the Japanese children are taught.  She told me that they might seem nice and polite, but were truly awful beings. 

I allowed myself to absorb this tirade as politely as I could.  I simply sat there until a natural break in her rant and excused myself to go check on Karl in the pool.  Although I was calm on the outside, I was fuming on the inside.

How could someone speak in such a negative way towards a people going through such a monumental disaster? I was utterly flabbergasted. But even more so, I was deeply saddened.  Saddened that someone could say such awful things about people they didn’t even know.  Saddened that she didn't even seem to view the Japanese (or any “Asian,” apparently) as real human beings.  Saddened that she seemed to base her entire opinion of the Japanese based on one of the worst wars of, you know, all time. 

I guess the best thing I can do is hope and pray that this woman, and others of the same mindset, will come around and begin to view all people as, well, people.  Human beings.  Deserving of respect, love and compassion.  It is my greatest hope that people cease being so quick to judge and begin exercising compassion.  
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  1. Kate, not that I am taking her side, or condoning her actions... but I do not think that she was being "quick to judge."

    Her opinion is based on years and years of horror stories based on her father's experiences. Those were some of the worst things man has ever had to endure, and the "Asian" truly was the enemy in that place and time.

    What this woman needs to realize is that she has not had any negative interaction with these "Asians," and the students you were talking about did not participate in the Baton Death March. Rather, their great-grandfathers did. It was a horrible time in history, but after all, it is HISTORY.

    We can only hope and pray that the human race has learned from this very dark period in time, and that we treat all people with the love and respect that they truly deserve. It is fine to exercise caution when we feel it necessary, but to show 'hatred' to people without cause is just wrong.

    I believe that if one looks at the big picture, though, thousands upon thousands of dollars, a plethora of prayers, and countless volunteer hours have made their way to Japan since the eleventh of March. Not everyone has the unforgiving heart that the woman in the sauna has. Thank goodness!

    Now, I've got a challenge for you, Kate: How do we get that politeness-mindset to migrate across the Pacific and infuse the people of the States?!

  2. John and I recently watched the counterpart/sequel to "Flags of our Fathers". It is the Japanese's "side" to WWII's battle at Iwo Jima, called "Letters from Iwo Jima." It was really good, and eye opening, (until the I hate Clint Eastwood endings...) because it showed how Japanese soldiers were chosen (literally chosen by the government) to fight for their country, and how they were just people. A baker who had a pregnant wife, for instance. These were just human beings who wanted to stay alive and, just like the Americans, could only do so by killing someone.

    This woman obviously hasn't thought of the other side's viewpoint.