3/13/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy TamaBrett ~
It's Sunday evening and I'm sitting in my Tokyo apartment taking a break from cleaning up the mess and watching the news. They are going through each town in the north listing the number of people, dead, missing, and in evacuation centres; thousands and thousands of people.
Firstly, I'm fine and everyone I know is fine. When the earthquake hit I was in a convenience store getting lunch and I was quite oblivious to how bad it was. Back at the office it looked like a bomb had gone off. Our company is a telecommunications company so part of essential infrastructure, and we had to get back to work straight away. Just like millions of others, I had to walk home, but only 4 kilometres and up 13 flights of stairs. In my apartment a bookcase fell over scattering books and CDs, but no damage at all. Tokyo got off pretty lightly, for us it was basically just a transport inconvenience.
But this isn't about me.
Japan is one of the most atheist countries in the world and that's one of the reasons I feel so comfortable about living here. If you ask, most Japanese will say they are Buddhists but that's really because they feel the need to give an answer; most Japanese are completely irreligious. At the beginning of the year most Japanese will go to a Shinto shrine to offer a prayer and funerals are Buddhist but I feel these are simply cultural constructs. People have a vague idea of an immortal soul and that's about it.
So how do such irreligious people handle such great stress as a massive earthquake? They help each other with kindness and absolute sincerity. There are already stories of great bravery emerging and countless acts of selfless giving and no one talking about appealing to Jesus to give them strength.
The walk home was a strange experience. It's like the crowd leaving a sports stadium or concert, large numbers of people walking off in the same direction except it goes on, and on for tens of kilometres out to the outer suburbs, millions of people on the move. Along the way there were police calling out to see if anyone was in trouble or stressed, shops had stalls out the front giving out free water, coffee and tea and offering the use of facilities. It's winter, and it was around 4 degrees Celsius. People were offering blankets and jackets to complete strangers. Adults asked high school students if they were OK and offered a few thousand yen ($20) to buy food if they needed it. Of course not everyone can walk such great distances but the local evacuation centres were already staffed and people were invited inside for a short rest or to stay overnight if necessary. Parents knew their children would be safely looked after at their schools.
Of course in the north where entire communities were devastated the same things are happening but with more gravity. We, the members of ExChristian.Net know that this is simply people doing what people do. They are helping their family, neighbours and complete strangers simply because they are human. Furthermore, with the lack of divisive religious factions there is no “us” and there is no “them” to fear.
Japan is proof that a country doesn't need religion to have a soul.