I was asked to make some opening remarks for this Symposium held at Sheffield University on how the Tsunami had affected me personally, as it had prompted me to get back in touch with Japan, get involved with JETAAUK and ultimately start up my own business relating to Japan. I also spoke about how it was viewed by the rest of the world by bringing in observations from people I have spoken to with no knowledge of Japanese society-how they viewed the Japanese people’s reaction to a crisis, the behaviour of whom was viewed as quite unusual such as the relative law and order and resilience that was still evident even in a time of crisis. I referenced the somewhat fatalistic Japanese spirit of “gamman” meaning to persevere or stick with it, something that people from more individualistic cultures find hard to understand let alone practise. Although there are negative sides to this mentality sometimes resulting in a tendency to not complain and put up with things that are not acceptable at all to avoid the shame of being seen to not being able to practise “gamman”, it did show the world the indomitable spirit of Japan that has stuck with many observers.
At this symposium, we also got to hear from fantastic PhD students who were doing research in areas that linked into the topic such as the nuclear debate and the planning of playgrounds in the affected areas to support the children. Some of the staff from the University are directly involved in implementing these play areas and the clean up of the Nuclear Plant in Fukushima. We also heard from Japanese representatives from Mitsubishi Research Institute and the University of Tokyo about the rehabilitation efforts that are still on-going in these areas.