Japan: Earthquake aid starts healing process

The largest ever dispatch of aid to China from Japan took place last week when Japanese rescue teams were dispatched to Chongqing, an area of China with deep-rooted anti-Japan sentiments. After several days of delays, 61 Japanese earthquake experts from the Hyper Rescue team of the Tokyo Fire Department were allowed to enter China on Thursday, in addition to an initial $4.8 million in cash and goods. In total only two countries governments, those of Japan and Taiwan, were allowed to enter send rescue forces into China by the Chinese government. Japan in particular was selected for its extensive experience and technical expertise in handling earthquakes, recently in disasters such as the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

Broadcast on Japan's national broadcaster NHK of the dispatch of a Japanese rescue team to China

While the Chinese government was cautious in opening the door to Japanese aid, the Chinese people have been desperately pleading for it, and when it arrived, showed their extreme gratitude [zh] with an openness that has surprised many Japanese. In an article posted at ZakZak entitled “Has ‘Anti-Japan’ disappeared? A storm of ‘thank yous’ on the net for the dispatch of rescue teams” (「反日」消えた? 救援隊派遣でネットに「謝謝」の嵐 ) [ja], the following line is quoted from a Chinese bulletin board:


“I used to hate Japanese. They once killed countless numbers of Chinese. But that was an earlier age. There aren't that many people in the rescue team, but I really want to thank them. I hope that permanent friendly relations between China and Japan can be developed. Thank you, Japanese friends.”

Comments on a Chinese-language Baidu bulletin board [zh] express similar sentiments. Commenter 272657335 writes:


Since last night, major TV stations in Japan have been revealing the situation in China as headlines. Today, many Japanese journalists entered Chengdu and sent clips back to Japan. Japan had been destroyed by earthquakes, so they pay more attention to disasters in China.

An anonymous poster writes:


All people should know that humanitarianism surpasses all boundaries. After this calamity, we will have empathy and sympathy when disasters occur in other countries in the future. That's why Japan is more humane than many others in the world.

NeCo_shan writes:


There are still many kind people in the world.
We have to believe no real hatred exists.
People don't need all that prejudice.

An anonymous poster writes:


Although relations between the two countries are not going so well, Chinese should be thankful to Japanese. Compared with Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and those ex-socialist countries in Europe, who haven't sent a single word, Japan is much better.

Baidu bulletin board messages about Japanese earthquake rescue

Snapshot of Baidu bulletin board messages about Japanese earthquake aid, with photo of donation drive on Japanese TV

At Follow My Heart, one Japanese blogger reacts to the news by pointing out how few people know about the history of Japanese aid to China:


I've heard that most ordinary people don't know that that after the war, Japan offered various forms of support to China as reparations. The Japanese assistance in this case, and in particular the extensive coverage of this humanitarian assistance, could I think have an influence that is very great.

特に震災地域は日中戦争で重慶爆撃を経験し、最も反日感情が強い地域とされているそう。政治的な様々な問題、そして外交策としての意図がありますが、そんなことよりも、只々、国境・国籍を越えて、困っている人、苦しんでいる人を助けたいという一生懸命な援助活動を目の当たりにしたとき、過去の恨みを現在の恩が越える・・・ 『恨み < 恩』になってはじめて、『未来志向』という言葉が出るものなのかもしれません。

In particular, the area where the earthquake disaster occurred experienced the Bombing of Chongqing in the Second Sino-Japanese war, and apparently it is the region with the strongest anti-Japanese sentiment. There are various political issues and certain diplomatic aims [with this assistance], but more than this, when one comes face to face with aid relief operations [where people] are doing everything they can, crossing over barriers of nation and citizenship to help people who are in trouble, people who are suffering, a feeling of moral indebtedness overcomes the resentment of the past… it is once [the condition] that “resentment (is less than) debt of gratitude” is satisfied that the word “future-oriented” will come to be.

Blogger doronjyo3sei remarks that:


With this [development], the deeply-rooted sentiments of hostility toward Japan among the Chinese people, which the Chinese communist party creates in order to restrain [people] domestically, may finally come to an end.

