Saturday, March 26, 2011

disasters haven't dampened japan's predilection for the weird

I'm not gonna lie. I love Japan. You might even say I'm a Japanophile. But I also hate disaster porn. Ever since 9/11 the American media has fallen in love with the gratuitous, the spectacle of tragedy. 24/7 cable news coverage thrives on the continuous "coverage" by manufacturing the unfolding of an "event." But enough meta-media commentary...

I've been more interested in the trickles of information that have come through showing how Japan is coping in the wake of the quake, tsunami, nuclear reactor trifecta. Instead of a rolling counter of dead bodies and CGI effects projecting worse case scenarios, Japan (not just the government but the nation) has rallied to overcome. Western news agencies have taken the opportunity to emphasis the exotic other-ness of Japan: look how orderly they line up to buy food, gas, etc.; there is no looting in Tokyo.

Here's some interesting bits you may not have heard.

Immediately after the quake and tsunami, the Yakuza opened up their dormitories to the public, making sure people had a safe place to sleep. They were shipping in food by the ton to make sure people were fed. They even helped keep order on the street where Japanese police weren't able to maintain their normal omni-presence.

Too often, we don't really think about how scary it must be for young children caught in such disasters. Japan didn't forget. In the aftermath, Japan's super heroes began tweeting encouraging messages to their young followers. You think twitter is lame. I think it may have helped keep up the flagging spirits of an entire generation.

How do you explain what's going on with the damaged nuclear reactors to a young child? With a cartoon about farts and poo. One thing I'd like to point out that just because something is animated doesn't mean it's childish. In Japan, cutesy, cartoon mascots explain everything from quarantine procedures at the airport to the weather report. The strict segregation of childish from adult in cartoons, comics, and cute mascots prevalent in America and much of the world doesn't prevail in Japan. Enjoy this cartoon. And let's hope Nuclear Boy doesn't poo in the classroom.

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