Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Friday, March 25, 2011

THE WORD nasake in Japanese means sympathy, compassion, or fellow feeling. It appears in the proverb, Nasake ha hito no tame narazu. That literally would be “Compassion is not for the benefit of other people.” It’s actually used, however, to mean that if you help someone in trouble, he’ll be sure to do you a good turn when you need it.

The truth behind the proverb was borne out earlier this week when the Foreign Ministry revealed that 130 countries and territories had offered assistance to Japan in one form or another after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Bringing the total to 130 were the offers from Brunei and Haiti.

While the normal sentiments of charity and compassion surely inspired the offers, the generous Japanese ODA program and disaster assistance over the years were likely factors as well, demonstrated by Haiti’s message. When more than 220,000 people died in the Haitian earthquake last year, the Japanese contributed $US 70 million and sent a medical team and the Self-Defense Forces.

Here are some other examples.

Come On-a My Huis

Huis ten Bosch (House in the Forest) in The Hague is one of the official residences of the Dutch Royal Family. It’s also the name of a theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, in which The Netherlands is recreated with full-size replicas of Dutch buildings. The 152-hectare resort—roughly the size of Monaco—was built with the approval of the Dutch royal house. In addition to the buildings, there are forests, gardens, amusements, shops, restaurants, five hotels, a marina, and a residential area.

Earlier this week Nagasaki Gov. Nakamura Hodo said that Huis ten Bosch and 37 ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) with hot springs would accommodate 1,700 people from 538 households left homeless by the earthquake. The prefectural government will be responsible for their clothing, food, and the transportation expenses from Tohoku. They’ll also help place people in schools and jobs.

The Tohokuans will be able to stay until the national government’s assistance program takes effect on 11 May. Anyone who wishes to remain after that (and Nagasaki is a lot warmer than the Tohoku region) will be offered public housing. Said Gov. Nakamura:

“People from around the country helped us after the disaster caused by the Mt. Unzen eruption. We’d like to return the favor.”

Cap’n Paul’s indirect contribution

The Maritime Agency reported that the Nisshin-maru, the mother ship of Japan’s whaling fleet, would sail today to transport supplies to the Tohoku region. The fleet had just returned from the South Pacific after ending their expedition early due to concerns over crew safety stemming from Sea Shepherd harassment. The agency said the idea to help came from the crew members themselves, many of whom are natives of Iwate and Miyagi. The Nisshin-maru’s cargo is primarily heating oil and food.

Firemen, dinghies, and farmland

A group of 57 firemen from Tokushima in Shikoku returned from a rescue and assistance operation in Miyagi earlier this week. Group leader Igawa Hiroyuki said one of their tasks was to transport elderly people from hospitals with power outages to other facilities with heat. They also worked with a group of firefighters from Nagano to search for missing people from a large agricultural facility destroyed by the tsunami. The metal frames of the greenhouses remained, but the people didn’t.

The group operated mostly in rural areas. Six days after the quake and tsunami, the farmland was still underwater and oil tank trucks were piled on the roads. The firemen used rubber dinghies to look for people, and they found several bodies on a foundation of a house that had been washed away. Said Mr. Igawa:

“I thought I had a general idea of what to expect from news reports, but I was speechless when I saw the reality for myself.”

He added that a site for identifying the deceased was set up in a public park, and there was always a long line of people waiting to get in. He hopes to use the experience gained from the mission to help Tokushima prepare for an earthquake.

Nasake nai

The word nasake also appears in the expression nasake nai, or cold, unfeeling, and cruel. Some people might think Kamei Shizuka’s comment about the Cabinet at a news conference on the 23rd qualifies as nasake nai, especially considering the People’s New Party he heads is still part of the ruling coalition.

He was asked about the government’s plan to amend the Cabinet Law to add three new members and put one in charge of disaster relief. He answered:

“Increasing the number of people in the Cabinet isn’t such a good idea. Add idiots to idiots and of course you’ll get idiots.”

He quickly added that he wasn’t referring to any of the current cabinet members—no, no, of course not—and said this about Prime Minister Kan Naoto:

“He should just take decisive steps to implement integrated reforms. Having too many ship captains is not a good thing.”

Particularly when the nominal captain behaves as if he’s a clone for Lieutenant Commander Phillip Francis Queeg.

