SHENYANG, China--Like many Chinese, Zhang Di had a less-than-favorable image of Japan. But all that changed after the kindness that was extended to her by Japanese people during the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The 28-year-old intern from Beizhen, Liaoning province, was working at a marine products processing factory in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, about 200 meters from the sea, when the massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami rocked northeastern Japan on March 11.
Zhang and more than a dozen co-workers at Sun Foods Kesennuma--including five other Chinese trainees--scrambled to the rooftop of a nearby fish market. As the tsunami came roaring in, Zhang saw ships get swallowed up in the path of destruction by the 5-6 meter black waves.
As night fell, she saw a myriad of wood pieces glowing with fire swirling in the inky waters.
"I felt as if I were in a hell," Zhang said.
Cold and shivering, Zhang said she was touched when sales division manager Wataru Ito, 38, took off his jacket and wrapped it around her.
"I wanted to do everything I could because I thought trainees (like Zhang) who came from a foreign country must be feeling lonely and uneasy," Ito said.
A day after the earthquake, Zhang was relocated to a community center crowded with evacuees. Food was scarce. She found a former Japanese co-worker among the evacuees who gave her two pieces of candy and two biscuits--it was all the food he had.
"I was moved and cried because he gave me all the things he had," Zhang said.
Another former colleague brought food, clothing, gloves and disposable pocket warmers from his home.
Zhang returned to China on March 20, but she said she will never forget the kindness, warmth and sincerity she received from the Japanese during her ordeal.
"I want to go back to Japan after it recovers from the disaster and convey my appreciation to the many people who helped me," she said.
Zhang is not alone.
Twenty-eight-year-old Yang Dan, from Panshan, Liaoning province, was working at Watarei, a marine products processing factory in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture.
The factory was spared from the tsunami, but was cut off from surrounding areas because the roads leading from the factory were damaged.
Although many Japanese employees went out to look for their families, two Japanese factory workers, Shuichi Yamaguchi, 41, and Morio Inaba, 38, stayed behind to take care of Yang and eight other Chinese trainees.
Yamaguchi's mother and Inaba's uncle were missing and their homes were washed away by the tsunami, but they gathered up cup noodles and other food for the Chinese trainees to eat.
Yang, who returned to China on March 20, decided to enter a Japanese language school in Dalian, Liaoning province.
"There are many Chinese who hate Japanese people," she said. "But I like Japan. I want to find a job at a Japanese-affiliated company and work again in Japan."
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