Thursday, March 17, 2011
I read a story this week about how surprised the world is that there is no looting practiced in Japan. Maybe the following memory can be illustrative.
Kanazawa, Japan is a city famous for its gold leaf production and lacquer boxes. Nestled on the Southwest coast of Japan, its dormant trees and shrubbery were still held up tight in their hemp trusses above the lingering patches of snow on this brisk day in March 1986.
I had been walking one of many ancient Buddhist temple grounds with my friend Paul. There on the path ahead us were a couple thousand paper yen shuffling along the way. In Japan my dollars didn't buy very much as the yen was worth ever so much more than the dollar. So I of course, stepped ahead to retrieve the escaping booty when I felt my arm abruptly jerked back. Paul had reached out with the hook handle of his umbrella handle and stopped me a La the Gong show. "What are you doing,'' I asked? "That money isn't yours," said Paul. "But......" I said.
We sat down on a gnarled burl bench at Paul's direction. "Watch and learn." That money trampled its way and continued to be ignored as it blew off into its oblivion. There is little if any theft in Japan. Paul began to explain that transportation companies find it very hard to return lost sweaters, purses, umbrellas, hats and cameras behind. Items left behind just pile up where they are left. It is such a problem that after a while they are discarded, not auctioned. The ethic is...... If it's not yours to begin with, you have no right to it. An ethic the rest of us might wish to consider.
Paul and his wife Susan were just in Boise this past summer. We had a wonderful picnic dinner one evening down at the Idaho Power Swan Falls Dam park. Paul teaches English in Japan, now in a place I fear was in harm's way. I called Paul and Susan after the earth quake. They still haven't returned my call.
Thoughts about the rambling yen, Paul and Susan and the plight of my Japanese friends awakened me this morning. If I found that money today, I would pick them up, fold them into little bows and tie them to the tree branches, as is the temple practice of little prayers left behind.
All my best,