Moving results offer hope for improved relations between the two nations.
Japan and China have a complex relationship. The countries continue to have strong economic ties and numerous cultural influences, both traditional and modern, on one another, but there’s also a degree of animosity, fueled in no small part by the military conflicts between the two nations during the first half of the 20th century.
Making things even more complicated is that many people in each country assume that they’re disliked by their counterparts in the other. That’s a notion Japanese citizen Koichi Kuwabara wants to dispel, however.
Kuwabara periodically stands on the streets of China offering free hugs to passersby as a gesture of goodwill that he hopes will bring Chinese and Japanese people closer together, and in his latest YouTube video, shot in Beijing, he adds an intriguing twist.
Aside from a camera, Kuwabara needed three pieces of equipment for the video: a blindfold, and a pair of handwritten signs, bearing Chinese text that translates as:
“I am Japanese. In Japan, many people think ‘Chinese people hate Japanese people,’ but I don’t think that is true.”
“I trust you. Will you trust me? If so, please give me a hug.”
Kuwabara’s inability to see adds an unpredictable layer to his social experiment, as it removes his ability to make eye contact or directly beckon individuals. Many people feel trepidation to accept free hugs under even normal circumstances, so it’s not too surprising that, at first, many people give him a puzzled look and keep moving without stopping for a squeeze.
Eventually, though, one trusting and affectionate person saunters over and gives Kuwabara a hug, which he cheerfully returns. From then on, he gets one hug after another, some shy, some enthusiastic, but all heart-warming.
In many ways, Japan’s relationship with China mirrors the one it has with Korea, which is why Kuwabara also performed his blindfolded hug experiment in Seoul back in April, with similar results.
Kuwabara signs off on his latest video with the message “Let’s start with trust.” He doesn’t specify what’ll comes next, but a hug seems like as good a second step as any.