POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 6, 2011
In recognizing the urgent need of relief aid for victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster, there should be an understanding of Japanese culture in order to fundraise locally in a sensitive and respectful manner.
Though many here are of Japanese decent, the cultural understanding of their background is not intact. But regardless of ethnicity, many in Hawaii who are potential donors to the Japan relief aid need to be aware of how to sensitively raise urgently needed donation money.
Traditionally, Japanese culture is humble and collective-minded. There is a strong emphasis on “gamman” which is to hold on, persevere and just push through hard times without complaining, as well as a fatalistic attitude of “shoganai” — as in, there is nothing one can do to reverse the circumstances, so just willingly accept your fate.
This may be misinterpreted by American or other cultures as cold or unemotional, but it is simply a perspective that enables the Japanese people to be incredibly strong and able to overcome the worst of times. These traditional attitudes, however, do not discount the Japanese people’s need for aid in this time of crisis, nor their true human emotions of sadness and despair.
On the issue of sensitively raising donation money: To have party-like events where people are drinking, dancing, enjoying live music and having a good time while raising money for Japan would be considered inappropriate by most Japanese nationals at this early stage of the disaster.
Alternatives to partylike events might be more formal gathering: perhaps a silent auction or something that incorporates noble Japanese traditions, like tea ceremony, or simply focusing more on informing our community and pursuing donations via reliable online nongovernmental organization sites, through personal and community social networks.
The bottom line, though, is that donations are still needed. According to a recent USA Today article: “Charities in the U.S. have raised $49 million for the Japanese cause in the six days since the tsunami hit — a small percentage compared with other recent disasters that caught worldwide attention.”
There are several factors for the lack of donation response.
One is the perception of Japan as a rich country.
Another is that the media are not fully portraying the actual human suffering that is occurring, but instead are provoking fear of nuclear radiation.
As a community here in Hawaii with strong roots and active connections to Japan, we have a responsibility to donate out of compassion, sympathy and true concern.
We can lead as an example to the rest of the U.S. and the world in how to respond respectfully and donate generously.