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June 29, 2017

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Japanese touched by global sympathy

I had recently heard that a group of 27 students from the Asian Studies Department of Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan were studying Mandarin for a three-week period at my university. As the past days progressed and the news from Japan grew grimmer, I began to contemplate how the tone and content of their days in Taiwan had changed so abruptly. I began to wonder how they felt about what they and their loved ones in Japan are going through these days.

At first, it didn't seem difficult to imagine that, at least to a certain degree, I could identify with their situation. Then I gave that notion a second thought.

Many of us have at one time or the other received hard news from afar and felt the bite of a very particular kind of isolation. We have found ourselves away from home when loved ones have fallen into trouble of one sort or another, a sudden catastrophe or death in the family, perhaps.

But, wait just a minute.

An earthquake and tsunami scenario that take the lives of over 10,000 people in one fell swoop and leave unimaginable wreckage in their wake? And, added to this, the very real possibility of a horrific nightmare of nuclear energy and radiation run amuck?

I was able to meet for an hour and a half Thursday afternoon this week with 12 of the total group of 27 students from Nanzan. One of the students, Natsumi Inagawa, comes from Shizuoka — scene of the earthquake that followed a few days after the first quake on March 11. Inagawa said her family had relieved her of her worries, by the way. They and their home are safe.

All 27 of the Nanzan students were attending a class in Chinese martial arts when the earthquake hit on the afternoon of March 11. As they were leaving their class building in a group to head across campus, a friend ran up to them and, out of breath from excitement and fear, burst out the news of the disaster. The students used cell phones to call their families for news, but lines were badly jammed for the first hour or so.

Finally contacts smoothed out. By supper time, most had gotten news that with the bulk of the damage occurring in northern Japan, their areas in the south, Nagoya City, Gifu City, and Tsu City, had survived the earthquake and opening onslaught of the tsunami unscathed.

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