One of the best earthquake/post-quake stories I have heard comes from my good friend, Debra Bajaj.
It seems that her upstairs neighbor in her building had arranged for her child go on a play-date to Kidzania on March 11th. For those of you who don’t know, Kidzania is a wonderland. Kids can pretend to have jobs, earn and spend money, and learn about a slice of life in a playful way. Kids of all ages and nationalities just love it. Since it was a day off for the elementary kids at the American School in Japan (ASIJ) it was a no-brainer. Well, the child and the parent and the group of kids who were at Kidzania, were inside at the time of the quake. Kidzania is in a big building, and they asked everyone outside and onto the roof after the quake.
I cannot begin to fathom the anxiety felt by the parents who brought the children to Kidzania that day. Between being very cold and very hungry, I am sure it was a nightmare. Later, they left and they got into the car to drive home. Driving was also a complete nightmare with tons of painful traffic. Through all of this, Debra’s neighbor was receiving updates about her child and knew all was well.
Finally, when she knew the car full of children had made it to Omotesando, a trendy area of Tokyo not too far from where they live, Debra’s neighbor and her husband went downstairs to Debra’s apartment and asked to borrow her bicycle. The reason they specifically wanted Debra’s bike is because it has a seat on the back for the child. Debra is a generous human being – of course she wanted her friends to take the bike and get their child!
In the course of getting into Omotesando, apparently Debra’s neighbor’s husband parked the bike to find the child. When he went back for the bike, it was not where he left it. It was gone. Again, I can’t imagine the angst. First and foremost that doesn’t happen in Japan. Things don’t just disappear – they don’t get stolen. The crime rate is ridiculously low. And secondly, now they were in a pickle because they had lost a friend’s bike, not even their own. And then they had to get home – most likely on foot. There wasn’t a taxi around that would take a fare.
Deb wasn’t worried when they returned home bike-less. It’s just so Debra – as long as her friend and the child were okay, she was okay.
Not too many days later, Debra left for the US for a few weeks. Right after she left, her husband got a call from a random Japanese woman. They had found the bike.
In Japan, all bikes are registered, and Debra’s is no exception, so it wasn’t hard to find her. The woman had found the bike, knew it belonged to someone who used it regularly, and set out to find its owner. Just last week, Debra and her neighbor went out together to get the bike from where this woman had been storing it.
Luckily, her neighbor, who is Japanese and obviously knows Japanese tradition, brought a gift with them for this woman. It turns out that the woman had taken exquisite care of the bicycle. It was cleaned and kept under cover. The child’s helmet had been cleaned and Deb’s daughter’s headband was right where she had left it in the basket. Yep, it had been lovingly cared for. Debra gratefully gave the woman the wrapped Japanese cookies, a very appropriate gift for the occasion.
This is a classic Japan story. People here take care of each other and each other’s things. They find things that have been lost and they return them. They typically don’t steal. I’m convinced the bike was “borrowed” for an emergency, but that when it was left, it was with the knowledge that it would be returned somehow to its rightful owner.
It is these stories that remind me how much I love it here.