Aisatsu Will Save You

Typically, at my daughter’s school culture festival, there is a skit about the atomic-boming of Hiroshima and its aftermath. I remember one year the message was the importance of “aisatsu,” or greetings. One should always greet one’s neighbors, otherwise, they might not help you out when you really need it. Getting along with and being friendly to the other people in your neighborhood just might save your life.

Coming most recently from South Carolina, where everybody waves at strangers in passing cars, I’m pretty good with greetings. I say “Ohayo gozaimasu!” even to the people who ignore me. And whenever I greet my neighbors, that message from my daughter’s culture festival pops into my head.

There have been articles in the newspaper about disaster-hit communities in northeastern Japan helping each other out, and I think that’s great. But what about those who were not welcomed into the communities?

According to a report from Kyodo News, there were probably about 2,500 Chinese and Vietnamese foreign trainees in Fukushima, as well as 1500 each in Miyagi and Iwate. Some were believed to have been employed in or around the coastal areas.

From the report:

“It seems especially difficult to determine what happened to those foreigners who were working at companies in the region after entering Japan as interns, said Megumi Sakamoto, a professor doing research at Fukushima University…Sakamoto said some employers didn’t want foreign trainees mixing with Japanese in their communities, a situation that resulted in interns feeling isolated or even unsure of their exact whereabouts.

“‘It is very hard to determine the location of such foreigners affected by this kind of massive disaster,’ Sakamoto said.”

One thought on “Aisatsu Will Save You

  1. I’ve been wondering where all the foreigners are too – the Chinese and other Asians rather than the high-profile European and Western ones whose flight was so well-documented! Are they welcome in the evacuation centres? Disasters bring out the best of people in that they open their hearts to other people, so I think in the immediate aftermath, the resuces and immediate help, there would be no distinction. But it will get harder and harder as time passes and cracks begin to show. I had an awful dream/waking dream in the middle of the night that aid would be divided along Juminhyo lines, with me forcibly separated from my family (since I’m not officially part of the family). I doubt that would happen since in many cases the actual city office was wiped out as well, but it was a deep-down fear that comes from the sense that however friendly and hospitable Japanese are, they never really consider you one of the group.

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