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Mainichi wins Japan newspaper award for photo of heartwarming pandemic reunion at care home

Naomi Minoura, right, is seen hugging her mother Mariko Nakajima, while wearing protective gear Medicon at care home Fleur Happiness Shinoro in Sapporo's Kita Ward on Oct. 29, 2020. (Mainichi/Taichi Kaizuka)

TOKYO -- A Mainichi Shimbun reporter's photo capturing a surreal and touching reunion between an elderly mother and her adult daughter during the coronavirus pandemic in October 2020 won a prize in the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association (NSK) Awards on Oct. 6, extending the newspaper's record-breaking run in the awards to 33 wins.

    The honor marks the sixth consecutive year that the Mainichi Shimbun has been named in the awards. The image taken by Mainichi Shimbun reporter Taichi Kaizuka, 44, a member of the Hokkaido Photo Group, was part of a project by The Mainichi Newspapers Co.'s Tokyo Head Office to capture moments in the coronavirus pandemic. In it, a woman wears protective gear resembling a spacesuit to finally visit her mother in a care home after eight months apart during the pandemic. It was among six prizes awarded in the news, photo and video, and planning divisions this fiscal year.

    2020's coronavirus pandemic brought drastic changes to our lives, and medical institutions and welfare facilities have attempted to prevent infections by enacting strict visitor restrictions that even excluded family members. Amid this, Kaizuka and others noticed an Osaka-based firm had developed protective gear resembling a spacesuit meant for use at nursing care facilities. They subsequently learned that the product was being put to practical use for the first time at a private elderly care home in Sapporo, Hokkaido. With permission from the facility, in October 2020 they conducted an exclusive interview with a resident and her daughter upon their meeting for the first time in eight months.

    The photo captures mother and daughter in a warm embrace, aided by the closeness afforded by the spacesuit-like outfit's infection prevention qualities.

    In its appraisal of the photo, the NSK said: "Within a composition featuring spacesuit-like protective gear that is at first glance humorous, the photo captured people's desperate wishes to seek contact with one another. It symbolizes the year under the coronavirus, and invited great sympathy among readers."


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