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Friday, April 8, 2011

Safety and Convenience

I recently read an article describing why the Japanese prefer to live in their country rather than somewhere else. Naturally, I thought it was because it was their home. I read that the Japanese remain in Japan because of two reasons: Safety and convenience. Living in Japan is supposed to be one of the safest places in the world. I can’t say that is true for the larger cities. Most of my Japanese family lives in Tokyo. They lock their doors every time they step out to run an errand or go to work. Things are changing in Japan. Often the news will have a story about a murder or a robbery. I found it interesting that the news reports a murder like a murder/mystery story. They would reenact the scene of the crime using 3-D animation, giving the audience little doubt as to what transpired during the crime. Then the news would present various clues to the public. Each day a new piece of the puzzle would be introduced. This would go on for weeks or even months. A story about a woman spiking some curry with poison and killing people was big news when I visited Japan a few years ago. The news carried the same story along with more information when I visited a year later. This is in stark contrast to the U.S. Here, the news will run through all the murders, rapes, and robberies in the first 5 or 10 minutes. Then it’s time for weather and sports. We’ve become numb to all the violence. Not so in Japan. A single murder story could take up an entire newscast. The news reporters attack a murder story and turn it inside out and upside down. The Japanese demand to know all the details of a crime. I think it has to do with the tight knit Japanese society and the fact that society is slowly unraveling. People who live in the large cities are often crammed together because of the lack of space and the tremendously high real estate prices. If a possibility exists that your neighbor is a murderer, rapist, or thief…I think you might want to know all the details. The disturbing fact is that these types of crimes are slowly working their way into the countryside. Even during this recent disaster, some families refused to leave their homes because they feared they would be robbed. It’s not like this everywhere in Japan. Erika’s family still leaves the door unlocked in their small town.

The second reason people remain in Japan is because it’s convenient. I have no doubt about that. When I visited my aunt in Tokyo, I found that she did not drive. The transportation system is incredibly efficient. She doesn’t need a car. The trains and buses are on time, clean, bright, and comfortable. They drop you off close to any number of stores, attractions, or whatever your heart desires. The entire system runs like a well oiled machine. That is until the power turns off. Some of my relatives decided to go north to Hokkaido. They wanted to get away from the inconveniences of living where there is unreliable power, food shortages, and the threat of radiation exposure. Fortunately, they have a place to stay in Sapporo. Many people aren’t as fortunate. They have to be patient and wait for things to return to normal. It’s scary to think if something as catastrophic as the triple disasters in Japan were to happen here. The news in Seattle keeps asking the same question, “Are we prepared?” If a country that is considered to be the most prepared for an earthquake and tsunami suffers damage exceeding 27000 lost or dead, how in the world can we think we are prepared? The west coast of the U.S. is just as vulnerable as Japan, perhaps even more. “The big one” is way overdue to happen. The Earth’s crust is in constant motion and eventually it will move in a way that will cost many lives and leave unimaginable destruction. It’s just a matter of time for the U.S.

 I asked Erika, “Maybe we should leave the U.S. before the next big earthquake hits, but where do we go?” Japan is on a volcano watch for the next few months. With all the seismic activity going on, there is a fear that a volcano may erupt. One of the volcano’s that is being watched is located less than 10 miles from our home in Tsukahara. A volcano (Shinmoedake) on March 13, 2011 erupted violently in southern Kyushu, leaving people wondering if the recent earthquakes and volcanic activity are tied together. Humm, Japan is safe and convenient, Japan is safe and convenient, Japan is safe and convenient…I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz…Japan is safe and convenient…I heard that Arizona is nice.

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