Hearing the news of the positive reaction to Japanese assistance, blogger Takatsuka makes a plea to the Chinese people:


What I want to say to Chinese people is that they should look at Japanese people today, and get to know the real Japan. Don't boo Japan on the basis of information given through an anti-Japan education about what a militarized Japan did in the past, or on the basis of anti-Japan sentiment that was controlled and that influenced you; first see with your own eyes, confirm the picture of Japanese people today. If you can understand this, then you will understand how embarrassing your behavior has been at sports games, and in particular at soccer games.

Blogger kodomodaisuki describes fund-raising activities in Japan for Chinese earthquake victims, driven by a shared history of earthquake disasters:


Receiving news of the disaster damage from the actual location of the earthquake in the Sichuan province of China, a network of support for activities like fund-raising has expanded across every region of Japan.
I guess this is because from the point of view of the Japanese people, who have had many experiences of the damage caused by earthquakes in cases such as the Hanshin earthquake, the disastrous scene in a neighboring country is not just some other person's problem, but is something that stirs them to action.
I heard that this morning, in front of JR Shinjuku station, [a group of] about 50 people [made up] of scholarship students from the Ashinaga Scholarship Society and Chinese international students stood on the street corner raising emergency funds.
Apparently shoppers and families who happened to pass by made donations one after another.


Also, the same society is apparently going to dispatch a mission to the Sichuan province of China in the middle of June to try to provide mental care for orphans who lost their parents in the earthquake.
And at the “Kanagawa Earth Festival”, a famous international exchange event that began the same day in Chinatown at Sakae-ku in Yokohama, collection boxes were also apparently lined up on food carts [selling] traditional food from each country.
It was apparently something set up through the work of volunteers from the Yokohama Overseas Chinese Association and from the NPO “Earth Citizens ACT Kanagawa”.
I also heard that by tomorrow collection boxes will be placed in all of the roughly 300 stores in Yokohama's Chinatown as well, and apparently these boxes were made by 136 students form Yokohama Yamate Chinese School.
Chairman of the Yokohama Chinatown Development Association Hayashi Kensei (林兼正) had already had the experience, after the Great Hanshin Earthquake (of 1995), of [organizing the] collection in Chinatown of roughly 6 million yen in donation money for areas stricken by the disaster. So in the case of the huge earthquake this time in China, there was a very rapid mobilization of support in Chinatown.
“There were even some people who brought 1 million yen in cash. I want to collect a lot of donations in May and donate it to the Chinese embassy,” he said. On top of this, he is also examining, with the embassy and the city of Yokohama, other possible assistance measures beyond financial donations.

Finally, blogger Harumonian SEED provides a long but very personal take on the earthquake relief effort, drawing a comparison between the Japanese experience of the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Chinese experience of the current disaster. The following is a translation of the first half of the post in Japanese:


The earthquake in China is such an incredibly terrible event.
In Kobe, the area where I myself am from, some relatives in my home became victims in the Great Hanshin Earthquake, and friends of mine died.
I just could not think of the earthquake this time in Sichuan Province as somebody else's affair.
The feelings of worry about family and friends near to one's heart whose whereabouts are unknown, the feelings of grief about lives that have been lost, I was overwhelmed with a sensation that these were my feelings as well.


But at the same time that I worried [about these things], as I watched the follow-up reports on the earthquake, there was something that also warmed my heart.
Japan was the first to decide to send donations and humanitarian aid.
At the bottom of people's hearts, I suppose that there is one “feeling” that emerged from the Great Hanshin Earthquake.


This is absolutely my own personal feeling, but…
In the Great Hanshin Earthquake, I think that we Japanese reaffirmed the power of the connections between people.
The earnest feeling that beneath the rubble, there was no discriminating families and neighbors, a feeling of just wanting to somehow save lives.
Even people who lived very far away from where the earthquake took place worried as though it was happening to them, and came to help volunteer and offer assistance at the location of the disaster.
Assistance and personnel arrived from all regions of Japan and from overseas.
For everybody who was there, I think that this was an event which, after interpersonal bonds had faded, once more strongly reconnected [people].
Speaking in terms of human emotions, these were the deaths of a great number of loved ones, and they could not be divided.
But I want to thank once again the noble souls of the people who sacrificed their lives to make known this very important matter of the fading of [human bonds].


