'Chinese people are so brave' - Japanese internet users praise Chinese student after daring rescue

Tourist Yan Jun saves Japanese boy who fell into Osaka's Yodo river

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 10:52am

While Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations may be strained, the daring rescue of a Japanese child by a visiting Chinese tourist has generated considerable praise for “Chinese bravery” in Japan's online community.

About 5pm on Monday, a nine-year-old boy was swept into the waters of Osaka’s Yodo river in southern Japan. Despite heavy rain and strong winds from Typhoon Man-Yi, which is currently passing through Japan, the boy and two older secondary school friends had been taking photographs near the river’s bank.

After accidentally dropping his camera memory card, the boy rushed to retrieve it but fell into the river’s flooded rapids. He was washed nearly 350 metres downstream.

Luckily, a passing Chinese exchange student, Yan Jun, saw the boy and jumped into the water to save him. Yan swam 15 metres to bring the Japanese boy to shore. After the rescue, both Yan and the nine-year-old were taken to hospital and released with minor injuries.

Yan, who had only suffered a few skin abrasions from jumping into the river, told Japanese reporters he had “just done the natural thing”.

“If I hadn’t saved this boy, his life would have been in danger,” Yan reportedly said.

According to information released by Osaka Prefectural Police Headquarters and the Chinese-language Japanese news site Riben Xinwen, Yan is a 26-year-old who is temporarily visiting Japan to look at universities. He plans to enter Osaka City University’s PhD programme next year.

Yan’s heroic actions won him an outpouring of support and praise from Japanese internet users, who spread word of the rescue via social media and left over 2,000 comments on a Yahoo Japan news report of the incident. Yan was called everything from “heroic” to “selfless,” and more than a few commentators said “Chinese people are so brave”.

Such a positive online response towards Chinese visitors is a phenomenon rarely seen in recent Japanese social media posts, where the stereotype of the “rude” Chinese tourist is frequently propagated. International territorial disputes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, have also done little to improve Japanese perceptions of Chinese visitors.

Yan’s heroism is an exception, and one member of the Yahoo Japan online community said he “hoped that all Chinese tourists in Japan would act in the same way as [Yan].”

In the Chinese social media world, Yan’s actions were equally applauded in over 1,000 messages of praise on his Sina Weibo microblog.

“I am extremely grateful for all of the support that the online community has given me,” Yan wrote a day after his rescue made headlines. “I really just want to express my heartfelt gratitude. [At the time of the rescue] I didn’t expect the river’s waters to be so rapid. Right after I hit the water I quickly discovered that my body, which I’ve always taken good care of, was completely powerless in the face of nature. I almost died… I was very fortunate to be able to bring that child to shore safely.

"I hope that all members of the online community will care for their own safety in [similar situations] when they are forced to do the right thing,” Yan added.