From a Non-Japanese Saying: “私は日本人です”

I am not Japanese but I have the urge to declare that “私は日本人です” to stand in solidarity with the Japanese people.

Ever since last Friday when the Tohoku earthquake struck Japan, the first I did when I woke up to start my day was to check msnbc.com. Yeah, I checked the news even before I checked the comments left on chowtimes which I habitually did. The comments justs did not mean as much to me.

Each morning I was hoping to read the time when the country starts it recovery. Each morning I was confronted with more grave news.

In my whole life, I never had to live through a disaster or war or even famine. I read about many humanitarian disasters but not the scale that befell Japan.

I can’t think of any nation that had to endure what Japan is going through. And I fear that the worst is yet to come.

Out of a whim, I took out the chowtimes.com logo on the banner yesterday. I replaced it with the words “be strong”. I don’t know why I did that. Maybe it is just a way for me to tell the Japanese people that I am with them and my heart goes out to them. It pains me not knowing when it will all end.

As a late baby boomer, I was taught from young to hate the Japanese. I was reminded of their cruel role during the Second World War. However, Japan rose from the ashes of destruction, turn their backs to war and built a nation that gained the respect of the world. Yeah, feelings of the Japanese people turned from distrust and fear to one of admiration and respect.

The Japanese people are resilient and I know that these catastrophic events will make the people even stronger. It gives me much hope in humanity reading about the courage and especially the gracefulness when faced with such challenges.

4SlicesofCheese sent me an email today and I want to share it with you all:

Hi Ben and Suanne,

This is _____ aka 4Slicesofcheese. I just had lunch at Ramen Sanpachi on Robson. I don’t believe you have been there and I am not trying to promote the restaurant, although I do like their food.

The reason why I am writing is because at lunch today I noticed that they have a sign that said 1 dollar of every bowl of ramen they sell will be donated to the RedCross to Japan. I don’t remember the dates exactly but I believe it was until the end of March.

I had a small chat with the owner lady, she thanked me for supporting and I learned that she has cousins in the Sendai area which she has not been able to contact since the Earthquake. You can see the pain in her eyes yet she is still optimistic. She tells me with a smile, this should make you cherish every day in your life and not take it for granted.

I believe this is a good cause and the owners are very nice people. If people do not want to donate in the conventional methods this way you can make a small contribution and also enjoy a bowl of ramen.

I hope you can do a small shout out in one of your post to get the word out.

Thanks a lot,

Yeah, I am curious why there are so little mention of countries coming to Japan to help them in their hour of need. Maybe it is because the country has the resources to deal with the calamities and it is not financial assistance that they need. Instead I can just imagine that Japan will want to pick herself up, on her own … with grace and strength.

But I know that there is one thing that the people of Japan will appreciate … that the world tells them that we all stand with them and pray that the day of rebuilding starts.

So, Japan … BE STRONG.

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Quite a few Jpn restaurants around town are also having ‘specials’ that go to donations towards efforts in Japan, the Vancouversun, had an article about Miku downtown (W Hastings) that are donating all their house bottled water sale towards this, as well as staff donating their tips to it as well. As are the staff at Tojos….

    1. Thanks for sharing this info, HR.

    2. Hi HR – would you happen to be able to list those restaurants here (if not too much trouble) ? The weekend is nearing, and if people are dining out more and know which Japanese restos are making this effort, then maybe all the more beneficial to the relief efforts in Japan. Thanks.

  2. Ben,
    I’ve great admiration for Japanese people. I fell in love with the country/ culture ever since my first visit.

    In Vancouver, we are lucky to have hydro as a natural resource, and our population is way less than JP. They’ll need to find alternate resource.

