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France: Worry and Hope in the Japanese Community

This post is part of our Japan Earthquake 2011 special coverage.

In France and elsewhere, the terrifying pictures of the Friday 11 March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami have made Japanese expatriates around the world worried. Many of them spent the day of the disaster trying to contact their loved ones through the Internet, and since then have been working to bring their compatriots some mental support.

From the beginning, helicopters from Japanese NHK public television channel broadcast the destructive wave's advance live. This footage has been picked up and played repeatedly on French news channels [fr], allowing Japanese expatriates to follow the situation's development live [fr].

Photographer and blogger Tono Mariko, living in Paris, France, describes [jp] how she learned of the news:

フランス人の友人からのメールで起きました。

朝から地震のニュースを見ています。

I was awakened by an email from a French friend.

I've been watching the news since this morning.

Mariko immediately tried to contact her family back home in Japan through the Internet:

なかなか電話が通じませんでしたが、家族とは無事に連絡が取れました。

海外にいながら限られた情報しかないので何も出来ないけれど、今日はネットやTwitterなどのありがたさを実感。

It was hard to get a hold of them by phone but I finally managed to call my family.

I find it hard to get information when I am abroad. But I now know why it is important to use Twitter and the Internet.

Far away from their home country, members of the Japanese community in France have felt powerless during this event.

On her blog, a Japanese woman married to a French man shows her support with pictures of flowers to soften the violence of the images on television, in an entry [jp], whose lack of title reflects the author's shock:

どんな言葉や行為が心を救えるかもわかりません。

ただただ一方的にお心を強く持たれるよう祈ることしかできません。

I do not know what to do or say to help comfort them.

I can only pray to help them feel stronger.

While danger still remains [fr] in Japan, and with it concern, some expatriates are already stepping back and wondering about the future of their home country.

In an anticipatory entry [jp], the blog Konkatsu in the world imagines what positive effects the earthquake could have on Japanese society:

「あ、死ぬかも」と、思った人がすごく多かったと思います。そういうことを人間が感じる時間が来たとき、やっと立ち止まることができて、「そもそも、自分は何したいんだっけ?」「何のために生きてるんだっけ?」と考えると思うんです。そして、普段以上に「一人じゃ不安。誰かと一緒にいたい」とも。

今回の地震で、よっぽど直接的な打撃を受けてない人たち、つまり東京にいる人たちは 普段以上に、他人と一緒にいることを強く大事だと思ったんじゃないでしょうか?

その上、停電に備えての節電。「停電」、「節電」というキーワードがニュースになり始めたとき、これはベビーブームが来るかもしれないという 淡い思いつきが。。。

Many people have had to tell themselves, “Oh, I'm going to die.” When such events occur, a person can finally stop and start thinking. “Actually, what have I been waiting for in life? What have I done so far?” I think that is the kind of question that can come to mind, some even moreso than usual: “Being alone makes me anxious, I want to be someone.”

For those who have not suffered great damage, I am thinking of people living in Tokyo, maybe it is even more important than ever to have someone at your side?

As well, the Japanese are conserving energy right now in anticipation of the announced power outages [fr]. When I saw the keywords “power outages,” I told myself that a baby boom could happen…

This post is part of our Japan Earthquake 2011 special coverage.

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