Paris: Japanese Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi said the progress in Japan had been remarkable in the six months since an earthquake and tsunami left 20,000 dead or missing and sparked a nuclear crisis on its Pacific coast.
The 25-year-old has scored 27 points this season heading into his home Grand Prix on Sunday week and he will be making his own gesture for those affected by the March 11 disaster by inviting a girls choir from the region to attend the race in Suzuka.
However, Kobayashi, who was out of the country at the time as he was testing the Sauber car, said the manner in which the country had recovered after such a catastrophe spoke volumes for his compatriots.
"After the news we received in March about the disaster became worse and worse, I think the way the country has recovered so far is impressive," he said in an interview posted on the team website.
"This is because Japan received a lot of help from outside and also because the Japanese are very strong people and have given each other an awful lot of help and support.”
"Of course, there is still a long way to go, but the progress has been remarkable."
Kobayashi, who is in his third season at this level and could well better his haul of 32 points last term, said it was great that the race was going ahead in Japan.
"Yes this is definitely the case (that it is taking place)," he said.
"The Grand Prix is a very big event in Japan, it is something very positive for the people and for the country, and also because of the international awareness the race brings.”
"It makes people happy, and they do enjoy Formula One a lot. So we are going racing there, as we have done in previous years, despite the tragedy that has hit the country."
Kobayashi, whose best finish thusfar is a fifth place in the Monaco Grand Prix this year, admitted that at one point he feared if he would ever see his country again when he heard the news.
"In the morning initially it didn`t sound too bad, but then the news got worse by the hour," he said.
"It was very difficult to believe all we were hearing was happening, and also difficult to concentrate on testing and the race simulation we were doing.”
"It also made me think about the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl, and this happening in a small country such as Japan made me wonder if I would ever be able to go home again, and that was not nice. It wasn`t easy. It was very emotional."
Kobayashi, who has been back on several occasions since the disaster, said that the girls choir he had invited would sing the national anthem before the race.
"For the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix I have invited a group of 60 people," he said.
"This is a girls` choir, called MJC Ensemble, from one of the disaster-affected regions, together with their parents or other family members.”
"They come from Minami-Soma city in the Fukushima Prefecture and they will sing the National Anthem before the race.”
"I have organised the bus trip, hotel rooms and tickets for them, so I just hope they have a nice time."