I think that the earthquake this time in China is the same.
In the eyes of Japanese, I feel that recently there has been a divide in views on China.
But that does not mean that the people of China are to be criticized; rather, this is the issue of the country's organization and of a system that does not allow people to make necessary choices. I think this is why the negative impressions directed at the country “China” have spread.
But Japanese people have properly learned “what is important”.
[They have learned] how important are the “people to people bonds”, [the bonds] that go beyond various routine misunderstandings and frictions.


It is my hope that this painful feeling of the Japanese people will be transmitted to the Chinese people.
In fact, there is news that the feelings about Japan of Chinese people, who from the start hold strong anti-Japan sentiments, have started to dissolve.
Evaluation of Japanese rescue parties, and also of Japanese corporations which contributed donation money, is apparently in the process of changing.


It would seem that the souls of people who met with suffering as a result of earthquakes, through their experiences, are teaching the importance of the “person next door”.
And I think we have to give thanks for the precious lives of those who, once again, sacrificed their lives in order to make this known.

Thanks to Leonard for translations of Chinese bulletin board messages.


  • Matt Y.

    I think the Harumonia SEED article has stated the painful truth of humanity that sometimes it does take a painful loss for people to realise the otherwise “unimportant” or “insignificant” meaning of the things that we take for granted.

    I still have immediately related family members and close friends in Sichuan… Well, it’s an agonising experience that I’m undergoing these days to wait for their SMS’s or phone calls every day just to know that they are safe, due to the aftershocks still hitting the already hard-hit Sichuan Province.

    The government is doing exceptionally well this time in the relief work and it’s the first time they have allowed foreign professional rescuers in. I personally want to express my gratitude to the Japanese rescuers because I appreciate the attitude like “(Japanese) shouldn’t take this as somebody else’s problem” that has been reported here in China.

    I did hear that there are also some nasty comments on 2ch… Would any Japanese users here tell me that they are the minority in Japan? Thanks.

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  • matthew

    thanks for your report firstly,
    YOU shoud know the fact:TAIWAN IS NOT A COUNTRY, it’s a part of China. even the UN have not recognize the taiwan district is a country, why you people call it a country so vexedly. a.
    quoted :”In total only two countries, Japan and Taiwan, were allowed to enter China by the Chinese government”

  • Eric hu

    There are so many affairs related in the emotion which chinese people have toward their neighbor Japan. Some of them are historical, others are continuous updated. Just few months ago, a chinese student studying in Japan was attacked by some right wing minority during the Olympic torch reply in Nagano. Some pictures showed the harm in face.
    When I believe the hard work by japanese police in torch reply and fully appreciated the assistance of japanese professional rescuers, other side of the story just can’t easily vanish from my mind. Anyway, more communication between youngsters are expected. It will generally build up trust as well as understanding among people. Again, Thanks for all of the support from Japan in this disaster and the excellent work to collect those words.

  • ling

    I can never forgive Japan unless they apologize like German. But Japanese can never have such courage, that’s why I look down on Japan.

  • Knights

    Growing up hearing terrible stories from my parents about Japanese’ brutal attacks on Chinese during WWII. I have never liked Japan. I refused to visit Japan.

    I think the majority are ashamed of their past. There are a few extremists who are proud of the past. It looks like Japanese government is slowing trying to show its regrets. Let’s give them a chance.

  • It’s too bad it takes something like this tragedy for Chinese and Japanese people to come closer together. But it is a good that will come from something like this.

  • Lun Jiang

    Thank you Japan and Japanese people for your help. Your action has spoken louder than any kind of political propaganda and reminded all the Chinese that we are brothers and sisters, maybe there were wars, maybe there were tragedies that are very hard to forget, but we have to move on. I believe Japan is no longer the same one as in WWII, China is no longer the communism country either. We should try harder to understand the other country and its people, that would surely improve our friendship and benefit both sides.

  • jane tse

    Throughout the human history, there is no indication that the people of different nations should be hating each other. Chinese and the Japanese people are no exceptions. There is no indication that the Japanese people have the tendency to invade China. Wars have always been the deliberate but wrong choices of political leaders. It is hope that political leaders of the new century would respect the independent choice of their own people. People do not want war. It has always been the political leaders who have led the people into war. It has always been the people (civilians and soldiers alike) who die in the war.

  • jane tse

    It is so much cheaper to use love and fraternity to reduce hostility. It is really time for us to abandon the old power politics, which had led us into two devastating war. We should renounce the use of war to resolve international conflicts, as it has been written in the Japanese Constitution.

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