Even if worst unfolds, why Iâ€™m proud to be in Japan Sendai, March 17: It began with a scattering of white flakes and a greying of the sky above the mountains. The road to the coast became slushy, then snowy, and soon the car was lurching on crystallising ice. When we slithered into a bank of snow at the side of the road, it was obvious that we would not be travelling today to the tsunami zone, at least not on these tyres. And as we crawled back to the town, a full blown blizzard descended. What more tribulations for Japan? In the past six days the country has experienced a sequence of disasters that would be burden enough if they had been spaced out over the course of a decade. First, its biggest earthquake since records began. Then a far more devastating tsunami, which has killed unknown thousands â€” or tens of thousands â€” of people. Next, a reactor disaster, which could yet challenge Chernobyl as the worldâ€™s worst peacetime nuclear accident. And now, like a final slap to the victim of a vicious beating, snow and freezing weather in the area most badly hit by the preceding three catastrophes. I have lived in Japan for 16 years and, although I love it for its graciousness, efficiency and sophistication, it can, at times, be a frustratingly uneventful country for a journalist. So, to travel north from Tokyo, visiting the devastated cities and towns with the car radio keeping a running commentary on the nuclear disaster, has been to experience the sensation of history being played out on a flickering cine reel at crazy speed. However, this is the pattern of Japanese history, a country in which long eras of stability and stagnation have been separated by short periods of wrenching, and frequently violent, evolutionary change. For 250 years the shoguns ruled a feudal state from which virtually all foreign influence â€” religious, technological and artistic â€” was banned on pain of death. Forced to open up by western pressure in the 1860s, Japan embarked on a modernisation so energetic that it went from the Middle Ages to the 20th century in the space of a generation. The confidence that this bred ended in 1945 â€” Japanâ€™s great moral, as well as physical, catastrophe, which brought destruction, defeat and the unfading hatred of many of its Asian neighbours. And then the sequel â€” Japanâ€™s extraordinary recovery, not just to affluence but to the status of an economic superpower. This is the thing to remember about the oldest victims of last weekendâ€™s disasters â€” however great their loss and however pitiful their suffering, these are people who survived the Pacific War. This latest tragedy came at a moment at which national morale was unusually low, a time not of despair so much as lethargy, paralysis and funk. For a decade and a half, Japanâ€™s economy has been in a slump; last year, in what for many in Japan was a chillingly symbolic moment, China overtook it as the worldâ€™s second richest country after the United States. Japanese politics is bogged down in a long transition from domination by a single ruling party to a competitive two-party system. It is a messy and depressing spectacle that has led to five changes of Prime Minister in under four years. The Japanese are in a state of anxiety about crime, the aimlessness of their young people, the decline of education standards, the rise of China and the unpredictability of a nuclear-armed North Korea. What, then, will be the effect of the recent body blows? Will they force a reeling nation to its knees? Or will the Japanese react as they have so many times and emerge from this dark hour with unity, purpose and that most Japanese of virtues, â€œfighting spiritâ€? It is impossible to make such grand judgements after five days, with the reactors overheating and the bodies still lying under the sodden ruins. But whatever the performance of the government on the nuclear crisis, it is clear that ordinary Japanese people have emerged with outstanding credit and demonstrated once again the strengths of their remarkable society. They are undemonstrative qualities, which become most obvious in the things that are not taking place. There have been no reports of significant looting. Despite the shortages of food, water and petrol, prices are at much the same levels they were last week. In the queues at shops and petrol stations, no one shoves or argues or sounds his car horn. Japanese hospitality is uneroded. In Sendai, the City Office was opened up as a dormitory for homeless travellers, and I left with several packets of biscuits pressed on me by solicitous strangers. This became positively uncomfortable at the evacuation centre in the town of Shiogama where, despite struggling to find dinner for a thousand refugees, they would not hear of me leaving without a couple of fish sausages. There is no doubt at all that Japan will recover from the earthquake and tsunami, and will do so at a pace that will impress the world. The nuclear leak is a different kind of crisis, infinitely more complicated by comparison. By building so many nuclear power stations in such a seismically active country, Japan has been proven to have shown disastrously bad judgement. The way that the government handles the next few days and weeks, the frankness with which it shares information and the skill with which it executes any necessary evacuation, will be immense challenges that will test its competence unforgivingly. However, even if the worst happens and a mass radiation leak leads to a panicked exodus, it will be less ugly, chaotic and frightening than it would be anywhere else in the world. Once again, the Japanese have shown their singularity in the past few days. I feel proud to live among them.