January 11, 2011 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Anonymous "superheroes" are making deliveries to orphanages all across Japan.

The donations of schoolbags, stationery, cash, and even bushels of rice are often accompanied by letters signed "Date Naoto," the real name of a fictional wrestler from the eponymous 1970 manga Tiger Mask. In the manga, Date Naoto, who was raised in an orphanage, got his start in wrestling as a heel, but gradually realizing that children saw him as a role model he took on the name Tiger Mask and donated his prize winnings to orphanages as his "alter ego," Date Naoto.

Although the movement started with a single donation on December 25 in Gunma Prefecture, as of today there have been over 100 reported cases across the country. One was even caught on television.
posted by armage (11 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This is awesome. Incidentally, Tiger Mask was also the inspiration for King from the Tekken video game series.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:31 AM on January 11, 2011

Holy shit that's an awesome mask. Where can I buy one of those?
posted by yeoz at 6:33 AM on January 11, 2011

Not mentioned in the article is the fact that donations of schoolbags are bloody expensive, and probably make a lot of difference for a kid trying to fit in.

Japanese style schoolbags, randoseru, are made of 100% thick leather and typically cost around $300, with some costing up to $1,000. A kid who doesn't have one really stands out and likely feels horribly uncomfortable and inferior. So the donation is not only expensive, but most likely really makes a difference in the kid's life.
posted by sotonohito at 6:45 AM on January 11, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yeah I was surprised to see this on the news tonight. Go mysterious Tiger Masked ones!
posted by gomichild at 7:04 AM on January 11, 2011

This is wonderful. How great it is to have anonymous gifting to those who have no resources of their own AT ALL becoming a cultural movement someplace. Rock on, Japan.
posted by hippybear at 8:26 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this post! Right now I'm imagining a scenario in which Tiger Masking goes worldwide, and an international league of heroes-in-disguise replace Santa Claus in the planet's cultural mythology. I, for one, welcome our new Japanese superhero wrestler gift-lords.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:53 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been following this, and it's interesting that most of the reporting I've seen, it's being reported as things donated directly by a fictional character. Some of the English language reporting (based on previous Japanese language reports) maintains the same idea, rather than saying "donated on behalf of". Kind of odd.

I wondered if, in any way, this is related to the actual pro wrestler Tiger Mask II dying recently, but it seems he died longer ago than I thought. Either way, it's pretty remarkable that this is happening here. Japan is not the most charitable society, and I think it's pretty great that people are motivated to do this. In some ways, I imagine otaku who would never otherwise do this suddenly realizing how totally awesome this is, and how Tiger Mask would want them to do it too.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:22 PM on January 11, 2011

I don't know... I've been reading about this in the papers and whatnot, too, and feel sort of like an ass to say this or even feel the way I do, but I'm sort of ambivalent about all the subsequent donations that have been popping up everywhere. I mean, the first time, sure, OK, nice gesture. But the rest? It feels like the gift-givers are doing it because it's high-profile news right now and sounds like a fun bandwagon to hop on. Jikomanzoku, you know? Will these people do this again next year? The year after next? Kids who need stuff will always exist, every year.

And do the recipients really need the items that are being donated? I've seen the public officials in charge of handling these donations say in interviews that they really appreciate the charity, but what else could they say? They can't exactly say that they'd prefer people to donate in cash through proper channels, it would make them look unappreciative and imagine the uproar it could cause. The Japanese media is great at bashing "unappreciative" people, and public officials are prime targets.

Randoseru come in different colors and a boy would never use a red one if he could choose (let's leave gender issues on the side for a moment), and would be bullied to high heaven if he had to start school using one. A girl could get away with using a black one, maybe, but would probably prefer not to. Wouldn't it be better to donate money to be used for this purpose and let the kids who need it choose the one they want?

Sorry to "mizu wo sasu" on your post, armage... I've been thinking about this for days now. I just sort of wish the people who feel like making donations would do so not because they want to feel good about themselves, but instead do it in a way that really helps the kids in need.
posted by misozaki at 5:07 PM on January 11, 2011

I understand your point, misozaki, and yeah, it would be nice if it were more thought out, or even an annual event (like, say, can drives or donation drives in the States), but I'm pretty excited that people in Japan (especially people who probably would never have otherwise thought of doing so) are doing this. For one thing, it's one of the few times I've felt good about the seeming propensity for copycat actions in Japan (for example, the kid this year that stabbed a classmate less than a week after a similar incident, and then admitted that he wanted to do copy the first incident).

Also, some of the donations have been in cash, gift certificates, and other consumables. Not just the hideously expensive randoserus.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2011

There was an article in this morning's Tokyo Shimbun that discussed this phenomenon, in which an associate professor of sociology at Kwansei Gakuin University commented that he sees these actions being based on an urge to express the donor's goodwill rather than to actually want to do something beneficial (the translation's mine). Also, the director of the Chuo Kyodo Bokinkai, the organization that runs the "Akai Hane Kyodo Bokin" and the "Saimatsu Tasukeai Bokin" comments that donations to these causes have been decreasing every year, and sites the reason for it to be because it's hard to see how the money is being distributed and used. So people are turning to a more direct means of showing their good intentions, which, I know, isn't at all a bad thing. But it still sort of bugs me.

In this related article, in Japanese only, sorry, it says that someone donated some stationery with a note saying, "I'm sorry these aren't randoseru." Which is just absurd. Why should someone feel sorry for giving a gift? It goes to show how these are totally copy-cat actions, like you point out, Ghidorah.

It's like the 24-Hour "Charity" TV that's broadcast every year on Nippon Television. Mostly show with questionable effect.

Gosh, I'm such a bitter obasan...
posted by misozaki at 7:46 PM on January 11, 2011

misozaki Of course it's just a fad. But if it's a fad that got people who wouldn't have otherwise donated anything to do so, how's that bad? Harnessing human sillyness/stupidity/tribalism/whatever to a good cause seems like something to applaud, not bemoan.
posted by sotonohito at 4:39 AM on January 12, 2011

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