    People over there are so polite, discipline and respectful to each other. All countries should learn from Japan. It’s heartbreaking to see them suffer; please support & pray for speedy recovery…

  3. Sorry to criticize, but I don’t quite see how your title fits your post… =(

    1. Hi Lena: Maybe it is out of place. I was thinking of the quote “Ich bin ein Berliner” which served morale boost in one of the greatest speeches ever made. Ben

  4. There’re 70+ countries that offered their assistance to Japan. Only a handful of offers are currently accepted so far.

    The title of the post (“I am Japanese” in Japanese)is rather odd considering you said that you were taught from young to hate the Japanese……… so you’re implying that you were taught to hate your own people?

    1. Hi Haruka: I am not Japanese. My parents lived through the WWII. I grew up listening to stories of what happened during the war. However, I had grown up in the generation where the perception of the Japanese people changed. Ben

  5. A very thoughtful gesture.
    It was the first thing I noticed when I went to your blog.
    My thoughts and hopes go to the people of Japan.
    Be Strong.

  6. Oh I see. Then perhaps the title of the post is rather ill-fitting since you’re basically stating that you’re Japanese… which you’re not.

    1. The title is a metaphor Haruka. If you had read his post more carefully you would understand the title.

    2. Hi Haruka: You are right. The title was too deep-meaning and I had assumed that statement (quoting Kennedy) would mean something to most people. Anyway, I had changed the title and added one extra line in the beginning which I hope will demystify what I am trying to say. Ben

  7. I like to think that in times of disaster and tragedy such as this, the world is Japanese in the sense that we all empathize with the plight of the Japanese and all want to help them as if they were are own country. I like your title since that is what it means to me.
    I was able to donate to the Red Cross today at Costco. I believe that Japan is still in the early stages of disaster and still can not assess the damages yet, therefore, perhaps it is difficult to know what aid is needed and how and where to distribute it. My husband points out that Japan, being one of the wealthiest countries in the world may not need foreign aid as places such as Haiti did….. although who knows how much of that aid actually got to the people of Haiti : (

  8. nice write-up ben.
    nice of you to change your logo in support of japan – two thumbs up!

    i really admire the people of japan. never have i heard of citizens being so orderly during such catastrophic events. it’s being reported over and over in the news that the world can/should learn from the japanese people.

    hope that everything will turn out ok for japan.
    my thoughts and prayers to everyone in japan.

  9. Thank you so much for posting my letter. Its one thing to see all the images and videos in the news and perhaps people can just look away or turn it off, but when you meet someone that is affected by this it is truly another feeling. Hope people can do what they can to help. Every little bit helps.

    1. I agree… I feel very helpless when I see images of people without homes and surrounded by so much destruction….. I donated to the Red Cross yesterday…. but then people started posting that only 30 cents of every dollar of the money donated to the Red Cross gets to Japan. I find it frustrating to hear that since it’s difficult to know how best to help since we have limited resources as well.

  10. There are countries that are offering aid to Japan. i think you need to read more than one news source. I was too taught to hate them when I was young because of what my parents went through during the war. But now I have nothing but admiration for them. I love their culture, their food and fashion.

    One report I read said that when the quake happened, people in a supermarket grabbed their things and ran outside until the shaking stopped. Then they when back in and paid for their items. I have not read any reports of looting or vandalism. Quite a change from other situations of disaster.

    BE STRONG JAPAN. YOU CAN RISE AGAIN.

    1. I find stories like that to be so inspirational as to the honour and integrity of people….. even under dire circumstances.

  11. I almost cried reading about 4SlicesofCheese’s post about the restaurant.

    “Be StrOng”. That is beautiful, Ben & Suanne.

  12. Thanks for the post. I am too emotional to actually post something on my own blog. I have family near Tokyo.
    I have been checking news frequently during the day and I don’t really know what I can do to help them.

    “Be StrOng”!

    I told them that I will give them full support no matter what their decision is.

    Thanks Ben.

  13. I noticed your “Be Strong” logo too. Very thoughtful.

    Besides the tragedy of the death, destruction and missing people, I have been the most moved by the nuclear plant workers who are risking their health, safety, and lives to prevent a meltdown that would further harm the communities and their loved ones.

