Japan after the earthquake – a cultural expert’s view

March 11th, 2011

Boston University anthropology professor Merry White, an authority on Japanese culture and society, offers the following cultural view of the earthquake in Japan and its aftermath:

“This event will have a profound effect. Japan is no stranger to calamities and disaster has special, if not unique, meaning there. People have been waiting for The Big One, another Tokyo earthquake, since 1923 when Tokyo was flattened.

“The Kobe earthquake in 1995 had a profound effect because of lack of government preparedness and the immediate civilian response of students and workers. Now the army is immediately there.

“And we mustn’t forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The mantra is ‘we are a narrow island country with little or no natural resources.’ There is a sense of national vulnerability, fragility. Moms make padded earthquake helmets for school kids and homes and all have earthquake emergency kits.”

Contact Merry White, 617-353-7711, corky@bu.edu

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