AB 1

When I was in high school, every year there was an on-campus blood drive. It always saw a pretty good turnout, with a large number of generous and socially conscious students willing to part with their home-brewed hemoglobin to help others. The organizers even sweetened the deal by holding the event in the middle of the day, meaning that you could get out of a period of class by participating. And while that’s a pretty nice incentive, I think it’s been one-upped by a blood bank in Tokyo that offers a bookshelf of free manga to read and ice cream to munch on.

In commemoration of the government’s 1964 decision to establish the current blood donation network, August 21 is officially designated as Blood Donation Day in Japan. To mark the occasion, we paid a visit to the blood bank in Akihabara.

AB 10

It’s just a 30-second walk from the Denki Machi exit of Akihabara Station, and the fluttering flags outside with red crosses on them make the facility hard to miss. With its bright, glassy exterior, the center is a lot more inviting looking than you might expect from a dedicated blood-letting room.

The cheery atmosphere continues on the inside, which feels quite a bit like a casual little café. The waiting room had four large tables, with a selection of complimentary cookies, chocolates, and even senbei (rice crackers)

AB 3

AB 4

There was also a pair of vending machines, stocked with cocoa, coffee, matcha green tea latte, and sports drinks. Since there are vending machine all over Japan, their presence wasn’t anything unusual in and of itself, but what was noteworthy is that they were configured to dispense drinks for free.

AB 2

This being Akihabara, there’s also a bookshelf filled with manga.

AB 5

Before giving blood, you’ll need to make a donor’s card, which the helpful staff at the registration desk hooked us up with. There was a brief consultation to determine if we could give blood or not, which included questions about whether or not we were currently on any medication or had recently traveled outside the country.

Since everything checked out OK, soon enough we were led to a chair similar to what you’ll see in a dentist’s office. We sat down and the attendant clearly and politely explained the process before starting. There’s a bank of TVs to keep donors entertained (and perhaps distracted from the needle) while the blood is being drawn, and you’re also free to grab a manga volume off the shelf and take it with you. If you want to use your smartphone, that’s fine too, and the Akiba Blood Donation Room even has chargers and outlets available so you can fill up your battery and a blood vial at the same time.

AB 6

From the time the attendant started drawing blood, it took less than 15 minutes to complete our 400-mililiter donation. Afterwards, we were offered juice boxes and ice cream, the latter of which has a proven track record at putting a smile on faces following medical procedures.

AB 7

AB 8

Once again, because we were in Japan’s anime capital, the center was also handing out posters with cute 2-D girls encouraging us and others to donate regularly.

AB 9

With our hearts and tongues feeling good from our charitable act and recently consumed sweets, we walked back out in to the waiting room to find more than a dozen people awaiting their turn. The appreciative staff informed us, though, that even with so many people showing up that day, blood banks still need more, so next time you’re in the middle of an Akihabara shopping center and you’re looking for a place to rest your tired feet and relax with something to drink, consider stopping by.

Blood bank information
Akiba Blood Donation Room / アキバ献血ルーム
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Sotokanda 1-18-19, Shin Akihabara Building 1st floor
東京都千代田区外神田1-18-19 新秋葉原ビル1階
Open 10 a.m.-12:45 p.m., 2 p.m.-5:45 p.m.

Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]