February 2017
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CNN blog featured an article “Why is there no looting in Japan?”

I started to think about the Japanese people and why the whole world is admiring them and learning so much from them during this tragic event.

Then I started asking the people around me – “Why is there no looting in Japan?”

Here are some answers that will help you understand and appreciate the Japanese people.

My husband:

He just smiled back and said , why are people so amazed… It is “atarimae”- meaning, it is natural. ( NOT to loot…)

Instead he posted the question back and me and said – Why should we loot? Why would people take advantage of this situation?

It is more amazing to hear that the world is “amazed” by something so natural.

An elderly man I met at the doctor’s clinic:

“That is “atarimae” he says again, that is within each Japanese”  “It is us, our nature.”  It is natural to line up.  It is natural to be patient.  It is natural “not to loot”.  It is nice to hear that people are admiring the Japanese for being themselves.

Two old women at the bread shop line:

I told them that the world is learning from Japan – and then I also asked them again the same question about looting. They said, ” Ehhhh, futsu deshou.” Translation… “Ahhh, that is just normal, or the regular thing to do.”

By this photo:

After the tsunami washed away these merchandise outside the Kirin factory, people were picking up the beer and putting them back. 


So here are other photos of “atarimae” things Japanese do:

I have always questioned my friends about lining up for a long time just to buy something, or to eat ramen, or even line up to buy a doughnut.  I did not like that idea of lining up , not until March 11, 2011 .  Now I get it , that this is part of being Japanese.  And that after all these years of being in Japan, I now understand and appreciate this concept of lining up.  🙂

After the earthquake, all trains stopped, and people had to line up at bus stations, taxi stands, and train stations. Thanks to AFP press for the photo

People lining up patiently.  This is just half of the line from the supermarket’s entrance near our place. Taken 4 days after the earthquake – March 15, 2011

Earthquake victims line up to buy their food.

 Patiently in line at the Immigration Office with all the foreigners.  When in Japan, do what … 

Thanks to  AP/ AFP/  Reuters / Jiji Press/ Yomiuri Shimbun for the great photos


I hope many people will learn to follow the discipline and the way of the Japanese people.

Let me end this by what my husband told me earlier.

“You cannot write about this because words are not enough to explain why Japanese do not loot or steal.  Stop watching the TV news, stand up and get out of that sofa , imagine standing in the middle of the earthquake and tsunami stricken area… you see families, children lost their parents, loved ones dead, their homes gone.  There are so many things around them – will you steal from them? ”

58 comments to “Atarimae”

  • Very timely article! Had a Japanese boss 10 years ago… Didn’t like his idea that the Philippines lag Japan by 25 years at least… Now, I know he is right!

  • K

    This is a character that the world needs. Sadly, my country is yet to learn this. But this is a sign of hope that this kind of discipline is possible.

  • E.T.

    I am from Cebu. Truly there is no reason to loot. Everybody is a looser. About the incident in Tacloban City, There were about 600 hardened criminals who were in jail and they were release from prison cell because there was no food to feed them. Maybe, it has come to the senses of the jail warden to avoid being questioned of human rights advocates. I believe the 600 probably led others to loot and the rest followers just to get a free ride of the situation. It is now hard to determine wHich one is a criminal because police records were also destroyed during the flood.
    Did people panic because of hunger? I don’t think so. It is more of an attitude problem. The people of Tacloban are not Cebuano people and they speak waray. It is a language maybe not understood by the majority of Filipinos.
    The day after the storm was over, there was already a report received from among the Cebu business people that the Gaisano Superstore was looted. If it is food, people can understand because they are hungry, but TV’s, Refrigerators and all non-food items were also looted. The following day after the typhoon, there was no fast craft available to Leyte but a day after, my brother and my son went to Ormoc in a 5:00 a.m. Trip just to deliver foodstuff and other essentials to our staff and they want to go to Tacloban to find another staff but they were also advice not to go to Tacloban for the news that they got of unruly people in the area.
    The looting aggravated the problem of relief operations for the volunteers and private citizen refuse to risk their life to impatient people.
    I know of many Cebuanos silently went to other parts of Leyte to bring relief goods for their relatives or arrange transportation to their friends and love ones to bring them to a temporary refuge in Cebu.
    The Japanese way of “ATARiMAE” makes help and relief operations in any disaster easy because their nature is so natural to respect others.
    “Atarimae” is Japanese way of life and everyone practice it.
    Let us all learn from the Japanese.

  • Narayan Thombare

    I think nature around Japan has taught them a lot. The country which lives with, daily hundreds of earth quakes (may be small or considerable) where life is at edge has taught them so many good things and do not forget Lord Budhha, whom they worship.

  • Farah Farah

    Thank you for all your comments. I did not know that this article was shared after the typhoon in the Philippines. I was surprised to see more than 50 new comments. God bless the Philippines. God bless Japan. God bless all nations around the world. God bless you all.

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