My older brother has been a missionary to Japan for 30 years. Presently he is living in Kentucky. When I called to ask about the tragedy in Japan he assured me that if any people could survive a disaster of this magnitude surely the Japanese people could. He has a great admiration for them as a very strong people who seem to come together in times of crisis. I couldn’t help but think of the great comeback of the Japanese people following their devastation during WWII.
One morning, earlier in my brother’s ministry, he boarded a train to go to work. He put his camera on the luggage carrier over his head. When he disembarked he forgot his camera. After work that day he was very sad as he made his way to the train station. The camera was expensive and the loss was painful. He managed to board the same train and sit in the same area. He looked up at the carrier where he had left his camera and was astonished to see it still there.
Why does it seem there are so few thieves in Japanese society? My mind goes back to the L.A. riots of 1992. Rodney King lived his 15 minutes of fame when he uttered the words, “Why can’t we all just get along.” I watched the rioting on television and the next day I entered the classroom of an inner city school here in Columbus where I was a history teacher. I showed my class a picture of a group of individuals looting furniture and grocery stores. I commented that I was appalled at such thievery and the great pain it brought to innocent store owners. It was one of those moments in life when you have an astounding revelation that never leaves you. My students disagreed strongly with my assessment.
“Coach, don’t tell us that if you were there you wouldn’t take a television or grab a microwave,” they asked. They gave me that deer-in-the-headlight look when I adamantly declared that I would not steal. I realize that day that an entire generation of youth had failed to embrace the noble and biblical idea that breaking the 9th commandment was an affront to a holy God and a violation against humanity.
Chile experienced the a horrible earthquake last year and the military was called in to control extensive looting. There was uncontrollable looting in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina demolished most of the city. There was looting, robbery and rape in Haiti after they suffered an earthquake in 2010.
But Japan seems to be an altogether different story. It was reported that one small store had all its windows and its glass door were broken. The store was totally exposed. It had an ATM and there were food products on the shelves. There was no guard there to protect its contents but no one entered the store, nothing was taken. Can you imagine this happening in the U.S.?
Gregory Pflugfelder who specializes in the Japanese culture said, “Looting simply does not take place in Japan. I’m not even sure if there’s a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear ‘looting'”. He pointed out that the Japanese are very committed to the community before the individual. It is totally unacceptable in their culture to commit violent crimes and take something that does not belong to you. Americans take great pride in individualism while the Japanese are communal.
There is something noble about a society that chooses to look out for one another before fending for their own selves. Japan has suffered a horrendous tragedy but they are a very special culture. They exhibit an unusual strength so far as cultures go. I am saddened by what happened in Japan but I would like to put those who read this on alert: These people will join in a phenomenal solidarity to rise again and conquer the natural beast that has threatened to destroy them.
Author: Kevin Probst
I am married to Shannon and I have three sons, Matt, Justin and Kameron. Shannon is an English teacher and Director for Children’s Ministries at Crosspointe Nazarene Church. I am an associate pastor in at Crosspointe Nazarene Church in Columbus, Georgia. I also teach History, Government, Economics and Apologetics at Calvary Christian School in Columbus.