China returns Japan’s donated masks, gives 50,000 more

Women wearing protective masks following the Covid-19 outbreak in Tokyo. (Reuters pic)

When the Covid-19 crisis was at its peak in China, Japan provided assistance to its neighbour in the form of medical supplies and support.

In early February, the city of Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture sent 4,500 masks to its sister city Wuxi New Area in China’s Jiangsu Province, online news portal SoraNews24 reported.

However, just as the situation in China began to stabilise, the spread of Covid-19 in Japan began to rise rapidly instead.

At the time of writing, Japan had recorded 140 cases and 17 deaths from Covid-19, with citizens being advised to stay indoors to stem the spread of the virus.

The original donors were now in need of masks more than ever before.

Toyokawa city officials in Japan prepare boxes of face masks to be sent to their sister city, Wuxi New Area in China. (Twitter pic)

Reacting to the dire situation in Toyokawa, Mayor Yukio Takemoto despatched an urgent request to China, asking back for the very masks his city had donated earlier.

He said his people were in desperate need of the masks as current supplies would be exhausted by May.

Needless to say, Japanese internet users were horrified at the brazen request.

Many derided the mayor, expressing how appalled they were that he was asking back for a donation he made.

“Then why bother sending it in the first place,” said one enraged commentator, while another said it was unbecoming for a governing body to act in such a manner.

However, while many labelled the request utterly disgraceful, many more argued that the mayor was doing right by his constituents, swallowing his pride and requesting for the donated face masks to be returned.

A Wuxi New Area city worker in China signs documents allowing the delivery of face masks to Toyokawa, Japan. (Twitter pic)

As the Japanese stood divided on the matter, over in China however, the response was more cordial.

Instead of returning the remaining 4,500 masks that the mayor had rushed over to them, the people of Wuxi New Area gathered their resources and sent 50,000 masks to Toyokawa.

“This is the real power of friendship between our countries!” read one cheerful response from a citizen of Wuxi New Area.

While some Japanese have still remained sceptical about this grand gesture, others have welcomed it, with many apologetic over their earlier comments.

As one online commentator put it, “As a resident of Toyokawa, thank you very much though we’re sorry about the circumstances that led to this…”

Even during times of crises like this, the bond between the two sister cities has remained as strong as ever.