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2011年1月13日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 12
EDITORIAL: Movement of goodwill

When a person calling himself Naoto Date left 10 gift-wrapped backpacks for schoolchildren at the front door of a child welfare facility in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, on Christmas Day, he probably never intended to start a nationwide goodwill movement.

But his act of generosity inspired many people to follow his example, setting off a chain reaction of anonymous gift-giving that has developed into what is now called the "Tiger Mask movement."

"Let's hope the Tiger Mask Movement will continue," said a letter sent earlier this month to a community outreach organization in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture.


Naoto Date is the protagonist of "Tiger Mask," a manga series hugely popular about 40 years ago. Date was raised in an orphanage and became a successful pro wrestler known as Tiger Mask, who kept donating his prize money to the orphanage.

Japan at the time was finally beginning to emerge from postwar poverty---two decades after its defeat in World War II.

On Monday, a children's home in Tottori Prefecture received a boxful of school supplies from an anonymous donor. "I am grateful that the Tiger Mask movement has made someone take interest in us," said the home's director.

More than 30,000 youngsters age 1 to 18 are living in about 580 children's homes around the nation. Unlike 40 years ago, when such homes were mainly for orphans and children of indigent parents who could not afford to raise them, the majority of these youngsters are victims of parental abuse. Some were never even taught by their parents how to brush their teeth, leaving them with a mouthful of cavities.

There are also kids who are violent and aggressive because they have been physically abused. More of these youngsters today carry deep emotional scars that cannot be easily healed.

It appears that all welfare facilities for children are deeply appreciative of the surprise gifts they have received. But on the other hand, some facilities are not entirely sure how to deal with the recent outpouring of generosity from total strangers.

Specifically, things get tricky when it is not clear if an anonymous gift was really meant as such. In such cases, the item has to be reported to police as someone's lost property. And not all gifts meet the needs of children. For example, the kids may fancy a school bag in a different color or shape, or may not even need a school bag in the first place.

Hideyuki Tsuchida, vice chairman of the National Council of Homes for Children, noted: "It'll make us happier if people would ask us what we really need. And when you think about the kids' futures, I believe it's important that they know the people who have helped them, and how." Tsuchida himself runs a children's home in Tokyo.

Children's welfare facilities have always been supported by people of goodwill. Local restaurateurs treat kids to meals, and caring individuals invite them to sporting events. But such "heroes" usually remain unsung.

An envelope containing cash and a letter was recently found at a supermarket in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture. The letter said, "There are Tiger Masks all over the country, I'm sure." Indeed, we believe there is a spark of goodwill in every person.

This winter is becoming bitterly cold, and the economy remains chilled. Stormy winds are blowing, and perhaps Tiger Mask has not only made children happy, but also lit up the hearts of ordinary citizens who are living busy lives every day.

If that is the case, what is the best way to make sure people's goodwill will reach the intended recipients and make charitable giving an established custom in our country?

If we are by nature so shy or self-conscious about charitable giving that we need to hide behind anonymity, then maybe it's time to take off the mask.


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