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Tokyo morning train commuters get daily encouragement from group waving flags, banner

People are seen waving flags and a banner with a message of encouragement for JR Sobu Line train commuters in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward on Feb. 16, 2021. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Commuters on a train in the capital were showered with encouragement on a recent morning when a group standing by a railway bridge next to the Arakawa River shouted out "good morning" to them as they waved flags and a banner saying "Let's do our best today, too!"

    Some commuters could be seen waving back to them as the JR Sobu Line train traveled to the heart of Tokyo. The group's activities were started on Jan. 6 by Hirohisa Tanaka, 45, who runs a manga classroom and lives in the Chiba Prefecture city of Funabashi, east of Tokyo. As the coronavirus crisis brought with it a depressing mood from many of his friends experiencing dramatic falls in work, Tanaka found himself moved to tears while watching a video of people singing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from the musical "Les Miserables" in a relay. He then came up with the idea of cheering on morning commuters.

    He asked his friend to pen the lettering, and a pupil drew the banner's illustration. The group waves the flags between 7 and 9 a.m. on weekdays -- when many people are commuting during the pandemic -- and they even show up on rainy days. Originally just three people, the group's membership has grown to 33 individuals.

    In response to their efforts, people have taken to social media to post comments like, "They lifted the mood in the train a little," and, "It's awesome. I'm going to work hard." Tanaka also received a message from a 34-year-old JR Sobu Line train operator which read, "We can see it (the flag waving) clearly from the train. I'm very happy to have encounters like this at a time when we tend to feel trapped."

    Tanaka said, "Even though I went in with the intention of cheering others up, I'm being cheered up, too. Maybe these analog actions resonate with people because it's a digital age."

    Tanaka plans to continue the displays until the state of emergency is lifted.

    (Japanese original by Kimi Takeuchi, Photo Group)

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