Here’s How Japan is Thanking its Frontline Healthcare Workers

A round-up of campaigns set up to express gratitude to Japan’s medical workers for their efforts to fight Covid-19

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Courageously fighting the coronavirus pandemic to protect others while risking their own lives, healthcare workers have been lauded as heroes around the globe with numerous campaigns set up to show appreciation for their efforts. While those displays of gratitude may not have been as evident or as vocal in Japan, many individuals and organizations here have expressed their thanks for those working on the frontline in a variety of different ways. This support is needed more than ever as we hear disturbing reports of doctors and nurses facing discrimination and ostracization due to the spread of virus.

The Nippon Foundation 

On May 26, The Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa announced that his organization would be providing a ¥5-billion assistance package as part of a three-year initiative to financially support 139 emergency medical service hospitals taking care of severely ill and high-risk patients across Japan.

The assistance will commence from the end of June, with respirators and personal protective gear for medical professionals provided at four hospitals. In April, the Nippon Foundation set up a makeshift facility with up to 600 beds for patients with minor or no symptoms of Covid-19. Earlier in May, the group unveiled a second project to help transport coronavirus patients with mild symptoms, as well as doctors and nurses, to and from hospitals. 

ARROWS 

Airborne Rescue Relief Operations with Search (ARROWS) is an emergency assistance project focusing on medical care set up by Peace Winds Japan (WPJ), Civic Force and A-PAD Japan. Since the coronavirus outbreak, these nonprofit organizations have been working together to supply frontline medical workers and vulnerable groups, such as eldercare facilities, with hundreds of thousands of masks and infection prevention supplies. They have also been sending equipment to hospitals, including antibody testing devices as well as supporting other essential services. 

Yahoo Japan 

Between May 1 and May 6 of this year, Yahoo Japan promised to support the activities of healthcare professionals by donating ¥10 each time someone typed the phrase “のりこえよう” (norikoeyo, “Let’s overcome this together”) into their search engine.

More than 2.8 million did just that, however, Yahoo had previously stated that the maximum amount the organization would donate was set at ¥20 million. An initiative called Yahoo Net Fundraising was also implemented that allowed users to raise funds for medical staff directly. 

WeSupport 

Jointly established by Oisix ra daichi, Coconet and RCF on April 20, the idea of WeSupport is to provide free food and beverages to health workers at hospitals that treat patients infected with Covid-19.

It was reported that some restaurants had previously refused to deliver to those medical institutions and there were times when there was no food left for staff after the patients had been served. Eighteen companies initially decided to join the WeSupport movement, by mid-May that number had tripled with 62 firms delivering rice and other items to 23 hospitals. 

Blue Impulse

On May 29, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Japan Air Self Defense Force flew six jets over central Tokyo as a mark of respect for health workers and other workers who have been doing their bit to keep the country running at this difficult time.

On May 29, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Japan Air Self Defense Force flew six jets over central Tokyo as a mark of respect for health workers and other workers who have been doing their bit to keep the country running at this difficult time. Many doctors, nurses and other medical staff stepped out of their hospitals to wave at the spectacular sight during the 20-minute show. It was the first time Blue Impulse had performed a flyover in the capital since 2014, when they participated at the farewell ceremony for the old National Stadium. 

ThanksMedicalWorkers 

In early April, five J-League players started the Instagram account ThanksMedicalWorkers  along with a Japanese hashtag that translates as “medical workers are our heroes.” The initiative was led by Urawa Reds attacking midfielder Kazuki Nagasawa who said, “Health workers and their families are having a hard time, suffering from prejudice and discrimination, so with my friends we discussed if there was something we could do.”

 

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Fellow footballers and other sports stars in Japan soon got in on the act posting pictures of themselves with fists raised on the page. According to Nagasawa, the gesture is used by characters in the popular manga and anime “One Piece” to express solidarity with one another. 

Fast Retailing

Uniqlo’s parent company made news earlier this spring with an initial donation of 10 million masks to medical institutions in Japan and elsewhere in the world.

This past week they upped the ante. Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. announced it will donate one million isolation gowns, four million masks and Uniqlo Airism functional innerwear items to medical institutions around Japan. Said Fast Retailing Chairman, President and CEO Tadashi Yanai, “We will keep striving as an apparel company to serve the social good.”

Johnny & Associates

Japan’s best-known talent agency Johnny & Associates has received quite a bit of bad press over the past couple of years, but was recently in the news for something much more positive when it was announced that the organization was supplying thousands of pieces of medical equipment to hospitals suffering from a shortage of medical gear. The first supplies were flown in from China at the beginning of May. In total, the agency plans to purchase 33,000 pieces of protective clothing, 500,000 face masks and 50,000 medical gowns.  

Friday Ovation

Inspired by the “Clap for Our Carers” campaigns that have taken place overseas, officials from several municipalities in Japan have been showing their appreciation for those on the frontline by clapping at fixed times, usually on a Friday at noon. The applause has been observed in a number of prefectures throughout the country including Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Shizuoka, Aomori, Ibaraki, Okayama and Okinawa.

Some local governments are also using the furusato nozei (hometown tax) system to help raise money for medical institutions. In certain prefectures, people donating to the fund (in return for gifts and tax exemptions) can identify “aid to medical workers” as the destination for their money. 

Government Subsidy

At the end of May, Japan’s Cabinet approved a secondary supplementary budget for the current fiscal year of a record 31.91 trillion yen in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of the package, ¥200,000 will be given to all frontline workers at hospitals treating coronavirus patients and ¥100,000 to staff members at medical institutions that have secured beds and are prepared to accept such patients. Some local governments had already set up their own support measures with Tottori Prefecture providing ¥4,000 per day to medical workers handling patients who have (or are suspected to have) the novel coronavirus.

Do you have any recommendations of how we can express gratitude to medical workers? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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