Wasabi Stories vol.17: “Is Free Hug Symbol of Peace?”



wasabi stories“Wasabi Stories” is a quotation and summary of a column which touches ones heart or not found on the internet.

It is a Japanese famous person’s story extracted from the NIKKEI news paper.

The purpose in posting the column in JAPAN Style is to cheer you up and to make you feel “it’ was worth reading!”

Wasabi (Japanese horseradish or mustard) is spicy and stimulate your nose and make you teary.

The columns in “Wasabi Stories” hopefully spice your heart and sometimes make you teary!

The stories were originally sent as E-mail Newsletter in Japanese. Some are a little old but we’ll eventually catch up with new ones.



“Is Free Hug Symbol of Peace?”

Today’s story teller is a scholar of German literature, Miho Matsunaga.

In her column, she is talking about “Free Hugs”.

In Japan, people don’t hug each other so often unless they are in a relationship.

Matsunaga says that because there is no custom to shake hands, it’s not rare that some people never touched long standing co-workers’ body.

When Matsunaga was a college student, she home stayed in Germerny for a short term, and she had a big culture shock to see the host parents kissing when either one left home, and the children kissed their parents before they go to bed.

She tells that she had never seen her parents kissing each other, and if her parents kissed her, she would feel gross!

In Germany, hug and kiss are natural greetings to show their love; however, Matsunaga couldn’t adapt the custom smoothly.

Whenever her host mother tried to hug her, she refused her and hurt her feeling although she didn’t mean to.

“When in Rome, do as Romans do.”

That’s what she realized and before she went back to Japan, she got used to hug and kisses.

Since then, she has hugged in various countries.

When one of her daughters became a college student, she started “Free Hug Campaign” at a college festival.

“Free Hug Campaign” is simply to hug each other whether they know each other or not, even total strangers too.

According to Matsunaga, you can see some people holding a paper saying “Free Hug” in Shibuya or Harajuku, Tokyo, and they hug whoever approaches them.

Her daughter often hugs her or what she calls “filial piety” when she looks tired, and that makes Matsunaga feel relaxed, she says.

Hugging is a certainly the way to show one’s love, and hugging makes us feel warm and peaceful.


“It may be awkward to be hugged by a stranger, but I wish that the world allows people to hug each other with relieved feeling without wicked heart. Today, violent news makes people hard to trust each other; free hug could be a symbol of peace.”

The Nikkei Nov/19/2008 by Miho Matsunaga (a scholar of German literature)


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