Fight Shimbun, French kids meet

Kyodo

Children from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, visited a school in the suburbs of Paris on Tuesday to share their experiences of creating a newspaper to encourage evacuees at a shelter after the March 11 disasters.

At Institution Jeanne d’Arc, a Catholic private school, four of the 12 children from Kesennuma who worked on creating Fight Shimbun, a colorful handwritten wall newspaper with illustrations, talked about how they came up with the idea of creating the newspaper at the shelter where they stayed after their homes were washed away by the massive tsunami.

The children, including 8- year-old Risa Yoshida, the first editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and the French students exchanged newspapers.

The Japanese handed their French counterparts a special edition of the newspaper created for the event that included an illustration of the Japanese and French national flags and an article expressing their gratitude for the support they received from around the globe after the disaster.

“It is all due to those who supported us that we are able to live a normal life now,” the article said.

During the event organized by the Japanese Embassy in Paris, the French students asked the Japanese children various questions about Japanese traditional and popular culture. The event warmed up when they talked about Japanese animation and manga, which are also popular in France.

The children from the two countries agreed to exchange newspapers once every three months to inform each other what they are up to.

“We will keep doing our best to make newspapers that can brighten people up,” Yoshida said.

Also on the trip are Satoko Oyama, 10, who later took over as editor-in-chief, her sister Kanako, 13, as well as Yoshida’s sister Mahiro, 4. They are traveling at the invitation of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which honored them Monday for raising the spirits of evacuees struggling in harsh conditions.

Yoshida, Oyama and two other elementary and junior high school students launched the first edition of Fight Shimbun on March 18, 2011, just a week after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit their city.

They published 50 editions of the paper through July 7, covering events that brought delight to them and other evacuees at the shelter.

In Japan, urging someone to “fight!” is a way of encouraging them to do their best.