Saturday, May 21, 2011

21/05 VOX POPULI: Yearning for comfort of family life in dark post-disaster days

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.


We obviously don't want to be alone when we are lost in the mountains, but that's not the only occasion when we feel very alone.

Roaming the streets of Tokyo the other night, darkened to conserve power, it hit me that we humans are animals that crave company.

Many people were thumbing their mobile phones, apparently for the comfort of being connected with someone anytime, anywhere.

Something of a "marriage boom" is said to have been triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Reportedly, the number of people signing up with marriage arrangement agencies or requesting brochures has spiked lately, even though the agencies have been advertising less than before the quake.

Also, many people are said to be leaving these agencies after finding marriage partners.

Media reports say it's mostly women who are taking the initiative to seek permanent partners.

Living alone in fear of aftershocks, outages and radiation must be trying even on people who are used to the loneliness of life in the big cities.

On the night of the quake, they walked for hours to get home, where there was nobody waiting for them.

I am not surprised that they have come to yearn for the sort of contentment that comes from the easy intimacy of family life.

A well-known piano tuner once wrote, "Rocking and shaking won't really affect pianos, but fluctuations in temperatures and humidity will mess them up immediately."

I guess we are like pianos. Tremors we can somehow live with, but we feel deep unease over society's changed atmosphere since the March 11 disaster.

Each of us seems to be searching for a private "tuner" who can fix the problem.

In the United States, mini-baby booms are invariably reported after massive blackouts, catastrophes and terrorist attacks.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of those reports, but I suppose any harrowing event makes people yearn for the warmth of human intimacy.

Singles become determined to find prospective spouses, dating couples decide to get married, and young married people ... well, they make babies.

When society is bleak and people's nerves are frayed, they apparently seek shelter in the comfort of family life.

More than 10,000 lives were lost instantaneously in spring 2011.

The current marriage boom in this period of national mourning comes across to me like an attempt to make up for the lives lost.

It may be an exaggeration to say that the human instinct for self-perpetuation of the species has kicked in.

But I welcome this phenomenon anyway if the curse of March will become a blessing and help fix our country's low birthrate problem.

Our country is not going to die away.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 20

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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