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Japan's Fighting Spirit |

On the Radar

Japan's Fighting Spirit

JAPONISTA - Chiara Castañeda -

Let’s talk about the weather. Or not. In Japan, this typical, non-fail small-talk topic takes a backseat to the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake that hit them on March 11.

From taxi rides to catching up with friends, it’s inevitable that someone will bring it up. A quick look at shelters in northeastern Japan shows that life is far from normal. Tokyo isn’t exempt from the wrath. The usually brightly lit department stores are dim and smaller tremors still shake the capital almost every morning.

What would you do if your nightmare just took a turn for the worse?

Would you break down and ponder why bad luck hit you twice (a reaction that’s expected)? The Japanese, on the other hand, do just the opposite — they took no time feeling sorry for themselves and immediately looked forward.

Much has been said about the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear debacle that followed. Some accused Japanese officials of not being transparent and its citizens of nonchalance, but the overriding sentiment is that dwelling on the negative won’t do any good; it is rebuilding right away that will.

Post-earthquake, most multinational companies gave their employees a week off, after which some expats chose to leave the global capital. Japanese companies and their employees, on the other hand, took no breaks — a testament to the belief that now is when hard work is crucial.

The damage is unfathomable but the Japanese are strongly focused on its rebuilding efforts. Photos by Bahaghari (

The foreigners can flee, but the Japanese and those who have made Japan their home cannot and won’t. They accept that settling down in one of the most volatile countries, seismology-wise, is a risk that they will counter with extreme preparation.

Behind the disaster known as the biggest earthquake since records started is a silver lining. It’s been called a catalyst and, for some, a wake-up call. Instead of crippling a nation — through it has stunted it in myriad ways — it served as a unifying force, encapsulated in the country’s current slogan: “Ganbarou Nippon.

It is difficult to find an exact English word or phrase to express what it means, but Gambarou Nippon epitomizes the spirit of the Japanese to get up, create opportunities and work hard for their motherland.

From big organizations to individuals, this resolve is creating an atmosphere of nationalism and hope, adding a layer of humanism to a place that is often accused of being robotic.

Retailers, musicians and the like make it easier to participate in the movement by creating special Ganbarou Nippon products and events, proceeds of which go to rebuilding the nation.

We often look up to Japan because it’s fashion forward, extremely efficient and a constant source of inspiration. What’s really more admirable, however, is the people’s spirit when tackling a problem hand-in-hand, using their combined power to overcome the challenges.

Japan, like a phoenix, will rise from the rubble as history has shown because their people believe and will do everything in their collective capacity to ensure it.

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This is the author’s last article under the “Japonista” column. She will resume writing on a larger scope under the column name “Curiouscities.”

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