Hot Summer, Town Event, ‘Quiet’ Japanese


It is hot summer now.  In Iwate or Miyagi where tsunami hit, people must be having hard time because of the heat.  Many problems must be solved; such as securing appropriate shelter, maintaining hygiene, or keeping their food safe and edible.  It was March when the Tsunami hit, there were even snowfalls then.  Time passes so quickly.
Through this disaster we saw how the ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ of Japan was exposed to the world by the power of highly developed information technologies.  I have pointed this out repeatedly in this site(Ref.1, 2, 3), as you readers know.

This is the season of Tanabata (a summer festival in Japan), and it is so hot every day.  In the town where I live, we have a ‘Rio Carnival’ every year, and people paraded gaily again this year too, a view which so matches the hot summer.

It was a very hot Sunday. I found the sides of the streets packed with people.  Many street stalls stood alongside the narrow streets which made us feel the air even more heated.

The parade began.  Music just like in Rio (though the scale of everything is much smaller) starts almost noisily, including the sound of the drums. Men and women dressed up in festival clothes dancing in the parade move along.  This is actually quite a view.  Onlookers are busy taking pictures with their cell phones.  Dancers in brilliant costumes wave hands to the children who are watching on both sides, and many take pictures with the dancers.
I came across unexpectedly to my friend, a Korean news reporter, who was there with her child.

When we talked over the phone later that afternoon, she said to me ‘I was surprised by how quiet Japanese people were even at a jolly festival like this.  They don’t make sounds.  I myself shouted ‘bonita’ and such words over and over…. Japanese people are taking photos but…”

Actually, I did not notice this much, but it seems that such behavior gives somewhat an unusual or strange impression to the foreigners.  People in the parade are trying to encourage onlookers to join and stir up the festive mood but their efforts do not seem to be working.  Here again, I might say, the typical Japanese behavioral pattern of ‘follow others, try not to stick out…’ is prominent.

The ‘strength’ or ‘patience’ of the people at Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima exist in the behavioral pattern of Japanese as a whole – we act this way in every day life, and although foreigners admired it at time of the tragedy, such character could turn out to be very useful for their (Japanese) leaders.

Iadmit that Japanese have more tendencies to ‘suppress than pour out personal emotions, act in the same way as others’.  However, it is not good to act like this at all time.

I think it is much better to pour out emotions, especially a happy or gay feeling such as in this festival.

In the time of major disaster, being ‘stoic’ is good but not enough. Firm leadership is badly needed.