Love foraanime in China
The Japan News
by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Amid strained ties,
record number of Chinese students compete
in Japanese essay contest

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@BEIJING: Hats off to Chinese students’ Japanese competence

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@BEIJING: Hats off to Chinese students' Japanese competence

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NOBUYOSHI SAKAJIRI / Chinese General Bureau Chief



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 Earthquake.

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 district.

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 for Chinese.

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 Digital website.

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 response.

Hu said he started studying Japanese after seeing anime such as “Crayon Shin-chan.”

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 they have.

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 ≪ Prev1Next ≫digginShareMail Print The Asahi Shimbun


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