While the situation in parts of Touhoku remains dire, life in Fukuoka is normal as ever. My co-ALT expressed the feeling that he almost wished the disaster had had some sort of negative effect on us here; it seemed unfair to have it so good while the people in Touhoku are struggling.
Since I’d been going to rent videos from Tsutaya again, I had to return some just a few days after the earthquake. I wondered if I’d seem callous for watching DVDs at such a time, but when I got there, there were many more costumers than usual. When I got to the shelf with the show Heroes on it, I was surprised to see that nearly all the DVDs for that series were rented out! I concluded that people were getting tired of the 24-7 disaster coverage. When I went today, a fair number of the Heroes DVDs were still out. Normal TV programming came back a day or two ago, though there’s still a ticker at the bottom of the screen with information.
When I went to the bakery this past Wednesday, the baker asked me if my school was taking donations. I said that it wasn’t (which was accurate at the time), but that I’d donated on my own. He said, “Foreigners always give money freely at these times.” I didn’t know if he was just being nice, but I said, “Well, Americans are used to there being active charities and volunteer organizations at all times, so I guess that’s why we don’t really think about it too much.” Later as I was thinking about it, I wondered if the carefree attitude many Americans have towards spending money in general is also a factor. ^_^;
My school’s Student Council announced Thursday morning that they were going to start taking donations. I wasn’t gonna be there in the afternoon, so I didn’t get to see how it went, but Friday morning during Closing Ceremony they announced that they had collected over 60,000 yen! The school has under 1,000 students and about 80 faculty and staff, meaning each person would have to donate only 55 yen to reach this amount. But since I’m sure not every single person donated, it’s an impressive figure.
So when the Student Council came around to the teachers’ room after Closing Ceremony, I thought, I need to pitch in as much as everyone else! But when I put my 1000 yen note in the box, I saw that so far there were only 100 yen coins in there, and the boys were surprised. Guess everyone put in their allowance the day before?
Another thing I’ve been thinking about is the whole referring to Japan as this monumental entity. I think I’ve brought this up before, but this is what I mean:
Takoyaki Lady: How do you like living in Japan?
Me: Well, I really like living in Fukuoka. It’s a wonderful place.
Takoyaki Lady: *Seems confused*
A conversation I’ve had with several Japanese people in Fukuoka:
Fukuoka resident: Japanese winter is very cold, isn’t it?
Me: Oh? Winter in Fukuoka is very pleasant for me, because my hometown’s about as cold as southern Hokkaidou, and likewise gets lots of snow. During a storm, it can pile up to your knees!
Fukuoka resident: Oh no! I couldn’t live in a place like that!
(Interestingly, many people in this area complain that Dazaifu City is so much colder than the cities it’s right next to, yet they otherwise act as if Japan has the same weather throughout the whole country. -_-‘)
Something many fresh American JETs do:
Fresh American JET: In America, we [such and such], but in Japan, [this and that].
This is a pet peeve for me. The United States is a huge and diverse country; to try to explain what all of its people do in one sentence is ludicrous. While Japan isn’t as wide, it does span a significant north-south range, and has almost half the U.S.’s population, so to try to do the same for it is just as absurd.
When it comes to coverage of the Touhoku disaster, we easily see how referring to one area of Japan as “Japan” is problematic, but will people continue to do it when it comes to other things, I wonder? While some get irritated at their friends and families back home for sending them a message every hour telling them to leave Japan at once, apparently ignoring the fact that there’s no danger in their region, will they continue to talk about how “in Japan this” and “in Japan that” when they’ve only had enough experience to say that “in my region this” and “to my knowledge that”?