Japan honours Jane Birkin for tsunami relief effort
British-born singer-actress Jane Birkin was awarded the Japanese foreign ministry's top honour Thursday for her support to Japan's relief work after the devastating 2011 earthquake.
Best known as the muse of iconic French singer Serge Gainsbourg who wrote several of her albums, Birkin rushed to Japan after the 9.0-magnitude quake and ensuing monster tsunami.
"We were struck by her immediate reaction to the earthquake," said Japanese ambassador Yoichi Suzuki, after awarding her the Japanese Foreign Ministry Prize.
The March 11, 2011 disaster left more than 18,000 dead and sparked a meltdown crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
"It's been more than two years and the people are still struggling. It's been a hard process," Suzuki told AFP.
"While people have been seen to be stoical and resilient, they wanted reassurance and the feeling that people care. Jane Birkin gave them that," he said.
Birkin meanwhile said she had a deep admiration and love for the country she first visited 42 years ago.
"When I saw all those images on television after the earthquake I asked myself 'What can I do?' And I bought myself an aeroplane ticket and rushed there and I organised concerts of 'soutien' (support in French)," she said.
Apart from the Tokyo gig, Birkin organised an SOS Japan concert in Paris and still sells bracelets made by women in the tsunami-hit city of Sendai.
"The soil in Sendai is no longer good and they cannot grow rice," she told AFP.
The actress who visited Haiti after a catastrophic 2010 earthquake and Sarajevo during the war, said she felt a personal compulsion to react to natural tragedies.
"I'm going to put in money tomorrow for the Philippines victims. They are in dire need of medication," she said.
Thousands have died in the Philippines after a typhoon swept through the country's central islands, sparking a massive international aid and relief effort.
© 2013 AFP