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Hugs for Peace: How a Japanese blogger supports Ukrainians – Kyiv Post

After covering a distance of more than 8,000 km, a 37-year-old Japanese man named Koichi Kuwabara arrived in Kyiv to support Ukrainians in the struggle for independence.

YouTuber Kuwabara has been running a free hugs campaign around the world since 2011. Last year, he released an autobiographical book about his childhood and his decision to travel the world giving people hugs. The concept of his blog is to involve society in socio-political issues and covering them. Kuwabara hopes to attract help from as many people as possible.

In the center of Independence Square, he organized an action to show his concern for the people of Ukraine through “Hugs for Peace”. The guy stands with a sign and anyone can hug him. Kuwabara then posts it on his YouTube and Instagram blogs. From there, he seeks to attract a large audience to highlight the problem of the war in Ukraine.

Photo: Eva Beifong

The activist decided to come to Ukraine a month ago after talking with a Ukrainian refugee who had come to Japan. Then Kuwabara realized that the war in Ukraine was much more serious than what can be seen on Japanese television.

“I’m not brave enough to join the army, nor can I support Ukrainians with money.” However, in these difficult times, he came to hug and say, “I am with you. Therefore, the guy embarked on a long and difficult journey from Tokyo to Doha, Qatar, from there to Warsaw, and finally to Kyiv where he will live until September 26 as a couchsurfer friend.

“Of course, the plane ticket from Japan was quite expensive, but I thought that what Ukraine needed most at the moment was not the money I had paid for a plane ticket. plane, but a lot of attention from many people – and that could lead to a larger donation,” Kuwabara explained.

Every day after four in the evening, he stands with his sign on Khreshchatyk Street, hugging everyone. He also visited Irpin and Bucha to see firsthand the destruction inflicted by the Russian invaders. The rest of the time he studies the local culture, communicates with Ukrainians and walks the streets of Kyiv.

While in Japan, Kuwabara says he and friends made donations to foundations that help Ukrainian refugees in Japan. He notes that he would like to help Ukrainians in many destroyed cities, but he does not have the possibility due to his limited stay in Kyiv.

“I tried to find the best way to support all of Ukraine while staying in Kyiv. Then I thought if I could get Japanese people’s attention by giving free hugs and making a video to this topic, so let them support Ukraine. Maybe that’s the best way. It’s just better than just me doing support,” he said.

However, he says he is not a sufficiently influential person to open his own donation fund for Ukrainians and the needs of the Ukrainian military.

“So even if I created a donation fund, I couldn’t be of any help, but I thought I could get Japanese people to look directly at Ukraine by doing something different. I mean free hugs because that’s the only thing I’m good at,” Kuwabara explained.