    Be Strong.

  14. I remember my Dad telling me stories of when he was a young child during the occupation of China by the Japanese. His older brother (my uncle) starved to death but my dad was spared because they took a liking to him. Ironically, Japan is my Dad’s favorite vacation spot choosing to go there at least once a year. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Japan myself a couple of times and found it to be a very clean and beautiful country. I find the Japanese culture very fasinating. The people of Japan have great pride for their country which explains why there is no looting or disorderly conduct during this crisis. I honestly believe that they would rather starve to death than steal food from a store.

    Sadly, the workers at the plant are doing more than just risking their lives. It appears that they are sacrificing their lives as the situation worsens by the minute.

    1. I grew up learning to “hate” the Chinese communists. We had regular “drills” at school whereby everyone learned to take protective cover in case Communist forces invade (Taiwan ROC). Of course that never happened, and perhaps was more of a internal political tactic than real threats. And it took me a looong time to realize later, as an adult, that the KMT and Chiang Kai Shek weren`t as benevolent nor democratic as we were led to believe in those days.

      Key thing to remember is, must differentiate between hostile forces (ie: gov’t regimes, military) and the regular peoples of those countries. People don’t uprise and clamor to want to use aggression and invade another country’s sovereignty ……. only governments and military regimes do.

  15. Same for the Filipinos,The older generation was brought up to hate Japanese and love Americans.The truth came out later on.For example the good Americans exterminated 10-15% of the Philippine population when they conquered the Philippines.There is adifference between people and their Goverments.I have many good Persian friends who are totally apart from their goverment.Be strong Japan

  16. Hi Ben,

    I was in Tokyo when the earthquake happened and I can say for sure that nothing was the same ever since. The city is a lot quieter than I’ve ever seen before yet people still try to carry on with their lives as they were. Anxiety can be felt but none of it is placed on people’s faces.

    Shortly after the quake, I’ve read some comments over the web saying this disaster is a lesson to the Japanese for their wrongdoings. Frankly, that made my heart cringe. While I believe tensions shouldn’t be passed on from generations to generations, I understand it would take at least 2 generations’ time to erase old ways of thinking and scars. Let’s make sure to educate the generations to follow of history and lessons to be learned, not hatred.

  17. Konnichiwa Ben. I had been just watching TV and ustream whole 1 week, then reading Japanese blogs. Then slowly I started to go back to read other blogs. So sorry for late comment.

    Personally, I have negative thought about the Japanese flag, thinking what they have done under that flag during the war, thinking about the feeling when Asian victims see that flag.
    But when I have seen your banner on top, I was really touched and I felt heat on my heart. This banner and even picking this topic on your blog would encourage the Japanese who read here.

    I’m new to Canada, I noticed there’s kind of respectable feeling from Canadian (many ethnic) to Japanese. But I’m surprised again by watching Canadian TV news and also reading comments on this blog, that how they concerned about the disaster in Japan. I feel I have to try my best to behave right as a Japanese in abroad.

    Rebuilding the devastated towns is not easy, getting rid out of radioactive contamination is worse, and healing the survivor’s trauma from the losses will take longest time. But sure, they will be stronger.

  18. Hi Ben,

    I understand where you are coming from and my heart also goes out to the Japanese people.
    However, I am finding that people are forgetting or belittling past disasters. I can’t agree that no other nation has experienced such a catastrophic event. Looking back on horrors like the Indian Ocean tsunami and flood in Pakistan, I think it would be unwise to judge that other nations haven’t endured what Japan is undergoing right now. In those cases especially, the countries affected were already impoverished third world countries so they were much less capable of recovery than Japan.
    I only mean this out of respect and do not mean to offend you. I also pray that Japan will recover and rebuild quickly.

    1. Hi May: Noted. I do not disagree. Ben

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