Explaining Japanese ‘Good Behaviour'

A report in Slate looks into why there has been so little looting in Japan since the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis. Looting is a common problem in most countries after major disasters, but observers have noted the lack of it in Japan since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit more than a fortnight ago. Moreover, the Japanese reaction has been typified by a sense of calm and community support. It begs the question, are the Japanese innately more polite than other societies or cultures?

It turns out that the difference in Japan’s post-catastrophe behaviour is three-fold: “a robust system of laws that reinforce honesty, a strong police presence, and, ironically, active crime organizations.” The article quotes Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice and a guest of last year’s Melbourne Writers Festival. Commenting on the role the yakuza play in maintaining social order, Adelstein notes the major yakuza gangs have “compiled squads to patrol the streets of their turf and keep an eye out to make sure looting and robbery doesn’t occur”.

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