Photo/Illutration From left: Princess Mako; Prince Hisahito; Crown Prince Fumihito and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko; and Princess Kako in November (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Crown Prince Fumihito and his family have been lending a royal helping hand to health care workers treating COVID-19 patients, personally making urgently needed medical gowns alongside Imperial Household Agency staff.

The crown prince and princess and their children have donated 300 gowns to date in May to the Saiseikai Imperial Gift Foundation Inc. for use at hospitals it operates.

After learning that the items were in short supply, the imperial family got to work making the gowns using plastic bags together with agency staff.

The foundation, where Fumihito serves as president, will send the gowns to its hospitals across Japan suffering from shortages.

On May 11, Fumihito, Crown Princess Kiko and their daughters, Princess Mako and Princess Kako, learned that hospital staff were making gowns out of garbage bags to deal with shortages at the foundation’s hospitals.

The news came during an online chat with its director and other officials conducted from the imperial family's residence, according to the agency.

The couple then got busy making gowns with their daughters, son, Prince Hisahito, and agency staff after learning how the hospitals made the gear.

The group produced gowns at a pace of 20 to 30 over two hours, during which time they maintained social distancing practices as a safeguard against the new coronavirus.

A total of 100 gowns were delivered on May 15 and 200 on May 22 to the foundation’s headquarters and its hospitals.

The royals and the agency staff also attached cards to the gowns filled with personal messages to health care workers.

“Your hard work has saved people’s lives,” read one.

“Trying to handle all the hard work they are tasked with, in addition to discrimination and abusive behavior by some members of the public, health care workers are almost mentally exhausted,” a foundation official said. “(The messages) have given us huge encouragement.”

Foundation staff will make copies of the messages and distribute them to all its hospitals across the country, the official said.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan in March 2011, Kiko, Mako and Kako packed bath towels for evacuees at hot spring baths constructed for Imperial Household Agency staff at the Nasu Imperial Villa in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture.

Mako also took part in volunteer work to help victims of the disaster in Yamada and Otsuchi, both in Iwate Prefecture, and Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

(This article was written by Tatsuro Sugiura and Aya Nagatani.)