My mother was visiting Japan a while ago, coming
over from England to see her two grand-children. She was here for
nearly a month, and almost every day, during the time that my
daughters were in school, she went out for a long walk, tramping
around our district.
Of course, she can't speak any Japanese at all,
but she doesn't let that stop her from seeing everything she can, and
meeting as many people as possible.
For her, the contrast between Japan and England is
nothing short of astonishing. In her eyes, Japan is currently in a
kind of golden age, just as England was about forty years ago, when I
was a very young child. The streets are safe and clean, everybody is
busy working, people all seem willing to help each other, education
standards are high, public transportation is magnificent, and there
is a general feeling of successful accomplishment in the air. She
contrasts this with the England of the present, where she says that
none of these things are true.
Over the past fifty years or so, the people living
on these islands have done an extraordinary thing: they have created
from the rubble of a war-ravaged country, a society that offers each
of its members almost complete freedom to seek his own path to
happiness, in return asking only that each person also keep in mind
that it is a 'two-way' street, and that there are responsibilities to
accompany such freedoms.
I am hard pressed to think of anywhere in the
world where the balance between responsibility and freedom is so
successfully managed as today's Japan. It's a source of great sadness
to me that most Japanese people do not realize what a 'heaven' it is
that they have built, and in which they live. But I do ... Thank you
everybody, for being willing to share it with me! ... and with my