For seven years Koichi Kuwabara has been creating ‘free hug’ YouTube videos, travelling to various Asian countries, spreading a message of peace.

The reason behind this crusade of kindness is that, according to Kuwabara, when meeting Chinese and Korean people on his travels, he was completely struck by how kind they were, in stark contrast to how they are portrayed in the media of his home country, Japan.

Japan has a turbulent relationship with many of its neighbouring nations due to political tension and historical issues. Kuwabara is trying to do his small part to rectify the prejudices ordinary people may hold, by offering free hugs to passers-by in other countries, all in the name of friendship. He then shares the results on YouTube to help spread the message even further.

Although from time to time he has been confronted with angry people, largely the reception is positive, helping to smash preconceptions and prove that whatever opinion people may have of Japan’s politics, most don’t hold any hatred towards individual Japanese people.

But his latest video takes a scary turn when he is surrounded by three policemen.

He took his free hugs campaign to Nanjing, China. As the historical site of the most infamous massacre in the second Sino-Japanese war, it was a meaningful location for Kuwabara to choose. But also a risky one, where his intentions could be easily misinterpreted.

The video shows footage of a fierce anti-Japanese demonstration from a few years ago that Kuwabara witnessed. He says into the camera, ‘if they realise I’m Japanese, they’ll kill me’.

Back to the present day, in the Nanjing city centre, he holds his handmade sign up tentatively. Over the top of a Chinese and Japanese flag he has written in Chinese, ‘Chinese-Japanese friendship. Let’s hug!’

Many ordinary passers-by are receptive, and some even run over joyfully for the hug.

But the atmosphere turns sour when three policemen approach. They look briefly at his sign, then firmly escort him away. They also question Kuwabara’s Chinese friends and apprehend them too.

However, after arriving at the police station, the group have the chance to explain fully and the policemen’s attitude changes completely.

The police officers start to joke around with Kuwabara and his companions, saying that if he was promoting peace he should have made it more clear by putting a dove symbol on the sign. One of them even says he’s amazing for travelling around on his own.

Despite the scare of being taken to a police station in a foreign country, Kuwabara is bravely continuing his free hug movement with his contagious positivity.

If you want to donate to his cause, he has a crowdfunding page.

By - Jess.