Japan Society of Fairfield County

Culture Watch, Society Watch (18)
by Dr. Ikuko Anjo Jassey

     When I stepped into the store, I saw an abundance of quilts varying in sizes, patterns, and colors, which were made by Amish and Mennonites, piled up all over the floor and busily hung on the walls. We heard women's voices upstairs, presumably making quilts together. On the counter near the entrance door, I noticed a cash register and then, a computer next to it! It is certain that modern technology has been invading Amish society about half a mile from Intercourse in Lancaster County outside Philadelphia. Still, their lives looked very quiet and peaceful with the sound of horse hoofs, the smell of manure, and the wintry scenery of vast farmlands in early March. A sales aide of the store was a twentyish woman wearing a light blue long skirt reaching her ankles, a white long-sleeved blouse, and a white cap with straps tied under her chin. Each of those apparels is simple in style with no ruffles or embroidery. She was not certainly bombarded with information of outside worlds, including "Japan" because her response sounded a little bit lost when my husband talked about our trip to Japan. Perhaps, she had never heard even the names of "Toyota" or "Honda" since they did not own a car. Still, there was one time that her face shone up and her voice got excited. It was when she heard that our friends for whom we were looking for a quilt were farmers--strawberry farmers. While talking with the young woman, I felt something similar to what I had experienced in the Japanese countryside up until the mid 1960s: Simplicity in life style, quietness in the environment, relaxation in pace, and networks of reciprocal assistance in a community.
      The tragic incident that happened last October in this Amish community is still fresh in our minds. In summary, a non-Amish man--a truck driver delivering milk to this community--shot ten Amish girls in a school house, resulting in five to death and five to injury, and then he committed suicide. According to TV and newspapers, what became a trigger to this incident was his belief that his first child's death was God's punishment for his violating two of his minor relatives when he was young. It is reported that since the death of the baby-child, he had hatred of God and himself. However, this shocking event did not close its curtain, leaving people residing inside and outside the Amish community simply with tragic and gruesome feelings.
      The families, whose children were killed, invited the predator's wife to their children's funeral and offered money they collected to support her and her children who had now lost their breadwinner. How many people in this world actually can take an action of forgiveness and love in this mild way? I wonder if Japanese people would have reacted in a similar way by showing their sympathy and support if it had occurred in Japan. Furthermore, hearing of this incident, thousands of people outside the Amish community contributed their money to support the suffering families. What generous individuals they are! Through this occurrence, I felt reaffirming the fact that the spirit of mutual support had strongly survived in American society just as I witnessed in Japan through daily life when young.
      Today, many Japanese people are left in confusion and turmoil socially, culturally, and educationally. Consequently, children are being raised without learning the value of becoming a caring and respectful individual both in private and public domains. From our car window, seeing colorful clothes hanging on a long rope were gently swaying under the blue sky, I was thinking of the village where I was born and raised: Life was plain and people were caring; adults worked arduously and children studied diligently; families, schools, and communities taught young ones to be responsible and respectful; and there was a simple but engaging life there in Japan.
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