A Look At Why No Looting, Rioting In Japan

Anyone notice how there has been ABSOLUTELY NO REPORTS of looting or rioting on the streets in Japan like there certainly would be here in the good old overly liberal U S of A?

-Comment on unofficial Chicago Police Department blog Second City Cop

Japan is a mess. It’s suffered the world’s seventh most powerful earthquake (8.9 magnitude), a tsunami with a 23-foot wall of water, at least 10,000 fatalities, a nuclear power plant crisis requiring the evacuation of more than 180,000 nearby residents, and property and other losses amounting to as high as $35 billion according to one early estimate. Furthermore, millions of Japanese residents are struggling with dwindling supplies of food, water, and other necessities in the aftermath of the disaster. From the Associated Press’ Jay Alabaster yesterday:

Millions of Japanese were without drinking water or electricity Sunday, surviving on instant noodles and rice balls, two days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami hammered the northeastern coast, killing at least 1,000 people…

Thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers that were cut off from rescuers and aid. At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 2.5 million households were without electricity.

Large areas of the countryside were surrounded by water and unreachable. Fuel stations were closed and people were running out of gasoline for their cars.

Public broadcaster NHK said around 380,000 people have been evacuated to emergency shelters, many of them without power.

Despite all the misery, I can’t seem to find any reports of rioting or looting in Japan. First-hand accounts coming from ground-zero confirm the lack of unrest. From the London Evening Standard’s (UK) David Cohen this morning, reporting from the town of Hachinohe and Japan’s “coast of death”:

It is striking that there are no children crying and how orderly everything appears to be. Overall, there is an air of subdued calm and of people grimly adjusting to the new reality that their peaceful fishing town will never be the same again. When I ask how people are coping, the school’s headmaster , Mitsuhiko Shobuke, said: “Japanese people are enduring. It is not in our culture to express our sorrow or anger. We grin and bear it. There has been no looting and no riots here because in our culture we value order and dignity and we help each other. I am proud of how our people have behaved.”

About.com guide Linda Lowen, a Japanese-American, shed some light as to why there’s a lack of crime and civil unrest in post-disaster Japan. She wrote this morning:

Much is being made of the stoicism of the Japanese. The voiceovers of interpreters are slow, halting, unemotional as they translate clips from Japan’s public broadcasting network NHK. The NHK reports of survivors’ stories feel very neutral and detached compared to CNN’s viewer-generated i-Reports from Americans in Japan which frequently contain bleeped-out curse words. If the Japanese indicate distress, it’s mostly through wordless cries of “aaaah.” No repetitive swearing or excitement bordering on schadenfreude as was exemplified by one video taken by an American college student studying in Japan; he ran towards an oil refinery explosion with a video camera and emailed his clip to CNN which provided him his 15 minutes of fame.

This isn’t the sort of thing the majority of Japanese citizens would do. And anyone who’s spent time among the Japanese people can understand why.

We see subdued women and men on-camera talk about being swept away in the tsunami, husbands and wives and children torn from their grasp by the floodwaters, yet there’s no wild sobbing, no falling apart, no letting go. American reporters have been speculating as to when the Japanese will finally break and openly grieve, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. This is how the Japanese survive.

As much as I hate to admit it, I doubt many Americans, in the event of a similar disaster, would react in the same manner as the Japanese. Consider this. It’s been my experience that Americans are generally friendly and quick to help out family, friends- and even strangers. From USA TODAY contributor Alcestis “Cooky” Oberg back on November 23, 2010:

89% of U.S. households donate. America is the most generous nation on the planet, making up nearly half of the world’s total giving. The average American is 14 times more generous than the average European, because Americans see philanthropy as their individual responsibility, not as a governmental activity, as most Europeans do.

However, one only has to remember the civil unrest and violence that occurred during the 1992 Los Angeles riots and in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina to realize that a thin veneer of civilization exists in the United States.

“Crazy L.A. Gun Fight Erupts During Riot”
YouTube Video Link
(Editor’s note: Not affiliated with/supporter of AngryAnarchist.com)

It’s not a matter of if- but when– the United States suffers its next major disaster. And unfortunately, such events have been known to bring out the worst in a number of Americans.

