There is no other country on Earth like Japan — that island kingdom of 128 million people who recently faced their worst disaster since the Second World War. The earthquake and tsunami have done incalculable damage worth hundreds of billions of dollars. But instead of drowning in purple retrospection and going into a national sulk, the Japanese have faced adversity with stoicism and resilience, which has won the admiration of the world. The Japanese experience is, in fact, a lesson in composure.
Old and young knew exactly what to do. The strong cared for the weak. Instead of a Robespierre of social mayhem, there was an aura of calm and assurance. No cases were reported of men or women wild with grief beating their chests and wailing like the Ashkenazi at the Wall. Deep sorrow was felt everywhere, but people suffered in silence. The lines for food and water were disciplined and organised and nobody ever thought of jumping the queue.
People bought just what they needed for the present so that there was enough for everybody. When the electricity was switched off, consumers in supermarkets put goods back on the shelves and quietly withdrew. And 50 workers stayed back to pump water out of the nuclear reactors. The manner in which they face adversity is one of the cozily uniting things about the population.
This is truly an amazing nation. Look at the way the people bounced back after the ravages of war. It was a lesson in courage, discipline and supreme ability. The economic miracle induced American analysts to rewrite books on management theory and to study production techniques. All this is comfortingly familiar. What is perhaps not known is the cultural impact the Japanese have made on the global stage.
There are 127 film directors, including the late Akira Kurosawa who’s Rashomon and Seven Samurai are universal classics. Sopranos Atsuko Azuma and Michie Nakamura and pianist Mitsuko Uchida are of international standard. And so are the Tokyo String Quartet conducted by Iwaki Hiroku. In 1985, Midori Goto, at the age of 14, performed with Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Seiji Ozawa was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 25 years and, in 2002, conducted the Vienna State Opera. Always on the lookout for simpler and less complicated ways to study music, Shinichi Suzuki created the Suzuki method for violin lessons.
Pietro Mascagni, Giacomo Puccini, Gilbert and Sullivan and Saint Saens introduced Japan to the West with their operas. But Japan has also produced a world class composer — Toru Takemitsu. Endorsed by Igor Stravinsky at a young age, Takemitsu is regarded by many as the greatest Japanese composer of the 20th century. He wrote scores for 93 movies including Akira Kurosawa’s Ran and Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Women in the Dunes.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2011.