Hu Wancheng, a college student,
confronted his high school friend
Wang, when he saw his posting on
an Internet bulletin board saying
"You got what you deserve!"
in the wake of the Great East Japan
After Hu rebuked him and told him
about the Japanese support and relief
effort during the Great Sichuan
Earthquake in 2009, Wang apologized
and posted a new message: “If a
Sino-Japanese war breaks out again,
I would fight on the front lines.
However, if Japan is caught up in
a disaster again, I would go there
bringing a stretcher and work in
the front lines to rescue the Japanese
people. Ganbare Nippon!”
With his essay about the incident,
titled “Mr. Wang’s ‘Ganbare Nippon,'
" Hu, 20, who attends the University
of International Relations in Beijing,
captured The Ambassador of Japan
Prize in a contest sponsored by
The Duan Press (Nihon Kyohosha),
which is based in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro
Hu vividly wrote in his essay how
Wang had changed over time.
I was struck by the high standards
and poignant content of the entries
in the essay contest, such as Hu's.
It was not surprising to see the
students’ correct use of grammar,
since many of them likely had their
drafts checked by their teachers.
What struck me was that each essay
contained deep thoughts and ideas
toward Japan. Some wrote about longings
to visit Japan; others questioned
Japanese companies in China and
why they do not change certain aspects
of their operations
I felt the writer’s passion come
through in each essay.
On Dec. 9, Chinese students from
across the country who are studying
Japanese gathered in Beijing at
the Embassy of Japan Information
and Culture Center for the awards
ceremony of the Japanese Essay Contest
The Duan Press was established
by Duan Yuezhong, a former reporter
at the influential China Youth Daily,
in 1999. Duan came to Japan and
earned a Ph.D from Niigata University.
The Duan Press has published more
than 200 books since then and serves
as a bridge between China and Japan.
Duan travels back and forth between
the two countries each year.
The Asahi Shimbun began supporting
the contest from 2011, the seventh
year it has been held. It presented
the grand prize winner and five
first prize recipients with one-year
subscriptions to the Asahi Shimbun
The initial theme of the essay
contest was “What Chinese consumers
want to tell Japanese companies.”
The new theme “Ganbare! Nippon!”
(Hold on, Japan) was added after
the March 11 quake.
A total of 3,127 entries, far exceeding
the 2,000 or so in an average year,
were sent from the nation’s 171
universities, technical schools,
high schools and junior high schools.
Along with the best essay prize
certificate, Hu will receive an
extra award--a trip to Japan.
“What do you want to see in Japan?”
I asked him.
“Everything!” was his immediate
Hu said he started studying Japanese
after seeing anime such as “Crayon
Uichiro Niwa, Japanese ambassador
to China, gave some encouragement
to Hu prior to the awards ceremony.
“Please see the true Japanese in
Japan,” said Niwa, who has been
an advocate of youth exchanges.
Niwa purchased 20 copies of a collection
of the award-winning essays.
The book, published by The Duan
Press, is titled “Yomigaeru Nihon!
Imakoso Shimesu Nihon no Sokojikara--Sennen
ni Ichido no Dai-saigai to Tatakau
Nihonjin e” (Japan will be reborn.
Now is the time to show Japanese
people's real strength--For the
Japanese who are struggling against
a once-in-a-millennium disaster).
At the awards ceremony, everyone
sent encouragement to disaster-stricken
Japan, saying, “Ganbare, Nippon!”
After the awards were presented,
Hu and the five first-prize winners
delivered acceptance speeches in
flawless Japanese, which surprised
and impressed me again. Without
looking at any written notes, they
talked about their winning essays.
Shigeo Yamada, minister of the
Japanese Embassy in China, who was
listening to their speeches by my
side, was so moved that he could
only say, “Wow” and “Great.”
I shared his feelings.
My turn to comment on stage came.
When I praised the high standard
of Japanese, saying, “I believe
most of you have not been to Japan
but your Japanese were excellent,”
Duan, who was serving as the master
of ceremonies, confirmed that. “No.
None (of these students) has visited
Japan,” he said.
It was amazing.
When Duan was attentively listening
to students’ passionate speeches,
tears began streaming down his cheeks.
He had started the essay contest
from scratch and admitted that it
had been financially difficult.
Maybe he was recalling all the difficulties
at the start, and how far the contest
had come, as he shed his tears.
The six students all gave excellent
speeches, as if in gratitude for
the wonderful opportunity afforded
to them through the contest.
It is often said that the number
of Japanese students who want to
study abroad has been declining
and that they are becoming too inward-looking.
It is a sad thing.
Even if it becomes the world’s
second largest economy, the living
standards and economic power of
ordinary citizens in China, with
a population of 1.3 billion, is
still far below those of the Japanese.
Unlike Japanese students who can
earn money to study abroad by working
part time, it is still only a dream
for their Chinese counterparts.
Chinese students won't forget the
importance of having a spirit that
hungers for much more than what
On this day, I could not help admitting
that China possesses “human resources”
that exceed Japan, as well as both
in economic power and foreign policy.
Editor's note: Being a foreign correspondent
is not all it's cracked up to be.
As Asahi Shimbun journalists--assigned
to 34 offices around the world--can
attest to, the challenges of getting
the story in a foreign land are
much greater than on the homefront.
In the Correspondent's Notebook
series, Asahi Shimbun journalists
will write about their experiences
on the road, including the difficulties,
the frustrations, the long hours,
the roadblocks, etc. They will take
readers along with them and give
them a glimpse into their lives.
NOBUYOSHI SAKAJIRI / Chinese General
Bureau Chief Essay Contest Japanese
language Chinese student Correspondent's
Notebook Nobuyoshi Sakajiri China
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