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Friendship forged between Japanese quake survivor, Chinese teenager

China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-20 09:29

TOKYO-"After the earthquake in 2011 I met a Chinese teenage boy, and we forged a deep friendship that helped me see a wider world," said Kei Motokawa, who was a middle school student in Ishinomaki city of Japan's Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas in the devastating quake 10 years ago.

Motokawa said he still remembered the confusion and dismay after the powerful 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the transformation his trip to China brought him.

He was dining at a restaurant with fellow students after their graduation ceremony when the earthquake struck. "All of a sudden the ground shook, and the cutlery fell to the ground. I felt the danger of death at that moment," Motokawa recalled. When they ran out of the restaurant, they saw cracks in the street.

Ishinomaki was badly hit by the quake and an ensuing tsunami in 2011, with more than 3,700 people killed or missing and more than 53,000 homes destroyed. After the disaster, Motokawa's home was cut off water and power. He was at a loss then and felt frustrated about his future high school life.

At the invitation of the China-Japan Friendship Association in December 2011, Motokawa, as member of a delegation of Japanese high school students, visited Weifang in East China's Shandong province, where he got to know local student Xu Yang.

It was the first time Motokawa traveled abroad and knew of the long history and culture of China. "I stayed at Xu's home at that time, and he was very kind to me. We ate hot breakfast together in restaurant. He even bought me a Doraemon toy, which I still treasure today," he said.

"I decided to study hard after I returned home because my English was not good enough to communicate smoothly with Xu. Meeting Xu became an opportunity for me to look to the outside world and work hard," Motokawa said at an online exchange forum of young people from China and Japan held by the Chinese Embassy in Japan on March 7. After graduating from university, Motokawa worked in the education-related field.

Learning that Motokawa had been trying to contact Xu for years, a diplomat from the Chinese Embassy helped him get in touch with the Chinese young man. Xu has become a staff member of Weifang Museum.

"When I was a sophomore in high school, a China-Japan exchange program looked for host families, so I signed up to receive Motokawa. He impressed me as a shy but interesting Japanese boy. We have so many fond memories of visiting places, eating good food, playing computer games and discussing hobbies together," Xu said.

The teenagers shared common grounds and the language barrier did not stop them from communicating with each other. "We are both interested in Japanese anime (cartoons) and we both like to play football. We sometimes need to use body language and guess each other's meaning, but we can communicate easily," Xu said.

He said Motokawa had learned that he loved the character of Doraemon and mailed him a set of cartoon books after returning to Japan. To this day, Xu is still keeping the books along with the packaging.

"Although our time together was short, our friendship is long. I remember Motokawa showed me pictures of the earthquake disaster in his hometown where I have always wanted to visit," Xu said. "I will definitely bring some famous Chinese tea to him in the future. Last time he was in China, next time I'm going to Japan," he said.

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou said in his message to the China-Japan youth exchange forum that the foundation of China-Japan friendship lies in the peoples and the future lies in the youth.

Motokawa also believed that as neighboring countries separated by a strip of water, the youth of the two countries should deepen mutual understanding.


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