Who was being kind to whom?

Serendipitously following last month’s post by my friend about kindness around the world, I am indeed on holiday in Canada during this next posting, which I have asked my associate, Cesar Balota, to contribute in my absence.

In August, I volunteered for a 2-week mission to provide cheer to lonely displaced survivors still living in temporary housing (kasetsus) all along the Iwate cost. In other words, I was supposed to be a part of the kind party.

Yet, things turned out very differently. Oh sure, we did do what was requested of us – including leading sing-alongs, preparing simple Singapore-style meals at mobile caf├ęs, providing material for and guiding interesting craft activities, and even learning to do hand massages for the mostly elderly participants in our daytime programs.

But we found ourselves not just witnessing, but being on the receiving end of many kindnesses.

The local workers we were meant to be assisting, were so solicitous in making sure that we could actively interact despite our language handicap. They also trained us in skills we previously didn’t have.

Miyako City on the coast, population 60,000, is where the tsunami came in highest at 39+ meters. Miyako has 60 kasetsu communities with a total of 2,000 units. This man, our main coordinating partner on the coast, visits them so regularly (with or without us volunteers) that I could see an obvious warmth as the kasetsu residents greet him.

For that matter, even residents whose dwellings survived not just opened up to him, but offered regular help. This craftsman has hospitably made the entire upper floor of his house-cum-workshop available as sleeping quarters, and has so far hosted 300+ volunteers these last 2 years.

The residents themselves were not just appreciative, some went out of their way to tell us how much our visits meant to them and changed their outlook in life despite the spartan temporary living conditions they were in. This particular lady even boiled edamame and cooked tempura for us.

While this man invited us over – twice – for him to brew gourmet coffee for us at the end of our long working days.

The stories and images of gracious behaviour in the immediate aftermath of the 3/11 disaster 2 years ago are well known. Now, I have first-hand experience of Japanese kindness and graciousness that will stay in my heart, and which I’ll hopefully emulate.



  1. Hi Dr Wan, Mr Anton Casey is a father. As parent, we have responsibilities and model to our kids. There is a saying, "We reap what we sow." The net is a free place and it is natural that people will make all sorts of comments. Especially when Singapore is such a conservative society, it is logical that Mr Casey's action caused so much bad feedback.

  2. New Year celebration is the name of love, joy, success, care, motivation and fun. China is the country where people enjoy new year with these define motives every year.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Is priority/reserved seat an entitlement?

Neighbours by Chance, Friends by Choice

Kindness on the Roads