Tomodachi in Time of Need

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Long Beach, Glendale and L.A. receive donations of hand sanitizer from YS Media Agency.

From left: Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian, Consul General Akira Muto, YS Media Agency CEO and President Yuki Seki, Glendale Mayor Vrej Agajanian, Councilmember Dan Brotman, Nippon Expresss USA West Region Senior Vice President Yukihiro Murata, and JETRO Los Angeles Chief Executive Director Osamu Taki. (Photo courtesy YS Media Agency)

By TOMOKO NAGAI, Rafu Staff Writer

YS Media Agency has donated 30,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to three cities.

The donation to Long Beach was facilitated by Mike Vaughn of the Long Beach-Yokkaichi Sister City Association. The sanitizer was transported to a city warehouse free of charge by Nippon Express.

A presentation ceremony was held on June 25 at the Long Beach Unified School District Operations Purchasing Distribution Center. Karissa Selvester, executive director of the Long Beach Mayor’s Fund for Education, accepted the donation and presented a certificate of appreciation.

Guiding the group to the warehouse, Selvester said that upon hearing that free supplies are provided to those in need, an endless line of people come from far away every day. She pledged that the sanitizer will be put to good use.

YS Media Agency is a unique company represented by a virtual character, Rin Asobi, a 16-year-old biracial Nikkei born in Los Angeles. Three times a week, she is featured in English-language entertainment programs posted on YouTube. The channel has about 73,000 followers, the majority from the U.S. but also from other countries where English is spoken, including the Philippines, England, India and Canada. Almost half (47 percent) of followers are 15 to 24 years old. In one video, the virtual idol appears to be talking with the owner of an anime shop in Little Tokyo in real time, a surprising technological feat.

Nippon Express USA delivers palettes of hand sanitizer donated by YS Media Agency to a warehouse in Long Beach.

The donation of hand sanitizer is the result of Operation Tomodachi, a project supposedly carried out by Rin, and her image appears on the bottles.

YS Media President Yuki Seki said, “There is racial conflict now, but in February when the new coronavirus began spreading, we were concerned that it could even develop into a civil war. Even though our power might be inadequate, we felt that we wanted to do something about it. Since we had a virtual character, we wanted to present her as a symbol of action to bring about the end of corona, a character not obsessed with race or religion or disdain for people.”

He hopes that in a post-corona world, people will go forward while helping each other, and it will be a peaceful world with a new set of values. This would be made possible by a pure heart unencumbered by the distorted social structures and political struggles that have continued for hundreds of years.

Seki said that he wants to develop the project into a fund that will include not only sanitizer but also food, educational materials and both tangible and intangible social contributions. Rather than ending with a single donation, his goal is to manufacture and sell supplies needed for the pandemic, using the profits as donations, expanding resources and creating new jobs.

The project has donated 470,000 masks to Japan’s 47 prefectures and is going to donate 180,000 masks to Hawaii.

YS Media Agency President Yuki Seki and Long Beach Mayor’s Fund for Education Executive Director Karissa Selvester. (TOMOKO NAGAI/Rafu Shimpo)

On the following day, a presentation ceremony was held in Glendale with Consul General Akira Muto and Mayor Vrej Agajanian participating. The mayor expressed gratitude to the consul general, YS Media, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and Nippon Express, and announced that 5,000 bottles of sanitzer will go to local medical facilities and the other 5,000 to businesses.

Muto said that the donated sanitizer was symbolic of the two countries working together to fight the coronavirus, and that he was happy to be of assistance.

Osamu Taki, executive director of JETRO Los Angeles, said that the donation to Glendale was an example of goodwill from Japanese companies, for which JETRO and the consulate were able to serve as a bridge. Nippon Express again delivered the goods at no charge.

The third city to receive the donation of sanitzer was Los Angeles. In addition, the Japan Business Association’s education division arranged for the donation of 10,000 bottles of sanitizer to 20 local schools. Next, another 10,000 will be sent to Hawaii.

Seki said he would like to expand his project to include all 50 states, with at least 10,000 bottles donated to each state. The key to making this dream a reality will be support from Japan-affiliated organizations.

Along with YS Media, various Japanese companies are expanding their supportive activities. A recent webinar sponsored by the Japan America Society of Southern California, in which Muto and Norihiko Saeki of JETRO appeared, focused on contributions by Japanese companies. Muto said that he is available to make introductions for any company interested in participating.

The Los Angeles presentation ceremony also included a donation of 1,000 face shields by Toyota.

Whether the contributions are large or small, this wave of goodwill is expected to continue.

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