Tuesday, December 3, 2013
"We were working at the factory when we saw the smoke rising above Osaka. Huge clouds of it, the whole city was on fire.
"The factory we had been pressed into working at was Army, so we had huge stockpiles of rice. We were immediately ordered to start cooking it for the people of Osaka, and made a line. One boy would scoop rice into the next boy's hands; he would mold it a little, then pass it to the next boy, who would do the same, as would the 4th. The last boy would take the finished rice balls, which were about softball sized, and put them in pallets for loading on large trucks.
"My friend, S--, snuck one rice ball out, for we were very hungry. We five sat around looking at it for a long time; no one wanted to be the first to reach for it. After a long time, it was put back on the truck."
This story, told to me this week by my older student, says so much about the Japanese character. They were young men, boys, really, who were barely surviving on severely reduced rations near the end of the war, yet they did not eat the rice ball, because it was for others who needed it even more.
After the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, there was no looting. People waited in line calmly for their rations. People would go out to where their homes used to stand, and start digging through the rubble. Often their own home was completely gone, the rubble was stuff that had been deposited there by the retreating wave. These people would start digging through the rubble, and would make 2 piles: their possessions and other people's possessions. They did not keep things that didn't belong to them, no matter how useful they might have been.