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Shock, tears, and confusion.

In August 2011, five months after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, we interviewed Remy and Chisato from Paris. They were visiting Chisato’s parents in Kahoku city for their vacation. What did she think about Japan, being so far from her country at the time? How did her French husband feel, next to her?

By SHIZUO
Interviewees: Remy and Chisato
Published: September 1, 2011

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E (Experience Kanazawa): How did you feel when you first saw the disaster?

C (Chisato): We were so shocked and in great anxiety, watching the news on TV. Even though my family lives in Ishikawa, far away from the disaster, my homesickness grew stronger and stronger. I felt so depressed to learn how so many people were dead or missing. I couldn’t control the tears.

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E: I know what you mean. I felt numb here in Kanazawa. It wasn’t a disaster which only affected the people of Tohoku, but one for residents in Japan. It was kind of unfortunate, all of our thoughts and concerns were quickly shifted from the earthquake to the nuclear meltdown. Even I’ll admit that I’ve prepared a backpack in case of an evacuation order. My friends contacted me on Facebook, telling me to run away to their countries. I kept thinking, “Will the Japanese become refugees in the future???” Well… it’s been about five months since that day, what do people think about Japan in France?

R (Remy): First of all, allow me to offer my sincere condolences to victims! We French people respect how the Japanese didn’t lose their control during such a crisis. As a country which has many nuclear power plants, we have also been thinking about what we would do if it happened in our country. Can we survive without nuclear power in this modern age? Some say yes, others say no. Truth and rumors cross each other; we don’t know what to believe. I think it’s time that we seriously think about it!

C: Indeed, the French media still reports about concerns for the radiation issues in Japan. When we told our friends that we were going to Japan for our summer vacation, they said things like, “oh are you going to take a radioactive shower?”, just joking around. Although they weren’t serious, I could imagine how it can be a tough time for Japanese tourism.

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E: Yeah, right. Especially before the Golden Week holiday, Japanese tourism really suffered from the many cancellations related to tourism. It wasn’t only a problem from overseas, but also domestic travelers. We lost our motivation for leisure at that time, and even felt guilty to try and have fun. Fun TV commercials were restrained, enjoyable events were cancelled. It’s like we were in mourning. Well... how are your impressions in Japan?

R: Honestly, we were a bit hesitant to travel through Narita airport, because of the radiation issue. I was concerned about being exposed to radiation before landing, still in the air! Usually it’s busting with people in the terminals, but not so much this summer. Yet, I was surprised how calm the Japanese people were. Surprisingly, normal live seems to go on. I hear that they are bit nervous about water and food in Tokyo, though.

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E: What have you eaten since arriving in Japan?

C: Sushi, Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake containing a variety of ingredients), Yakiniku (Korean style BBQ)… Anything except beef.

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E: Ah, beef… I can understand that. Recently, caesium was found in a cow from Toyama which ate straw from Miyagi, right?

C: Yes, we bought some beef to cook, but threw it into garbage once we heard the news. We are really sorry for the farmers, and really want the Japanese government to verify the safety of our foodstuffs.

E: Where did you go? What did you do for your vacation?

R: Last year we brought my friend’s family from Paris and traveled around Japan. Thus, we decided to be more relaxed and just stay near here for this trip. We enjoyed driving to the Noto peninsula and to Hakusan national park through the toll road. Oh, and we also visited the Shirahone Onsen spa village in Nagano. Hanging around at the local beach, having a BBQ at our friend’s place, simple things like that.

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E: Can you tell us your favorite place in Ishikawa?

R: I have to say Kahoku City! This city has the ocean, mountains, and beautiful rice fields! This is our home in Japan!

E: What do you think about the local people in Ishikawa?

R: I love them! They are very frank and helpful to tourists. We’ll visit Japan again next year, of course. I adore Japanese nature, and the Japanese spiritual strength has always fascinated me. I saw their attitude to overcome overwhelming hardships, and it’s really moving!

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