Young people well up with hometown pride and tears as mayor thanks them for staying away to protect their families.

Coronavirus cases are beginning to increase dramatically in Japan right now, prompting the national government to expand their state of emergency this week from seven prefectures to all 47 across the entire nation.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained that part of the reason for the expansion was to discourage people from travelling between prefectures, especially during the upcoming Golden Week holiday period. And with many university students finding themselves alone with classes cancelled, the government is urging them to refrain from travelling back to their hometowns to avoid possibly spreading the virus.

While the central government has been providing direction on a national scale, it’s up to local governments to protect their regions and provide direct support and incentives for their residents. In Niigata Prefecture, the city of Tsubame is currently being praised for its efforts, after it was revealed that the mayor sent out care packages to hometown students studying at universities outside of the prefecture, away from their parents and families in Tsubame.

Twitter user Toshiki (@adtr_toshi23), who moved from Tsubame to study at a university in Tokyo, shared a photo of the package he received online, saying it made him well up with tears.

Included in the box of goods was a note from the mayor of Tsubame, Tsutomu Suzuki, which read:

“To all students who are practicing self-restraint by not returning to Tsubame,

In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the city of Tsubame is asking people to refrain from travelling back to Tsubame until 6 May from regions affected by the state of emergency declaration. [Editor’s note: This letter was written before the state of emergency was widened on 17 April.]

We deeply regret having to ask people to refrain from returning to their beloved hometown of Tsubame, especially those who may be overwhelmed by feelings of solitude and uncertainty.

Like me, business people of the city are concerned for everyone at this time, and they expressed a desire to help by at least sending you something like rice. I thought this type of effort would be wonderful, and immediately put it into action. 

As we were preparing to distribute one cloth mask and five kilograms of koshihikari rice harvested from Tsubame, the ring of support quickly widened, allowing us to send you things like miso and pickles as well.

We hope you can heartily enjoy some tasty food and revive your spirits, if only a little bit. 

Tsubame will always be supporting you. 

Let’s do our best together to overcome this hardship and not lose to the coronavirus. 

Tsubame City Mayor, Tsutomu Suzuki”

The caring letter of thanks and support from the mayor of the student’s childhood home was just as appreciated as the goods received. With Niigata being famous nationwide for its high-quality koshihikari rice, a five-kilo [11-pound] bag of grains from this region retails for approximately 2,500 yen (US$23.25). Combined with the other goods in the box, the total value of this care package, including postage, would be in the ballpark of 5,000 yen, which is no small change when you’re a student living away from home.

People online were touched by the package and the show of self-restraint by the young student, leaving comments like:

“I live in Niigata and I want to thank you for doing the right thing and not returning home.”
Tsubame City is great, and its residents who make the choice not to return at the moment are just as great.”
“It must be such an anxious time for you, but we’re all here to support you.”
“I have a daughter living alone in Kansai so this really tugs at the heartstrings for me.”
“This has me in tears – being kind is so important during times like this!”

Toshiki says he’s happy the pride he feels for his hometown is now spreading around the country, and while it’s tough being away from family at the moment, he’ll be putting off a return trip until the pandemic is over.

While that day might be far off for now, this act of generosity will be remembered well into the future. Like the landlord who reduced rent for their tenants in Japan, it doesn’t cost much to add some brightness and hope to people’s lives, especially now when people need it more than ever.

Source: Twitter/@xeconyr via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso 

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