Anyone who’s lived in Tokyo for a while will be familiar with the sight of cheerful young people holding signs for “free hugs” in Harajuku, but a group of Japanese students in Beijing have decided to export the practice in the hope of easing tensions between their countries.
The group held placards with the Chinese characters for “China-Japan Friendship. Hugs Squad” at a sakura festival, successfully attracting thirty people to accept the offer during the half hour they were there. According to Jiji Press, “While asserting China’s ownership of the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, one 58-year-old from Jilin Province in northern China accepted the offer of a hug with delight.”
In relations with China and Korea, many leading Japanese politicians have proved themselves to be blindly nationalistic at best and racist at worst; along with the recent anti-racism demonstration in Ikebukuro, the “Hugs Squad” is another example of ordinary Japanese people rebuilding the bridges burned by their leaders.