Japanese Survivors Find Comfort in Robot Seal
Two months after Japan was hit with the deadly quake and tsunami, survivors are finding various ways to cope. Less than 20 miles away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, retirees are finding comfort in a most unusual source — Paro, a robotic seal.
“If I hold onto this, it doesn’t matter if there’s a typhoon outside, I still feel safe,” 85-year-old Satsuko Yatsuzaka tells reporters.
The robotic seal can blink its eyes and respond to touch and sound. Some residents even go as far as making the animals participate in group exercise, clapping its flippers along with the movements.
Resident Ayako Shizo tells China Daily, “It’s just as cute as a little living creature and so everyone is looking after it every day. It does sometimes runs out of batteries and stop. But when it’s got its eyes open everyone stands around talking to it, asking it how it’s doing and such.”
The Paro toy typically costs 12,000 yen/month to lease, but the manufacturer has decided to give the toy to the retirement home for free. “Animal therapy” has been commonly used to speed up the healing process from traumas, and Paro is no exception. Taku Katoono, the center’s general manager explains, “In this case we use a doll, albeit a robotic one, as an alternative method to help them recover.”
As of now, the residents are finding some hope and healing in the flippers of two Paro seals, “Love” and “Peace.”