Back in 2010, a home for children in Maebaeshi, Gunma Prefecture received a gift of backpacks from a familiar name: Naoto Date, otherwise known as Tiger Mask. More donations came in soon after under the same name, and in time "Tiger Mask" was donating to underprivileged children all across Japan.
This month at a pro-wrestling event in Tokyo, the charitable mystery man unmasked himself: Masatake Kawamura, a 43-year-old company employee from Maebashi.
Kawamura stated that he made the donations because he remembered his parents being unable to afford durable school backpacks for him when he was younger. As for the choice of name, he said he could "sympathize" with the legendary cartoon character: Naoto Date grew up in a children's home, became a masked wrestler, and donated his winnings to the home that raised him.
As for the nationwide acts of similar charity, Kawamura says those were not his doing. Rather, they are believed to be part of what the media has called the "Tiger Mask Effect": other people feeling inspired to do as Kawamura did while using the same character's name.
While Kawamura may not be a pro-wrestler like the character whose name he chose, the audience at the match certainly gave him a hero's welcome. He says he went public with his identity in hopes that his actions would inspire others to help the underprivileged.
"Children are born not to be abused but to be hugged," he said, adding that he would like to continue to help them wherever he can.
Source: The Japan Times
Kara Dennison is responsible for multiple webcomics, runs social media and interviews for (Re)Generation Who, and is half the creative team behind the OEL light novel series Owl's Flower. She blogs at karadennison.com and tweets @RubyCosmos.