When the crisis comes, will you behave like the Japanese- or take to the streets?

My advice is, put some time and effort into gathering some supplies now as part of a larger emergency preparedness kit to hopefully lessen your dependence on outside help and resources when a major disaster strikes- and avoid having to loot and/or riot. You’ll be glad you did some day.


Second City Cop. “Sneed Smoking Crack.” [Weblog Entry.] Second City Cop. 11 Mar. 2011. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2011/03/sneed-smoking-crack.html). 14 Mar. 2011.

Alabaster, Jay. “Millions without food, water after Japan quake.” Associated Press. 13 Mar. 2011. (http://www.suntimes.com/4292611-417/millions-without-food-water-after-japan-quake.html). 14 Mar. 2011.

Cohen, David. “Japan disaster: We are all terrified. There is no road map and we have no idea where we go from here.” London Evening Standard (UK). 14 Mar. 2011. (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23931825-japan-disaster-we-are-all-terrified-there-is-no-road-map-and-we-have-no-idea-where-we-go-from-here.do). 14 Mar. 2011.

Lowen, Linda. “Understanding Japanese Stoicism in the Face of Japan’s Devastating Earthquake and Tsunami.” About.com. 14 Mar. 2011. (http://womensissues.about.com/b/2011/03/14/understanding-japanese-stoicism-in-the-face-of-japans-devastating-earthquake-and-tsunami.htm). 14 Mar. 2011.

Oberg. Alcestis “Cooky.” “Thanks to the givers among us.” USA TODAY. 23 Nov. 2010. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-11-24-column24_ST_N.htm). 14 Mar. 2011.

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7 Comments to A Look At Why No Looting, Rioting In Japan

  1. […] attention to the lack of chaos and riots that have been associated with American disasters, Beck was silent.   Japan has suffered the world’s seventh most powerful earthquake, a tsunami with a 23 foot […]

  2. Glenn Beck’s Japanese “Pulp Fiction” Moment « Malia Litman's Blog on March 16th, 2011
  3. As a liberal I find the “good old liberal USA” comment a laugh. I WISH we were as liberal as Japan! For instance they have common sense gun control and universal health care and no Christians telling them to vote for Republicans. Not a lot of Christians at all to speak of. Could that be why they are better behaved, no Jesus? Probably a Christian would find this offensive well no more than blaming “liberals” for every incident of looting. Ridiculous.

  4. Katie on March 16th, 2011
  5. Thanks for the comment Katie. Yeah, just as race has nothing to do with one’s disposition for looting and rioting, political views don’t have anything to do with it either. Goofy comment on the Second City Cop blog, but I thought it made an interesting lead-in for the rest of the post material.

  6. Editor on March 16th, 2011
  7. The frog and the scorpion.

  8. BlackCat on March 20th, 2011
  9. Thanks for the comment BlackCat.

    “The frog and the scorpion.”

    Nice one. Never heard of this particular fable.

  10. Editor on March 22nd, 2011
  11. After watching the riot and looting in Vancouver few days ago, I am just totally disappointed and devastated at the morality of some people; I can’t imagine what would have happened to Vancouver if there was a natural disaster like Japan. Although some people may argue that the Japanese suppress their feelings too much, but sometimes being overly expressive of your feelings really leads the society into chaos. The Western society is well known for its humane and moral education on children, and I am shocked that there are some many uneducated and uncivilized teenagers, or even adults stripping all morality aside to commit acts to destroy their own city, hurt innocent people and steal. Is exploitation in Capitalism the cause of all this? Is the gap between the rich and poor too wide that people need to unleash their animal instincts to express themselves? I think one point to add is that in the Japanese educational system, they not only learn to protect their country, but also to be respectful, humble and show courtesy and give a helping hand to others in need, and to share in times of trouble. When the majority of people are educated this way, a few trouble makers cannot stir the crowd to follow, which is what is exactly lacking in other countries when brainless idiots follow the few starters into doing stupid things. Without proper education, no matter how much food is stocked up will not prevent the city from burning in flames and chaos in a state of emergency.

    James @ http://www.sjandfriends.com

  12. James on June 19th, 2011
  13. Thanks for the comment James

  14. Editor on June 23rd, 2011

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