The truth may be nasake nai, but it’s still the truth.


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15 Responses to “Nasake

  1. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    A: I am speechless and trying to stay calm – you know, it requires a bit of effort. Just a little bit.

    Don’t you have a comment on Kyu-den’s remarks about not restarting nukes in Saga?
    2: Why are you speechless? Kyuden? The last I read was that they would not restart the one reactor that was already shut down for normal maintenance until the government figured out its new nuclear energy policy. I haven’t read the news since then.

    If we’re lucky the anti-nuke government’s new policy will last only until there’s a new government.

    – A.

  2. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    A: The President of Kyuden talked about rolling black out today, I thought. If that is not true, good for people in Kyushu.

  3. […] aspects of the process. People’s New Party Leader Kamei Shizuka’s comments about too many ship captains can perhaps be understood in this […]

  4. toadold said

    An editorial suggesting that S. Korea use its large currency reserves to support the Japanese Yen. “It is time to pay back Japan.” For past Japanese economic support for S. Korea.

  5. slim said

    It’s hard to think of a calamity in the world to which Japan isn’t among the earliest and most generous of responders. Good post.

    When Kamei speaks of “reforms” isn’t he really talking about ant-reforms?

  6. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

  7. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

  8. toadold said

    Saw a comment on a comment by a Japanese professor. In the US it is like being on a ferry boat, people are stranger getting on an off and don’t have the pressure to be polite. Being in Japan is like being on a cruise ship for a very long voyage. It pays to be polite.
    It seems to me that the private industry middle managers in Japan are doing the best job in managing things. I think in part because they got information faster. What was interesting was one manager for a grocery chain saying they messed up by making too few central computerized distribution centers. When one was wrecked it chocked the supply chain for nearly 25% of their stores.
    Most of the people remind me of a guy I worked with one time. He didn’t move real fast but he never stopped moving. He didn’t stop to think or plan stuff out, light up a cigarette, or pause between mandated breaks for a cup of coffee. He thought and planned on the move and out produced every body. Just a constant chipping away at things.
    T: That’s an interesting point in the first paragraph, but the Japanese are still polite even in ferryboat situations. I think the point in paragraph 2 is a good one.

    – A.,

  9. I love the clips I’ve seen of this one rescuer from Tokushima, cheering up survivors at an elementary school shelter.

  10. aragoto said

    If I had to apply the expression nasake nai to anything these past few weeks, it would be in its other sense — limp-wristed, disappointing, underachieving, embarrassing.
    A: Thanks for the note.

    I’m getting to that, but it takes time to organize and write that post.

    – A.

  11. toadold said

    Well when you get on a ferryboat in Japan it could be said you are just traveling to another hatch on the cruise ship, he said beating the analogy with a stick.
    Dark humor and this from a guy who likes Japan.
    “I was reading about a clean up of a commercial hog farm on the “I’m big in Japan” blog. The farmer only had 400 out 2000 hogs left.”
    “The first place I’d look for missing hogs would be the local bars.” Groan.

  12. toadold said

    “What would you have done if you had encountered that a reading of contamination in that turbine basement?” “Oh much different from the Japanese worker, first I would have screamed like a little girl, then dropped everything and flapped my arms so hard that I would have flown out of there with out my feet touching that water. Then after I was out I would have sodomized the highest ranking manager that I could find.”

  13. toadold said

    Here in Texas a subcontractor for the auto industry can’t make deliveries because they depended on a supply of vinyl from Japan. There are a whole lot of stories like that. It seems Japan itself is a super centralized distribution and manufacturing point for the world.
    In the US there is concern about lax and nonexistent building codes in various states. Whereas in Japan strict building codes have obviously saved lives. But now I find out that nationally Japan has two different power cycles 50 Hz and 60 Hz. In the US the whole country is on 60 Hz. The Japanese use of twitter and the internet at the low and mid level has been astounding. For example they’ve now built a database of names and an application for searching that database so people can find each other. It looks like central regulations are beneficial but command, control, and communication works better when it is flattened out and distributed.
    T: Thanks for the note.

    Almost everything works better when it is flattened out.

    – A.

  14. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

  15. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    The following is the message from the owners of the above cited enterprise (soy sauce producer) to the employees.



    河野 和義
    河野 通洋

    Why do I weep?

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