National

Japanese residents of Manchester shaken by terrorist attack

by Tomoko Otake and Kakumi Kobayashi

Staff Writers

Japanese residents in Manchester, England, expressed shock that the deadly terrorist attack at a concert hall took place in a city known for welcoming different cultures.

Aya Homei, a lecturer of Japanese studies at the University of Manchester, told The Japan Times on Wednesday that she was working at home in the city’s suburbs, some 7 km from its center, when she learned of Monday night’s attack through her German husband via Twitter.

Neither Homei nor her acquaintances were harmed in the attack, but Monday’s explosion — the latest in a spate of deadly strikes across Europe — confirmed her fears that terrorism “is no longer someone else’s matter,” she said.

“I could hear helicopters buzzing overhead and police sirens blaring all (Tuesday),” she said. “Traffic to the city center was disrupted much of the morning.”

Homei added that the attack caused widespread shock among locals since Whalley Range, the district where 23-year-old suspect Salman Abedi is reported to have resided, is a suburban area popular with families.

Manchester is known for its traditionally liberal political climate, having spawned the country’s feminism and labor movements, Homei said. But recent years have seen an upswing in poverty and homelessness, which is probably what gave radical elements room to expand, she added.

“Like London, Manchester hosts people with diverse nationalities and cultural backgrounds,” said Homei, who has lived in Britain since 1998, mostly in Manchester. “And politically, it has been known for its liberalism and high tolerance for different cultures.”

“The shock among the locals is all the more grave because of that,” she said.

Kie Uezuka, a 28-year-old Japanese housewife who lives in an apartment about 500 meters from the arena, said she and her 28-year-old husband, Yusuke, who works for a Japanese firm, were watching TV when they heard the explosion.

Thinking it may have been fireworks, they opened their windows, and smelled gunpowder, before racing to social media to read tweets from local police about the incident warning people not to approach the scene.

She said her husband attempted to console her, but she remained fearful of venturing outside her residence and most of the roads in their vicinity were still sealed off.

The Japanese couple have lived in Manchester since 2016, two years after moving to Britain from Nagoya. A year earlier, in 2015, they had grappled with fears that Japanese nationals could be targeted after the Islamic State militant group executed freelance journalist Kenji Goto and self-proclaimed adventurer Haruna Yukawa.

In Japan, major tourism agencies, including JTB Corp. and Nippon Travel Agency Co., said the incident has had little impact on their business as few tours they organize cover Manchester, a destination for students and soccer fans rather than sightseers.

While the Foreign Ministry warned Japanese nationals Wednesday to be more careful about possible terrorist attacks in Britain, officials with tour companies said they have canceled no tours to the country or other European destinations and received few inquiries from customers in reaction to the bombing.

Information from Kyodo added

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