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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:

≪私は日本人が嫌いだった。かつて無数の中国人を殺した。でもそれは前の世代のこと。援助隊は人数こそ少ないが私はとても感謝したい。中日の永遠の友好関係に発展することを望む。日本の友よ、ありがとう≫

“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:

日本各大电视台从昨天晚上开始,作为头条新闻连续不断地报道中国灾区的灾情。今天,日本记者更是深入成都等地,从现场发来图像报道。日本深受地震之害,因此,对于中国灾区的关注度更高。

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:

人道主义无国界,是人都应该懂的,我们从这次灾难后再看到其他国家发生灾害的时候也会多一些感同身受,日本就是因为如此才会比很多国家人性.

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:

友好的人还是很多的.
我们要相信这个世界没有真正的仇恨.
不需要如此偏见.

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:

虽然两国关系一直都不是很好
但我们祖国的人民还要谢谢你们
至少日本比那些什么韩国、印尼、马来西亚、越南等等以及一些欧洲前社会主义国家到现在连个慰问都没有的国家都要好多啦

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:

 戦後、日本が償いとして中国にいろいろと経済的に援助してきたことを、一般の国民にはよく知らされていないという話を聞いたことがあります。今回、日本の援助、特にこうした人道的援助が大々的に報道されたことの影響は大きいでしょう。

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:

これでやっと中国共産党が国内引き締めのために行い、国民の中に深く浸透していた日本敵視感情がなくなるかもしれません。

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:

中国の人に言いたいのは、今の日本人を見て、それで本当の日本を知れと。反日教育を通じてもたらされた昔日本軍がどうしたとかの情報と、コントロールされ、流されるがままに持った反日感情をもとにブーイングをするんじゃなくて、まず自分の目で見て、現代の日本人の姿を確かめろと。それさえ判れば、スポーツ、特にサッカーの試合でとった行動がどれだけ恥ずかしいものだったのかを理解できるはず。

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:

中国・四川大地震の現地から日々伝わってくる被害状況を受け、日本各地で募金などの支援の輪が広がっている模様だ。
 特にこれまでも阪神大震災など、地震被害の経験が多い日本の人々からしてみれば、ひとごととは思えない隣国の惨状が、人々を突き動かしているのだろう。
 今朝、東京のJR新宿駅前では、災害などで親を失った子どもを支援する「あしなが育英会の奨学生や中国人留学生ら約50人が緊急募金で街角に立ったという。
 通りかかった買い物客や家族連れが足をとめ、次々と募金していたという。

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.

 また、同会は今回の地震で親を亡くした遺児たちに心のケアをしようと、6月半ばに、中国四川省に向けて使節団を派遣するという。
 さらに中華街で有名な横浜市栄区でこの日始まった国際交流の催し「あーすフェスタかながわ」でも、各国の伝統料理などの屋台の一角に募金箱が並んだという。
 地元の横浜華僑総会とNPO法人「地球市民ACTかながわ」のボランティアらの手によるものだという。
 そして横浜中華街でも昨日までに、実に全店舗約300店に義援金箱が置かれたそうだが、これらは皆、横浜山手中華学校中学部の生徒136人が手づくりしたものなのだという。
 横浜中華街発展会協同組合の林兼正理事長は阪神大震災の後、中華街で集めた義援金約600万円を手に被災地に入った経験をお持ちだった事もあり、今回の中国での大地震に、中華街の支援の動きは素早かった。
 「現金で100万円を持ってきてくれる人もいた。5月いっぱい義援金を集めて中国大使館に手渡したい」と語っており、さらに大使館や横浜市と義援金以外の支援策も検討中だという。

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:

中国の地震はとても大変な出来事でした。
私自身神戸の出身で、あの阪神大震災では実家にいた家族も親類も被災し、友人を亡くしました。
今回の四川省での地震もとても人事とは思えませんでした。
行方不明の大事な家族や友人を心配する気持ちも、亡くなってしまった命を悼む気持ちも、まるで自分のことのように胸に迫ります。

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.

胸を痛めながらも、地震の続報を目にするにつけ、胸が熱くなることもあります。
義援金や人的援助をいち早く決めた日本。
人々の心の底には、やはり阪神大震災で生まれたひとつの「思い」があるのでしょう。

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.

あくまで私的な思いなのですが…
阪神大震災では、私たち日本人は人と人との繋がりの強さを再確認したと思います。
瓦礫の下から、家族隣人分け隔てなくとにかく人の命を助けたいという切なる思いを抱いたこと。
被災地から遠く離れた場所に住んでいる人たちが、自分のことのように胸を痛め、ボランティアで被災地の救援に来てくださったこと。
日本各地から海外から、救援の物資や人材が届いたこと。
どれをとっても、薄れかけていた人と人との絆を、もう一度強く結びなおすような出来事であったと思います。
人間の感情の部分でいえば、なかなか割り切れない大勢の大切な人の死。
けれど、薄れかけている大事なことを知らしめるために、犠牲になってくださった人々の気高い魂にあらためて感謝したいと思います。

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].

今回の中国での地震も同じなのではないかと思うのです。
日本人の目に映る中国は、最近評価が分かれていたことと思います。
だからと言って中国の人々のどこがどうというわけではなく。
そういう国の体制だとか、必要なことを選べない制度だとかが問題なのであって、「中国」という国そのものに対しての悪い印象が広がったのではないかと思います。
けれども、日本の人々は「何が大切か」をきちんと学んでいました。
日ごろの様々な行き違いや摩擦などものともしない「人と人との絆」がどれだけ大切であるのか。

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.

そんな日本の人々の切ないほどの思いが、中国の人々に伝わっていくことを願います。
事実もともと半日感情の強い中国の人々の日本に対する感情が溶け始めているというニュースが届いています。
日本の救援隊に対して、また、義援金を寄付すると表明した日本企業に対しての評価が変わりつつある、と。

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.

地震を通して被害にあわれた人々の魂は、その身をもって、「隣人」の大切さを教えてくれているのではないでしょうか。
再び、それを知らしめるために犠牲になられた尊い命に感謝しなければならないと思います。

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.

14 comments

  • 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.

  • Thank you for your trackback.
    I was able to know this splendid site on the coattails of you.
    Thank you very much.

  • matthew

    thanks for your report firstly,
    BUT,
    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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