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Many Japanese stay put in New York following attack.

NEW YORK, Sept. 19 Kyodo

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States, planeloads of Japanese visitors hurriedly left the country.

Many Japanese travelers, apparently out of safety concerns, have also hesitated to come to a country which has just been hit by the most devastating terrorist attack in history.

But among thousands of Japanese call New York their home, many have chosen to stay, despite pleas from their worried relatives in Japan to ''come home.''

''I don't have any intention of going back to Japan now,'' says Masami Kanda, a 30-year-old language student who came to New York last October to study English.

Kanda, who hails from Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, is among many who have been impressed by the heroism and selfless spirit New Yorkers have shown the world after two hijacked jetliners demolished the World Trade Center, leaving more than 5,000 people dead or missing.

Thousands of volunteers have been digging around-the-clock at the scene of the lower Manhattan wreckage to search for survivors, and spontaneous vigils take place every day at parks and other public places.

''There is no war or revenge here,'' Kanda says, while attending a candle-lit vigil at Union Square in midtown Manhattan where groups of people -- Americans and non-Americans, young and old -- gather and offer their prayers and songs to the victims of terrorism.

Ignoring ''come home'' pleas from her family back in Japan, Kanda says she intends to stay in New York.

''In Japan it would be considered disrespectful to sing songs at a time like this. Here, one can speak out more freely,'' she says.

Chiaki Fukuda, a 28-year-old native of Imaichi, Tochigi Prefecture, is another young Japanese who has decided to stay, having changed his mind about America and Americans.

Fukuda came to the U.S. eight years ago as a college student and has now obtained a work visa, working at a Japanese-run bookstore while sharing an apartment with a friend.

The twin towers he was used to seeing on his way to work have disappeared. Traffic has been cut off, and Fukuda, like many New Yorkers, has stocked up on food.

On the day of the terror attack, he says he thought of going back to Japan, in case war breaks out.

''If I must die, I want to die in Japan,'' he says.

Fukuda's feelings about America have changed since then.

What changed his mind, he says, was the sight and stories of firefighters who raced into buildings on fire with little thought to their own safety and of New Yorkers carrying strangers too stunned to walk, away from the scene of danger.

''In New York, people help each other. Even when you are in danger, you feel that somebody would help you, a sense of security,'' Fukuda says.

He says his colleagues at work also feel the same way and he no longer feels the kind of fear that would make him want to go back to Japan.

According to officials at the Japanese Consulate-General in New York, there have been no reported cases of students rushing back to Japan after the terrorist attack.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Sep 24, 2001
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