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After the Great East Japan Earthquake - A round table with President Nagai and Chuo students: Considering Post-Quake Reconstruction and Cooperative Relations in Asia

On the afternoon of June 18, exactly 100 days since the Great East Japan Earthquake, in the midst of the high humidity of the rainy season in the serene moss-covered "Kyohaku-an" tea ceremony room, tucked away in a corner of the Tama Campus' Sakura Plaza, Japanese students affected by the disaster and exchange students from neighboring Asian countries who stayed on to study at Chuo University took part in a round-table discussion with the President on the theme "Considering Post-Quake Reconstruction and Cooperative Relations in Asia."
June 18, 2011 Venue: "Kyohaku-an" tea ceremony room

"Not only in distance, but we are closer in our hearts as well "

The "Kyohaku-an" tea ceremony room, at the back of Sakura Plaza.

President I would like Japanese students from areas affected by the disaster, and exchange students from East Asian countries offering support after the disaster, to share your feelings which arose from this event and talk about what you would like to do in the future. In particular, donations have been received from a great number of people from South Korea, Taiwan and China, and South Korea was the first to send a rescue team. These actions, though you may all be too young to know, are the first time in the 65 years since World War II for Japan to receive such support. Without a doubt, the whole of Japan is truly grateful. With us all being commonly aware of that background, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about your thoughts on the future of Asia. For the exchange students, I would like you to tell us the feelings of those in your home countries that donated money to Japan.

Yu China experienced a huge earthquake in Sichuan Province two years ago. At that time, there was much support from Japan in the way of support teams and monetary donations. This time Japan also experienced a massive disaster and the Chinese people may share the strong feelings of despair and regret that come from these disasters. Everyone is willing to help Japan, and they want to do so in different ways.

Ko Teni (3rd year Economics student, Faculty of Economics, born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan)

Ko Taiwan also experienced a natural disaster last year and Japan was the first country to send rescue teams. Japan and Taiwan have no official diplomatic relations, but the Taiwanese people feel a close affinity to the Japanese. I think the feeling of wanting to help a friend in a terrible time has spread throughout society.

Fan Cultural exchanges have recently begun between Japan and South Korea and I feel that our peoples are becoming closer in our hearts as well. Many young people in Korea love Japan, but with the war and territorial rows, there are also older people who hate Japan. But when you think of the whole country, even those people think that, in this great disaster, those issues should be put aside for now and we should help people - the country is lifting itself to help Japan.

President Yasuhara-san, how do you feel after hearing that?

Yasuhara I had heard that one of the strengths of the Japanese people is our bond of solidarity and our willingness to help others, but it never really hit me in my own daily life. I was skeptical about the good points of Japanese and was wondering about the soul of Japan. First, I thought I would head overseas and have a look at Japan from there, so I came to this university, then we had the earthquake. I first learned of the support for Japan from East Asia and the whole world over the radio at an evacuation center. After this I wanted to start thinking again why Japan is loved by the world, and what is so great about Japan that attracts the attention of the world, even in this situation.

Abe I was in Canada on a language study trip when the quake struck. I didn't think the disaster was so big at the time, but after coming back to Japan and seeing the place I had lived in for 8 years, it was totally unbelievable. To be honest, the transformation was too much and I was beyond tears. But, through all that, one thing I mustn't forget is feelings of gratitude. If it weren't for the supply of aid, the food, my family and those around them would truly have been finished. At the moment, in these trying times, our hands are full looking after ourselves, but when something happens in a calmer period, I want to return the favour to those who helped.

"Exchanges between people - I think this is a turning point"

Moderator, Chancellor and President Kazuyuki Nagai

President I first went to China immediately after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and first visited South Korea years ago. I have witnessed a lot in relations with Japan since the end of the war, so in regards to aid, as Fan said earlier, with this kind of national sentiment, I didn't expect we would receive so many donations. Looking back at our history, I have a feeling of astonishment that so many people from those countries would cooperate and give such large sums of money to Japan. Has national sentiment changed a lot over time, or is it a case of holding out a helping hand to a neighbor in a time of crisis? I think this is a major point when thinking of East Asian relations in the future. In that respect, I want to ask you in what direction, as a part of these neighboring relations in East Asia, do you want to shape the future, and as a member of global society, what do you think lies ahead in the future?

Fan Sanwon (2nd year Marketing and Trade student, Faculty of Commerce, born in Busan, South Korea)

Fan I definitely believe that links between East Asian countries will strengthen in the future. Like the EU, I think there will be unification in the East Asian region with more activity in cultural and economic exchanges. In that climate, I want to become a person who can play an active role in ties between Japan and South Korea. I have made many foreign friends since coming to Japan. With those people who think along the same lines, I want to find something we can do for East Asia.

Abe I think there are some older people who won't accept us because of history, and because we never experienced that, I really don't know what lies in store. But I think there are some areas where we can put that aside and have good relations. I hope that East Asia can develop together on friendly terms despite the historical background.

Yu There is an image that Japan and China were on bad terms because of historical issues and no information regarding this earthquake was shown on Chinese television, but there were many comments of support for Japan on the Internet. By looking at that, there is a tendency, especially among young people, of wanting to have friendly relations between Japan and China. And Japan is China's largest trading partner. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently visited Japan and made a proposal to promote trade more within Asia, including South Korea.

