“No takebacks,” says literally everyone else but the mayor himself, but luckily for him, this story ends well.

In a bid to promote internationalization and boost local economies, multiple cities across Japan have taken initiatives to form sister-city relationships across the world, often leading to fulfilling intercultural exchanges and support in times of crisis. For example, in early February, the city of Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, sent a shipment of 4,500 masks to its sister city Wuxi New Area, located in China’s Jiangsu Province.

However, as the number of reported COVID-19 cases begin to soar in Japan, during a local television broadcast Toyokawa mayor Yukio Takemoto mentioned that Toyokawa city government is in the middle of negotiating for the return of the masks it sent to its sister city, provided there is still inventory left.

▼ If you have finished cursing all your mortal enemies, please consider donating leftover, unused masks to your local hospital!


In Aichi alone, there have been over 140 confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients and 17 deaths. Aichi is one of the most hard-hit prefectures in Japan, behind Tokyo and Hokkaido, and Toyokawa has also confirmed a COVID-19 case—a Toyota employee in their 20s.

Given these circumstances, it’s understandable that the mayor of Toyokawa wants to ensure his city’s citizens have amply supplies as the city is set to run out of masks by May. And while Toyokawa has sent about 4,500 masks as well as protective equipment to suburban Wuxi New Area, it seems that the mayor is only asking for leftover masks.

However, considering that this was a donation to a sister city, the request comes off as tactless, especially when multiple cities in China are working to stem a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases. The mayor’s statement has certainly raised eyebrows among Japanese netizens. Many decried the mayor’s words while a few agreed with them.

“Then why bother sending them in the first place?”
“Maybe if this was a private matter between two people it would be more understandable, but this is unscrupulous for a governing body.”
“Disgraceful. They were way too optimistic about the COVID-19 situation in the prefecture and now it’s come down to this.”
“I think he really cares about the citizens of Toyokawa over his pride and how he might be perceived.”

Fortunately for the mayor, in less than 24 hours, Wuxi New Area was quick to respond (translation below).

“It has come to our attention that our sister city in Aichi prefecture, Toyokawa, has a shortage of masks. We will be sending 50,000 masks promptly to support our sister city. This is the real power of friendship between our countries!”

Given the volatile nature of the Internet, a good amount of Japanese netizens scrutinized the gesture, but some Twitter users were especially appreciative of the kind act.

“What a class act! The mayor of Toyokawa should be the one at shame here!”
“As a resident of Toyokawa, thank you very much though we’re sorry about the circumstances that led to this…”
“I’m so shocked at how quickly they acted!”

▼ Chinese netizens also took to the keyboard, praising the efforts between the two cities.

“Speaking as a Chinese person, but I don’t think his response is something entirely bad. Helping each other out is a good thing and the request itself isn’t entirely unjustifiable. I think he was really thinking about the well-being of the local citizens.”

As Japan braces for a potential spike in COVID-19 cases and Tokyo has asked residents to stay in their homes for the weekend, it’s good to see that the relationship between two sister cities has remained strong. We hope all of those affected in the region have a speedy recovery and that local governments soon roll out the necessary measures to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Update: A previous version of this article said that Wuxi New Area would be sending 5,000 masks to Toyokawa, when it was actually 50,000. The translation has been updated accordingly.

Source: Tokai Television via Hamster Sokuho
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

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