Twice in the last 40 years Japanese oyster farmers have come to the aid of their French counterparts, but this time the French are returning the kindness.
A first batch of seven tonnes of buoys, ropes and fishing equipment arrived in Japan on Wednesday, shipped from Charente-Maritime and Finistère in the west of France, and ready to be transported by road to Sanriku in northeastern Japan.
"Its a race against time because the embryo oysters must be captured before 15 July," explained Arnaud Rastoul of the company SDV, which is in charge of the logistical operation.
The oyster larvae must have a solid support to which they can cling, so empty scallop shells are attached to ropes, linked to buoys and placed vertically in the sea, where the oyster embryos can stick to them.
The operation is called "France o-Kaeshi" which means "France returning a present", a reference to the help French oyster farmers received in 1970 and 1990 when their own farms were hit by an epidemic.
"We are only just beginning to rebuild the oyster business, it will take many years," said Robert Verdier of the organisation PlaNet Finance Japan, which is running the project.
"The Sanriku region is considered to be a vital world oyster reserve, 80 per cent of Japan's larvae come from Sanriku and every time a country suffers from a major problem, it calls upon this area to save its oyster herd".