Yasuhara I wonder if it is alright to have relations by putting aside the terrible things Japan has done to other countries. Of course, it may be easier to be on good terms by putting them aside, but I think we shouldn't forget them. But, with this disaster, Japan has received much more support than I ever imagined. I believe the people of South Korea, China and Taiwan have come a step closer toward Japan. I also think Japan should respond to that.

Ko As Fan said before, there have been movements since 2000 for Asia to become like the EU. Up until now, I felt that Asian countries have put history aside and focused on the economy. I think that this disaster, with exchanges between people, has become a turning point.

"I want to build an Asia where we can all live comfortably together"

President Even with the facts of the past, I believe that when we look to the future the goodwill shown by our neighboring countries in this time of despair hints at a new future. I want to pin my hopes on that. I want you to tell me about how you intend to live, how you want to spend your future, in what way you will base your future on your experiences at university, and where you will place Asia. Let's start with the oldest, Yu.

Yu Yichi (4th year Business Administration student, Faculty of Commerce, born in Shanghai, China)

Yu I want to do things I am capable of doing. I want to contribute to exchanges between Japan and China where possible, be it culturally or economically. I am currently head of the Chinese exchange student association and I want to continue participating in groups, such as the Chuo University alumni association, even after going out to work. By doing that, I want to be active in exchanges between both countries. I am a fourth year student now and conducting job-hunting activities in Japan. I hope I can become a bridge between Japan and China in the future. If possible, I want to find work at a company in the medical field. Many Japanese and people from all over the world lost their lives in this earthquake and I felt the importance of life. I want to contribute by being able to save more people.

President I hope your job-hunting goes well. You should go to the Career Center for some advice. In this year's job-hunting, recruitment by megabanks and consumer financial services has been delayed due to the earthquake. In an unprecedented format where in a usual year all recruitment occurs at once, this year sees it being split up. I recommend you use the Career Center wisely.

Ko I'm in the third year now. When I think about the future, I will work for a trading company - I want to work for a company that acts as a bridge between countries.

President Good luck with your job-hunting in the autumn.

Shiomi Abe (2nd year Economic Information Systems student, Faculty of Economics, born in Ishinomaki, Miyagi)

Abe I haven't decided on my future yet, but after the earthquake I am worried about my home and at times feel I would like to return. But because of the conditions, I think I will work in Tokyo. I am interested in China right now so I am studying Chinese. I would like to study in China one day, but because of my financial situation and the state of things back home, I haven't been able to fulfill that dream. If I get the chance, I want to save up some money and go.

President The Faculty of Economics has a scholarship set up by former Chair, Board of Regents Toshifumi Suzuki for students like you, Abe-san. I really hope you give it a try. There are many students from the world over going to China at the moment. Furthermore, there are lessons conducted in many languages and various courses. Good luck.

Fan After I graduate from Chuo, I want to work for a Japanese company and eventually run my own business. First, I want to work to improve the lifestyle of the locals in some country and strengthen their economy. If there is industry in any region the country will progress, so I want to discover the characteristics of that country - areas that can be developed, and expand the areas that can be expanded. I think that is what I can do. If my future goes as planned I think I can make a lot of money (laughs). I can't enjoy that money by myself, so I want to look to the people and build an East Asia where we can all live pleasantly together. In the beginning, I was only thinking of how I could make money, but after the earthquake I went to the disaster zone as a volunteer and after meeting various people, seeing people helping each other, I realized that life isn't only business, and the whole experience changed my way of thinking. I began to think that if I own my own business, I don't want to make a profit just for myself, and I want to think about society. Now I want to meet various people and help others - that's the kind of life I want to live.

Motoki Yasuhara (1st year Policy Sciences student, Faculty of Policy Studies, born in Miyagino Ward, Sendai, Miyagi)

Yasuhara First, I will go to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in the coming summer holidays. I plan to visit children's institutions and experience the lifestyle of the mountain people. When I was at primary school and junior high school, I participated in volunteer activities in a casual manner, but I felt I had something to live for at the times when I was needed by others. Throughout the world there are people suffering from poverty, war and natural disasters. Somewhere in the world, including Asia - even if it's not a country, even just for one person, I want to become a person needed by somebody.

"20 years from now I want you to be proud of being a Chuo graduate and realize your dreams .."

President I think you all have to put in quite an effort to realize your dreams. In 20 years you will be in your forties and supporting society. I want you to look at this article and reflect on what you have and haven't achieved. I think that will be the greatest momento from participating in today's discussion. Secretary-General Hamano-san, do you have anything to say?

Hamano I probably won't be alive in 20 years (laughs). This university celebrated its 125th last year, so in 20 years time I think we will be starting preparations for our 150th anniversary. I want you all, in the future, to hold high hopes for the development of Chuo University with your success. I want you to be proud of an internationally prominent Chuo University - as a graduate of this university, and realize your dreams.

President For the 150th anniversary, it would be good to hold this kind of event again and have the same members gather and have an enjoyable exchange, looking back over the 20 years. Thank you very much for your time today.