The Japan Show Blog: Overplaying the Disaster, Four Months In


Hey everybody, it’s John from the Japan Show Podcast, coming to you with the first Japan Show Blog post.  The point of all this is to dig into a few issues that we’d much rather talk about than not, but just didn’t have time to throw into the week’s show.  How often we do this is by no means decided yet, so don’t go expecting a whole ton of these.

Monday started out as an incredible day for Japan. In the early morning hours, Japan’s Nadeshiko team (nadeshiko referring to the Large Pink) took home the gold in the Women’s World Cup, being held thousands of miles away in Germany.  It was the first Asian victory in any world football/soccer event, according to my co-host.

I mention in Episode 3 that there have been journalists and other individuals who have equated the Japan victory in the World Cup to a sort of healing for a country devastated by disaster.  This is true, but only to a degree.  The Japan win is a huge morale boost for the country, without a doubt. That being said, it seems like some people are still stuck in the past when it comes to how to talk about Japan.  Example linked here:  Japan’s WCup win helps lift devastated country – World Soccer (AP, Courtesy of Yahoo! News)

If you’ll allow me to block quote a moment from the article’s opening.

Their country’s misery was never far from their hearts.

Thousands dead or missing. Villages erased. Homes destroyed.
The players on Japan’s women’s World Cup team invoked the slow recovery from a devastating tsunami and earthquake time and again. Whatever they could do, they vowed, they would.

I stopped reading the article here. There was a time where this kind of reference to Japan as a broken, depressed country was appropriate, but only to a degree even then.  Opening an article over four months since the initial disasters with sensationalist lines like these is quite frankly disrespectful to the Japanese spirit.  It’s similar to looking at the country with a sort of ‘oh, poor you’ attitude. That only goes so far, and it’s condescending to say the least.  I of course say this having come down on Japan quite a bit on several issues, but at the very least I treat the country as a capable entity, giving it respect where respect is due.

It’s this kind of out-of-touch attitude that I think paints Japan in the wrong hue, making people think Japan is still an invalid on bedrest. Allow me to clarify; it isn’t.  Japan may still have a long way to go to get back to 100%, but it is certainly back on its own two feet.  No one can deny that the good people of Tohoku (northeastern Japan) suffered greatly on March 11, but if my firsthand experience talking to many of them has told me anything, they want people to know about what’s going on and what happened, but they’re getting on with their lives.

In short, this win is a big morale boost for Japan, but let’s let the win be a happy moment and not hold the shadow of the March disasters over it.

As per usual, you can always send feedback at japanshowpodcast@gmail.com, @thejapanshow on Twitter, or our Facebook page.

-John

One thought on “The Japan Show Blog: Overplaying the Disaster, Four Months In

  1. I was working part time in a german restaurant in yurakucho for a while. a slightly tipsy british guy demanded to talk to the only gaijin waiter available, since he was alone, couldn’t speak any japanese and wanted someone to talk to. my boss saw me offering conversations to guests as part of service so I was send to him.

    it was his first time in japan, even though his parents met and fell in love here. he was in his mid fifties and we talked about how japan felt to us. I mentioned that I recently went to Hiroshima to do a story on the construction of a nuclear power plant there. I said, it was necessary for me to link this story to the atomic bomb, since most germans still think only of the bomb when they hear of Hiroshima and the only image they have is of the city after the nuclear attack. I found it surprising and refreshing, I said, that the city was very lively, because I as well had the misconception of a still destroyed city in my head. but the people there and the japanese are over it and moved on. the british guy, listening and drinking quietly to my story of hiroshima asked me, why I think that is. why did the japanese move on and the foreign people didn’t?

    because Japan is far away, I said, but I wasn’t sure about that. maybe it’s just convienence. maybe it is because “hiroshima: everything normal” is no headline or news that will sell. but maybe it is, because people wouldn’t care if it’s a) not related to something they already know and b) a reason to have an opionion.

    so in short: the people are lazy to accept boring news, the media is lazy to report boring news, and the british guy was drunk. that’s all I have to say about why the media links the world cup victory to a tragedy. and trust me, they’ll continue to do that. I have trouble selling articles that are not at least a little linked to the earthquake and my parents still think that all of japan is a nuclear wasteland.

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