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Moral and Social roots of Japans Disaster Response

World Press Examines the Moral & Social Roots of Japan’s Disaster Response

Mar 28th, 2011 • Posted in: News

Also, some in press ponder the semantic difference between looting and taking things necessary to survive



A moral subtext to the devastation in Japan emerged again last week as the world press examined whether the Japanese cultural taboo on theft would withstand wrenching deprivation.

The Agence France-Presse reports that there have been scattered incidents of looting from abandoned stores and homes.

But theft still remains a rarity in Japan, where “where police crack down hard on petty crime and residents are rewarded with a finder’s fee for returning lost or stolen items,” writes the AFP’s Olivia Hampton. “Tales of misplaced wallets being returned are legendary.”

Nations around the world have noted that the chaos and pillaging that erupted after other natural disasters are notably absent in Japan, reports the Week, with people forming long, orderly lines while awaiting distribution of food and water.

According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Michelle Richmond, global press reports indicate that the few incidents of thefts that have occurred in Japan tended to target necessities in short supply, such as food and gasoline.

Moreover, Richmond raises both a semantic and an ethical question in her piece: “Can it be considered looting if hungry, thirsty people are taking food, water, and blankets in order to feed their children and families and stay warm and sheltered? Is it looting if they are only taking what is necessary to survive? While taking food and water after a natural disaster may qualify as ’stealing,’ it isn’t on par with looting, which Wikipedia helpfully classifies as ’sacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging.’”


This article focuses on Japans response when faced with an enormous disaster. The Japanese people banded together and were orderly through the whole conflict up till now. Hardly any looting or stealing has taken place and like the article states, they formed neat and orderly lines. This is a far cry from what happened down in New Orleans when Katrina hit. The ethics of the Japanese people seem to be very inline with what there culture deems socially acceptable. 

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