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Japan: Earthquake aid starts healing process

Categories: East Asia, China, Japan, Breaking News, Disaster, Governance, Health, Humanitarian Response, International Relations, Politics

The largest ever dispatch of aid to China from Japan took place last week when Japanese rescue teams were dispatched to Chongqing [1], an area of China with deep-rooted anti-Japan sentiments [2]. After several days of delays, 61 Japanese earthquake experts from the Hyper Rescue team of the Tokyo Fire Department [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] 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 [6] [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 [7]” (「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 [6] [zh] express similar sentiments. Commenter 272657335 [8] 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 [9] 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 [10]:


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 [11]:


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 [12]:


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 [13], 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 [14] on the earthquake relief effort, drawing a comparison between the Japanese experience of the Great Hanshin Earthquake [5] 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 [15] for translations of Chinese bulletin board messages.