The weekend papers and the daily News is still full of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It looks as though there will be at least 10,000 dead. I have the deepest sympathy for the victims of this calamity although, to be absolutely frank, I’ve never warmed to the Japanese as a race. They do, as we all know, have Â facial similarity to the Chinese and indeed use the same Chinese characters in their writing but that, to my mind, is where the similarity ends. Where the Chinese, that I have met, have been warm and kind-hearted I have not had the same feeling towards the very few Japanese that I’ve come across. I may be very unfair to the Japanese as a race like only speak as I find.
I’ve only been to Japan once, to my recollection, and that was to Tokyo to stay a cousin of Aliceâ€™s, Robin Hare-Duke, the British Council. Robin and Yvonne had five children, four boys and a girl, all, except young Giles, were reaching that age when the hormones were rising and they were interested in the opposite sex. As a result three of them married Japanese and I’m sorry to say that, certainly in at least two of the cases, it Â really didn’t work out. I do remember sitting with the young Giles, as he was then, watching sumo wrestling on the television, and the young lad explaining the finer points of what seemed to me to be a ridiculous struggle to buy one extremely fat man trying to push another equally morbidly obese man out of a small ring. These monstrously overfed giants enjoyed the same hero status as our top footballers.Â My only recollection of the city itself was of an extremely busy anthill type of place with wires and poles everywhere carrying electric cables. This, no doubt was terribly distorted view of perhaps one street or other other of course, and was over 50 years ago. AI believe Tokyo is now a very beautiful modern city. Fortunately it was spared in this latest disaster.
What a pity there the modern world engulfed the traditional Japanese method of building exquisitely lightweight bamboo paper buildings, which of course would be unaffected by earthquakes or if they were, easily reconstructed.. Even palaces were built that way before it became necessary to start building massive stone and brick concrete tower blocks, albeit on a sort of rubbery springs which was meant to save them against the hundreds of minor earthquake they suffer from every year.
When Robin retired they came to live relatively close to us in the Sudbury, Suffolk near the beautiful Cavendish. Sadly neither of them lasted very long time and the young scattered to various parts of the world and even two of those have subsequently died.