National

Japan ready to support France in rebuilding Notre Dame Cathedral

Kyodo

The government expressed willingness to support France in restoring the Notre Dame Cathedral, while officials and notable Japanese figures expressed sadness after Paris’ iconic Catholic church was badly damaged by fire.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message to French President Emmanuel Macron, saying that he was “greatly shocked” to see the famous cathedral engulfed in flames.

“Our hearts are with France at this time of huge loss,” Abe was quoted by the Foreign Ministry as telling Macron.

“The Japanese government will consider providing support if requested by the French government,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

“It was a loss for the world and we feel deeply sad,” Suga said, referring to the fire at the World Heritage site on Monday, which burned through its roof and caused the toppling of the building’s 90-meter spire.

Japanese celebrities conveyed their sadness and grief about the tragedy.

Award-winning actress Keiko Kishi, a Paris resident noted for her starring role in the 1983 film “The Makioka Sisters” (“Sasameyuki”), said, “Notre Dame is a symbol of Paris. I often took walks along the banks of the River Seine and passed by the cathedral.”

“It’s regrettable that something like this happened to a structure that even survived World War II,” she said.

Actor Kanji Ishimaru, the Japanese voice of protagonist Quasimodo in Disney’s animation “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” said, “The cathedral has been an important presence in my life as an actor and I’ve visited the church a number of times.”

“Watching clips of the blaze saddened me deeply. I hope the reconstruction begins as quickly as possible,” he added.

It was not only celebrities who expressed their sympathy for the people of Paris.

Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa sent his best wishes to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, saying he hopes the cathedral can be rebuilt to its former glory. Kyoto and Paris have been sister cities since 1958.

Yuta Naiki, who regularly hosts French language and cultural exchange events at a Tokyo cafe he manages, said, “Notre Dame is a symbolic presence, even among the many churches in the city.”

Miki Kato, a daughter of renowned shogi player Hifumi Kato and the head of the Catholic research center at Sendai Shirayuri Women’s College, also conveyed her sadness about the fire as she reminisced about her visit to Notre Dame just last month.

“(The church’s) magnificence was unlike any other church, and the many visitors and locals praying there left an impression,” she said.

Noting that Notre Dame held a service for victims of the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Sendai and other areas of northeastern Japan, Kato said, “It is now our turn to support France. I pray for (the cathedral’s) recovery.”

The church is among the most famous landmarks in Paris. Located on a small island in the River Seine, the church was completed in 1345 and was the site of numerous historical moments, including the vandalism it suffered during the 18th-century French Revolution and the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804.