The Scribbler

17 March 2011

Unexpected kindness – a memory of Japan

Filed under: Japan,Parkrun,run — The Scribbler @ 20:04
Tags: , , , , ,
origami crane

Origami crane

I first visited Japan in the spring of 2007 on a journey to see the cherry blossom. One day, as we were travelling by train, a young man carrying a backpack approached us. He held out his hand and showed us the origami crane nestled in his palm and asked if we would like to learn to make one.

He sat down beside us and started to show us the simple folds on a piece of origami paper. We learned his name was Tsetsuo and he liked to talk to practice his English.

He told us a great deal about the place we were travelling to, a little about himself and how Japanese people learn English in school, but how many are afraid of making mistakes when they speak it. We told him about our wonderful travels so far, the amazing food, sights and scenes we had already enjoyed.

When we got off the train, he walked us over to a tram stop and made sure we reached our destination. It was one of many, many acts of kindness and hospitality on our trip.

But what makes it so memorable is our destination that day. We were travelling to Hiroshima to visit the Peace museum that tells the story of the atomic bomb attack on the city.

Hiroshima. The word itself stops you as dead as the watch we saw forever stalled at 08:15, when the explosion obliterated the city.

It’s a word tinged with sadness. A word that reflects the worst of what we, as human beings, can do to each other.

But it can also reflect the best of people. Through the kindness of Tsetsuo. He knew his city was a hard place to visit. And that was why he took such care to welcome us. To honour our interest in his home town and help us see the smiles beyond the suffering.

It’s hard to imagine when you see the pictures and the models of what was left after the blast and read the stories of the fires, the water shortages and the desperate human suffering that resulted from the attack, but Hiroshima was rebuilt.

As we learned in the museum, in only a few days the trams began to run again and despite all the fears that nothing would ever grow again in that irradiated earth, lilies bloomed between the tracks.

The A-Bomb dome, the building that marks the epicentre of the bomb blast remains a ruined shell. A memorial so that no one ever forgets what happened there. But the gentle resilience and respect means the people of Hiroshima were, in time, able to move on.

That’s what gives me hope and faith that despite the current, unimaginable horrors caused by the earthquake and tsunami, Japan and Japanese people will endure and rebuild. They will do it quietly, gracefully and humbly.

They are well equipped and better organised to deal with such disasters than most. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel for the kindness of those who made us feel so welcome, and shared their culture with us.

So I’ll do what I can in a small way. On Saturday I’ll run my local parkrun and dedicate those few miles to Run for Japan, making a donation to the British Red Cross Appeal.

It may feel like a small thing, but small things matter. In Japanese culture, the degree of your bow can show the level of respect you offer to the person you are greeting. My gesture may be small, but my bow is deep.

The BBC’s Rachel Harvey captures brilliantly the hope and resilience that remains in Japan today:



  1. Lovely writing as always – I hope you enjoy your run on Saturday. A great cause.


    Comment by Sue Tylcoat — 17 March 2011 @ 20:19 | Reply

  2. […] have something to look forward to though – my friend The Scribbler mentioned on her blog that she is doing a Run for Japan this weekend. How good is that! I am going to do the same. […]


    Pingback by Holiday Resumed « Chocolate Fuelled — 12 August 2011 @ 09:56 | Reply

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