Morimatsu Yoshida
2010winners contribution to society
Keeping children safe on their way to school through half a century of crossing-guard service
Morimatsu Yoshida

born: 1934
Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture

Award summary

For about 20 minutes around 8:00 each morning in the city of Nagoya, Mr. Yoshida watches over children on their way to school at the crosswalk at the Sengoku Elementary School South intersection on National Highway 153.

In 1961, on the day of the school entrance ceremony, a new student was struck by a car at this intersection, which lacked traffic signals or a crosswalk. In response, the mothers of students began taking turns standing guard. Yoshida, aged 27 at the time and running a nearby liquor store, began taking part to support these activities. Many of the students' mothers failed to understand what it felt like to drive a car; they would thrust traffic flags abruptly, forcing vehicles to make sudden stops. Believing such activities were even more dangerous, Yoshida attended a weeklong course at the police station to learn various skills, including how to hold a traffic flag and how to stop vehicles. He began showing up at the intersection every morning to advise the volunteer crossing guards.

Since then, these activities have become an integral part of his life. He has even had a uniform prepared at his own expense. Even after the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection, he continued guarding the spot alone. This spring marks his 50th year of service. While this solitary activity makes him feel lonely from time to time, he receives significant validation from his interactions with the children and from his wife's encouragement. Not one accident has occurred here during his years of service, something in which he takes great pride. Even now, he continues to watch over the children who cross his intersection, while maintaining his health by visiting a gym twice a week. "After doing this so long, there's no reason to quit," he says. "I'd like to keep doing it as long as my health allows."

Reasons for this award

While it's likely other volunteers across Japan guard the safety of children on their way to school, contributing to traffic safety by persisting with such activities for half a century is a major achievement. What's more, Mr. Yoshida's exhaustive efforts, which included taking a course on his own initiative and preparing his own uniform, have eliminated accidents at the intersection. It's heartwarming to see him exchanging good morning greetings and high-fives with the children. Some local residents say he's watched over three generations of their families on their way to school-parents, children, and grandchildren.

Comments from the winner

Across Japan, countless volunteers instruct children in traffic safety. Since I, too, am just one of these people volunteering every morning, it feels quite presumptuous for me to accept this award alone. Still, looking back, I see it's been 50 years since I started. Over this period, through my traffic-guard duties, I've interacted with large numbers of children. Even today, the grandchildren of the school's first class of graduates cross the intersection on their way to school. In the future as well, as long as my health allows, I want to continue doing what I can to keep children safe, while savoring the supreme joy of having my activities recognized.