Image: Japanese athletes swimming to Taiwan
Wally Santana  /  AP
Japanese athletes swim the final stretch into the Suao harbor, northeastern Taiwan on Monday in a two-day, 95-mile swim. The athletes swam from Japan's Yonaguni Island to Taiwan to thank the island for its disaster aid after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
updated 9/19/2011 6:15:28 AM ET 2011-09-19T10:15:28

Six Japanese men swam 95 miles through heavy winds and rough seas to reach the Taiwanese coast Monday in a show of gratitude to Taiwan for its help after the March earthquake and tsunami.

Wearing swimming caps imprinted with the flags of the two countries and emblazoned with the words "Thank you Taiwan and cheers for Japan," the swimmers reached the eastern Taiwanese port of Suao to an boisterous welcome.

They were accompanied on the last few yards of their swim by about 150 local people. They stepped onshore to thumping beats of drums played by elementary school children dressed as fishermen.

Taiwan dispatched rescuers and donated more than 20 billion yen ($260 million) for relief efforts after the March 11 twin disaster that left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing. It also crippled a nuclear power plant and led to the evacuation of 100,000 people from a radiation-impacted area.

The marathon swim of 95 miles, conducted in alternating relay legs over two days from the southern Japanese island of Yonaguni, is one of several gestures the Japanese people have made to thank Taiwan.

Image: Japanese athletes swim ashore into the Suao harbor, northeastern Taiwan
Wally Santana  /  AP
Japanese athletes swim ashore into the Suao harbor, northeastern Taiwan on Monday.

"I have been very touched by how fast Taiwan was in sending assistance," said Kazuya Suzuki, one of the swimmers and the organizer of the event. "I am very moved by Taiwan's warm feelings toward Japan."

Taiwan was a Japanese colony from 1895-1945. While relations between the sides have remained warm even after Tokyo switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1972, Taiwan's assistance following the earthquake and tsunami has brought them to a new level of amity.

Japanese citizens have frequently bought advertisements in Taiwanese newspapers to show their appreciation for Taiwan's support, and several entertainers have traveled to Taiwan to thank fans for the help the island provided.

Last week, a Japanese nature reserve sent a pair of endangered red-crow cranes to Taiwan in a gesture of friendship.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Japan: Tsunami clean-up

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  1. In a series of photos, parts of Japan hit by the earthquake and tsunami are shown shortly after the disaster, then after nearly three months of cleanup efforts. In this combo, in the first picture, taken March 11, 2011, tsunami waves surge over a residential area in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan. Then on June 3, 2011, power shovels are at work on reconstruction in the same area. On Saturday, June 11, 2011, Japan marks three months since the earthquake and tsunami. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. March 13, 2011: Destroyed houses and debris fill a parking lot of a shopping center in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture, northeastern Japan, two days after the disaster.
    June 3, 2011: Houses and debris are cleared. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. March 14, 2011: Tsunami survivors walk with plastic containers and kettles to carry drinking water through a street blocked by a fallen tank and other debris in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan
    June 3, 2011: Only one damaged house, center, stands along the same street. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. April 6, 2011: A sightseeing boat sits on a building in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture, northeastern Japan.
    June 3, 2011: The same area with the boat gone. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. March 19, 2011: Vehicles park on the ground of a junior high school serving a refugee center in Rikuzentakata, Iwata prefecture, northeastern Japan.
    June 3, 2011: The same area with temporary houses set up for survivors. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. March 13, 2011: A group of firefighters head for a rescue operation in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
    June 6, 2011: A truck goes by the same road lined with electric poles. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. March 16, 2011: Buildings are surrounded by debris in Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan.
    June 3, 2011: The debris is almost cleared. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. March 12, 2011: A ship swept away by tsunami lies among other debris in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
    June 4, 2011: A man on a bicycle pedals past a pedestrian on the same road. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. March 18, 2011: Fire engines park among the debris as a search for missing people goes on in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, northeastern Japan.
    June 6, 2011: The debris is almost cleared. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. March 20, 2011: A damaged house stands in a flooded residential area in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The sun shines over the same area. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. March 12, 2011: A sea coast is filled with destroyed houses and debris at Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The same area with the houses and debris cleared. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. March 13, 2011: A burned pickup truck lies among debris swept away by tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: Marguerites are in bloom along a cleared street corner in the same area. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. March 13, 2011: Debris is piled up by damaged buildings in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: Several houses have been demolished. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. March 12, 2011: Two-car trains lie in ruin after being swept away by tsunami at Shinchi station, Fukushima Prefecture, with only its railway bridge section left standing.
    June 3, 2011: A truck is parked near the bridge. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. March 24, 2011: People walk along Prefectural Highway 30 sandwiched by floodwaters in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 4, 2011: In the same area, an earth mover goes on with reconstruction work. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. March 23, 2011: Damaged houses stand amid debris swept away by tsunami in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: Debris is almost cleared. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. March 13, 2011: A tsunami-beached ship lies among debris in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The ship remained there with little cleaned around it. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. March 12, 2011: Damaged cars are submerged in flooded residential area with other debris swept away by tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: A car goes by debris in the cleared street. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. March 18, 2011: An overturned car sits on the rooftop of a damaged building in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011:The car still stays in the same position on the building while its surrounding area is almost cleaned up. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. March 14, 2011: A shinto torii, or gateway, leading to Kozuchi shrine stands among the debris in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The debris nearly all cleared. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. March 24, 2011: Ships swept away by tsunami are piled up each other on the ground in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The ships stay in the same position in the area almost unchanged. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. March 14, 2011: Rescue workers search for tsunami survivors amid debris in a residential area in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The ships stay in the same position in the area almost unchanged. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. March 12, 2011: A ship swept away by tsunami sits amid debris-covered residential area in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The ships stay in the same position in the area getting cleaned up. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. March 15, 2011:A a ship swept away by tsunami sits amid debris-covered residential area in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The ship stays in the same position in the area almost cleaned up. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. March 12, 2011: Residents wait for rescuers on the balcony of the debris-dangling house in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: The debris almost cleared. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. March 15, 2011: Ddebris from houses swept away by tsunami are left untouched in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
    June 3, 2011: Some buildings stand in the same area almost cleaned up. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. March 24, 2011: A TV antenna leans near a stone statue of the guardian deity of children sitting among the debris in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture.
    June 4, 2011: The debris cleared and the statue wearing a new red cap. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    AP
    Above: Slideshow (27) Before-and-after: Tsunami clean-up
  2. Image: Kawauchimura Village in the Radius of 20-30 km from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
    Koichi Kamoshida / EPA
    Slideshow (9) Devastation in Japan after quake

Interactive: Earthquake aftermath

Video: Goodwill swim from Japan to Taiwan

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