German Gaijin Just Don’t Get It

How could they?

Here are some lines from a report by a Spiegel journalist who, being a product of his Umwelt (environment), obviously can’t understand what is going on with these peculiar, “fatalistic” Japanese who have the audacity to show courage in the face of disaster.

There is little evidence of panic.

There is not a single person protesting on the streets in the entire city (Tokyo).

Japanese fireman Nakamura Junichiro: “It was not my choice, but I wanted to go there. This is the most difficult hour for Japan. It was my duty.”

“The tsunami represents a good opportunity to cleanse this greed (the egoism the elder speaker believes his fellow Japanese have succombed to), and one we must avail ourselves of.”

The destructive forces of nature, writes Asia expert Ian Buruma, are “to a certain extent part of Japanese culture.” This creates fertile ground for a Japanese fatalism that has developed throughout history and culminates in the expression “shikata ga nai,” meaning “it can’t be helped.” A further product is the widespread belief that nothing beautiful on Earth is permanent and that the Japanese people must close ranks in times of national disaster.

Those who seek to wait it out in Osaka must be gaijin — a non-Japanese or outsider. Someone who doesn’t understand that now, more than ever, every cog in the wheel counts. Someone who shirks his responsibility while a hero like fireman Nakamura Junichiro risks his life to cool down the reactors in Fukushima.

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