Ganbare, Nippon!
Illustration: Phil Couzens


A salute to the Japanese strength of character, discipline, & resilience in the face of disaster and adversity (HRA Editorial - April 2011)

By Jun Kabigting, Chief Community Officer, The Japan HR Society and Managing Director, HR Central K.K.

March 11, 2011, 2:46pm will forever live in the hearts and memories of every person living in Japan and elsewhere.

It's because it was the day and time that Japan was struck by the most powerful earthquake in her recorded history. Measuring 9.0 in magnitude, it triggered a series of tsunamis and strong aftershocks, devastating a number of towns and provinces in its wake, and even crippled a nuclear power plant in Fukushima which put Japan and her people in a state of suspended crisis as the possibility of a nuclear meltdown lingers in the horizon.

And as Japan and the world watched in utter disbelief the massive loss of life, property, and dreams this triple-whammy of a disaster has brought upon this nation, one can't help but ask the question if Japan can survive this disaster and regain its rightful and dignified place in the concert of nations.

Will Japan survive the crisis?

My answer is an unequivocal "YES." Japan will not only survive this crisis, but moreover thrive in it and become a stronger nation from this experience primarily because of the Japanese strength of character, discipline, and resilience even in the worst national tragedy she suffered from nature.

As a foreigner myself, I have been a silent witness to these Japanese traits in action. I remember that soon after the earthquake when all hell can break loose, I saw people not panicking and running amok but people who were falling in line to catch a bus or taxi, patiently walking to their own homes, and maintaining a discipline that is distinctively Japanese. Yes, you read it right. No riots. No looting. No civil disturbance. No blaming. No finger pointing. Just helping and reaching out.

But what impressed me most was the way the entire nation bonded together and calmly dealt with the immediate effects of the earthquake like tsunamis, floods, fires, and deaths. Even as of this writing, Japan is still not out of danger as the threat of a nuclear meltdown is still up in the air, yet these traits are still very much alive and part of the Japanese cultural fabric. Japan and her people have exhibited what I can only call “grace under pressure (or disaster)” and with such dignity that it captured the hearts and love of people worldwide.

The World Reached Out to Japan

For single moment in time, the world stopped and reached out to Japan in as many ways as it could…big and small, individuals and governments, black and white, religious and not, offered prayers, financial assistance, sent rescue missions and crisis experts, raised funds, and many more! Even Lady Gaga made a prayer band where all proceeds of the sale are supposed to be donated to the victims of the quake.

Local Acts, Real Heroes

On the home front, the Japanese spirit of brotherhood, volunteerism, and oneness continue to astound me. Various stories of people, business organizations, and local governments reaching out and going out of their ways to extend a helping hand and somehow ease the burden of their compatriots dominate the news in print, broadcast, and Internet media. But what I really find very heart-warming was the selfless and almost unbelievable kindness of ordinary Japanese citizens such as:

- Ramen or noddle shop owners opening their shops to offer FREE (yes, as in zero yen!) bowls of hot ramen noodles to quake survivors, which must have been a heaven-sent to those who haven’t had any single descent hot meal for days after the quake;
- Brave acts of drivers to risk their own safety and transport much needed food, water, and gasoline supply to evacuation centers;
- Untiring, 24/7 work of medical staff such as nurses and doctors who still carried out their duty to save lives even under tents and dark rooms;
- Individual families “adopting” quake survivors and offering their houses as temporary homes so that the survivors can have a warm and more comfortable place to live in;
- Elementary, high school, and college students soliciting donations for the quake victims in front of train stations in the middle of the winter season;
- And the list goes on….

These actions were never instructed by the government, and neither did they expect any form of compensation or reward in doing so. They are simply acts of love, oneness, and the Japanese view of humanity itself.

JHRS Response to the Crisis

A day after the earthquake, The Japan HR Society or JHRS ( created a special section in its website called The JHRS Quake Center 2011 ( serve as a resource for its members and the general public to help them manage through the crisis.

The Center consists of the following:

- JHRS HR Help Line ( To help Japan HR professionals address not only the immediate but also the mid to long-term HR impact of the disaster to the business and their employees;

- JHRS Earthquake Message Board ( To provide an opportunity for other HR professionals around the world to reach out and express their thoughts of care and oneness to their fellow HR professionals in Japan;

- PersonFinder ( A useful tool to look for someone in Japan or to provide information about someone in Japan;

- JHRS Quake Resource Download Center ( Contains downloadable resources that other JHRS members and the general public have willingly shared for other people’s use;

- JHRS Radiation Watch( Closely tracks the developments of the ongoing nuclear plant incident and the ensuing radiation scare;

- Ganbare, Japan! Videos ( Contains carefully-selected, inspiring videos to help uplift the spirit of Japan and her people.

Quo Vadis, Japan HR Pros?

So where do we go from here? As Japan HR professionals, we are by no means spared from our sacred obligation to help Japan in its national re-building. In fact, I firmly believe that Japan HR professionals will even play a greater role in this task. The HR strategies, plans, and programs that we will create moving forward for our companies and employees will significantly contribute to the core of Japan’s national revival.

HR professionals like you are not only tasked to come up with your organization’s Disaster or Crisis Management & Recovery Plans or Business Continuity Plans but equally important is the need to put in place HR programs that can respond to the short to long-term care needs of your affected employees now and even for future emergencies. However, the biggest contribution that I believe Japan HR professionals can make is to help ensure that their organizations are profitable so as to promote further economic growth and spur job creation. It is in this light that our duty to become a business partner is once again being called upon. The question now is, are you ready to respond to this challenge?

I hope you are.

Ganbare,Nippon! Ganbare, Japan HR pros!

Be safe and stay informed.

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