Japan is not Haiti, and how do I know? Well, I was living just outside of Kobe when the monstrous jishin (earthquake) hit in January 1995 and virtually destroyed the center of a major Japanese city, killing 6,600 people covering a 20-mile swath. I was right in the middle. Down the street from where I lived, a seven-story apartment building ended up being four stories. My next door neighbor died from a collapsed roof. When the quake hit, I thought it was a bomb going off.
Here's what didn't happen:
~There was no looting or breaking into food stores.Here is what did happen:
~There was no time for trying to blame anyone.
~There was no one cutting in the front of the line to get water.
~There were no calls to lawyers.
~The people in the Kobe area were not waiting around for a US aircraft carrier.So like I said, Japan is not Haiti— nor New Orleans. They don't need us…That is not to say they would not be unappreciative of any assistance, but probably the best thing we can do is provide portable medical facilities, staffing (if requested), and search-sniffing dogs.
~The military was deployed immediately to dig and search.
~The Yakuza (Japanese mafia) were the early suppliers of medical supplies and food (they had the connections and the means to get the materials to the folks).
~Within days, temporary housing was being constructed all over the area.
~Within days, portable showers and toilet facilities were set up all over the area.
~Within days, supermarkets were opened, and the queues stretched endlessly as they could only let a few people in the stores at a time. There was no anger, yelling, blaming, looting, or cutting-in-front.
~Within hours, clean-up began by everyone— students, teachers, seniors, Yakuza, politicians. Everyone seemed to be contributing in some way.
As a foreigner, I was treated like everyone else, and by the time I left Japan four years later, I would say 90% of the entire city of Kobe had been rebuilt (and consider that New York has been unable to erect a couple of building at Ground Zero now for going on 10 years).