An online broadcast station in Kobe is delivering information about the novel coronavirus epidemic in multiple languages, in line with lessons learned from the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which devastated the city 26 years ago.

When the quake rocked the region on Jan. 17, 1995, many foreign nationals who did not have a good command of Japanese were unable to receive necessary aid. Not wanting to repeat a similar tragedy, foreign residents have stood up to relay information such as government announcements and news in their native tongues.

One such resident is Roxana Oshiro, a Peruvian of Japanese descent. Oshiro, 53, urged audiences of online broadcast station FMYY in Spanish to avoid situations that can raise infection risks in a broadcast last November.

FMYY, based in Kobe’s Nagata district, was launched as a radio station in 1995 to deliver information to foreign nationals affected by the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It became an online broadcast station in 2016 and delivers information in multiple languages, including Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog.

Oshiro, a Japanese Peruvian who came to Japan in 1991, appears on a Spanish broadcast show once a week. She delivers information on disaster preparation and visas. She also conducts telephone interviews with doctors who are also foreign nationals of Japanese ancestry to get the latest information on the coronavirus. Roughly 2,000 people tune in for every show.

Oshiro was motivated to act by her experience with the 1995 earthquake. During the quake, she felt strong shaking in her house near the coast and she heard people speak of a tsunami when she went outside.

“I didn’t know Japanese, and I panicked as I thought that a tsunami would come,” Oshiro recalled. “I didn’t know where to escape, so I was crying.”

She saw other foreign nationals in Japan facing similar situations in the aftermath of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, with the March 2011 disaster reinforcing that it is important to deliver information in people’s native languages.

Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Oshiro has received many questions regarding the state of emergency and cash handouts. On her show, she has given explanations in Spanish and has directed people to consultation services.

“The coronavirus places foreigners in a weak position, as do disasters,” Oshiro said. “Local governments are releasing information in multiple languages on their websites, but the information is few and far between.”

“I will continue to broadcast information as I understand how difficult it is when we are without information in our native languages,” she said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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