Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan's Goodwill Capital


Taken from Visit Japan 2010 Facebook page from a sympathetic fan.

As of this moment, 116 countries (!!!) have offered some measure of assistance (manpower, money, or equipment) to Japan's disaster relief. This is a staggering number in view that it translates to more than HALF of the world, which is unprecedented. Even my normally stingy government which donates only US$50,000 to most overseas disasters has given about US$384,615 (SGD500,000) to the Singapore Red Cross (on top of sending a few rescue personnel). Even countries which historically have strained relations with Japan, in particular China and South Korea, have put their old enmity aside to provide help to the stricken country. (Although, seriously China - just 15 rescue personnel?! Really?!)

Part of the reason for this level of outpouring of sympathies is in response to the almost beyond human comprehension scale of disaster that has hit Japan, shown day after day on televisions across the world in real time. In addition to the world's growing admiration on how the Japanese are handling the crisis with such grace and fortitude, I strongly believe over the many, many years after World War II, Japan has leveraged on its status as a world economic superpower and helped so many countries during their own crisis without a moment's hesitation, and earning a large pool of goodwill as a result. Finally, the world is now returning Japan's generosity. (Learn from her, China - instead of pissing people off by asking New Zealand to compensate the Chinese victims of the Christchurch earthquake, which is surprise (!) not New Zealand's fault.)

Yes, Japan may be one of the richest countries in the world, and remains for now the world's third largest economy, but the triple whammy of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant troubles are really more than what even the most disaster-prepared government is able to handle all at once. It disturbs me that even during such distressing times that there are crazy and idiotic people (thankfully a minority) who declared that Japan had it coming, it was their "karma", and other such rubbish. Honestly no country (or man) is an island - the world is too interconnected for one to laugh at another's misfortune and not expect any fallout to come your way (trust me, it will, sooner or later.) A simple case in point: all major stock markets have fallen alongside Tokyo's index crash over the past few days. If one is not interested in helping, at least do not rub salt in others' wounds by making snide comments.  

On the individual side, I continue to enjoy the best side of the Japanese people. On top of all the stress and probably distress they are facing, they have extended that legendary graciousness to stranded travellers like the Samurai and I. All the hotels and agencies are refunding us without imposing any cancellation charges (and without us asking). We are even getting back all the money for the purchase of the Japan Rail passes although it had been stated in black and white that a 10% administrative charge will be levied for unused passes. Multiply this many, many times over with all the tens of thousands of cancellations that they are getting, and the impact on their businesses, yet they do it without complaint and with their usual politeness.

Even if I was not a fan of Japan's to begin with, she now has supporters in the Samurai and I for life. The moment it is reasonably safe, back to Japan I will go to inject my hard earned money into their economy.
We love you, Japan. Ganbatte kudasai!

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