japan, different perspectives

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Saw my physical therapist today. As with other alternative health practitioners, I find my sessions with Dieter and Jody mentally therapeutic as well. Perhaps it’s because they, along with chiropractors and massage therapists, are in “my space” as they work to heal my body. I find it easy to express my thoughts and feelings about a whole host of topics, especially about life’s ups and downs. Because these practitioners look to getting at the root of the problem, rather than prescribing drugs for the symptoms, their solutions are more organic. They resolve to get my body back working for me, not against me. I cannot recommend them enough. Carrie, Rachel, Jennifer, Dieter and Jody are my pit stop team. Whenever I need retooling, they’re on hand to service my “parts.”

Dieter and I spoke briefly of the devastation in Japan, as did Jody and I. What was interesting about the latter conversation is what Jody told me about a couple of her Japanese co-workers who have families in Japan. To her surprise, her peers expressed little concern about their relatives. One of them still had parents and siblings there. She seemed to feel they were fine since they were in the southern part of the island. The other staff member whose sister lived just outside Sendai, where the earthquake struck, explained that such natural disasters were commonplace. The implication was that the Japanese learned to live with them.

神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa oki nami ura (

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Needless to say, I was as surprised as Jody. I thought of American parents who were frantically seeking word of their young, adult children who lived and worked in Japan. I thought of TV news pictures showing people flocking to catch flights out of the country, hurrying to get away from the nuclear contamination that threatens to spread. As I pondered the disparate views of 2 Japanese women, and 2 American women, I realized the answer lay in the differences in our cultures.

Honor of country and oneself is what drives the Japanese. They honor their gods, but the people control their own destinies. With their hands, their minds, and their steely determination, they forge ahead. They work through and around obstacles. They seem to take no notice of the words “no,” “can’t be done,” “not possible.” Instead they seem to embrace the words “let’s try,” “let’s see,” “if not this, maybe this.”

SHOW ME THE OBI ! -- THE OSHIMA ISLAND GIRLS o...

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On NBC’s World News with Brian Williams tonight, reporter Ann Curry spoke with several survivors. A middle-aged couple seemed to epitomize exactly what the Japanese are about. In the midst of a country torn apart, they were picking up the pieces, literally. They swept and scrubbed the tile floors, and along with neighbors, they carted snow from the surrounding hillsides, melting it into water. The men were shown proudly carving chopsticks from bamboo they had gathered themselves.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Jo...

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Curry and her camera crew also visited shelters, one where young boys were seen laughing and clowning around for the the TV team. Another boy was drawing pictures, lost in his own world. The elderly were being tended to by others concerned for their fragile health. And local women sent food in the form of rice-balls, for the starving homeless. There was a general air of people helping people, as they patiently awaited their turn for help from their own government, or the outside world.

Oft-times I think we Americans tend to project our own world-view upon those of others. We can’t imagine that others would think differently. We proclaim English as the universal language, and our way of thinking as the most reasonable. Knowing the Japanese culture as I do, having been raised among them, I could guess at the reasoning behind the reaction of the 2 Japanese women who worked in the physical therapist’s office. My immediate reaction was the same as Jody’s. However, it was tempered by my knowledge of a culture that is world’s apart not only physically, but in its value system as well.

Two maiko performing in Gion.

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so perhaps they don’t worry…until they have to worry…hugmamma.