In his article on the earthquake in Kobe ("Shock treatment", 4 February), Peter Popham, in an otherwise accurate account, manages both an insult and an ignorance by saying that "The Japanese, like all societies deeply influenced by Buddhism, are at heart a pessimistic people".

Try telling the Tibetans or the Vietnamese, both people who excel in humour, determination and the spirit of defiance, that they are pessimistic. Moreover, the Japanese are not deeply influenced by Buddhism. Whereas most people in Britain, even if not Christian, will be at least familiar with the life and teachings of Jesus, the equivalent is not so in Japan, where such things are not taught in school and it is the rituals of Shinto which have a more dominant role in the religious life of the nation.

maria salak