Hopes someone else will pick up the mask from here on out.

On 17 December, at the Higenin foster care facility in Kasaoka City, Okayama Prefecture, director Masafumi Takahashi presented a young child who resides there with a new randoseru backpack to take to their first day of elementary school next year.

In Japan, these leather (or leather-like) bags are the standard for kids in elementary school. However, only one bag is meant to be used through the entire six years which means they are built to last and typically sell between 20,000 and 50,000 yen (US$193 – $483). It’s a major purchase in a child’s life, and not having one can make them stick out like a sore thumb among their peers.

“Because of this randoseru, I really feel happy about entering school next year,” the child told Takahashi, “I really hope someone keeps doing this.”

Higenin was one of five such organizations in the prefecture that received a total of ten randoeru bags donated by Okayama’s Tiger Mask. In 2015, an anonymous letter was sent to the Okayama branch of Asahi Shimbun that pledged to donate ten bags to orphanages each year for the next five years. It was signed “Okayama’s Tiger Mask.”

Manga/anime character Tiger Mask, or his alter-ego, Naoto Date, has been used as a pseudonym for anonymous donations for over a decade in Japan. The manga, which debuted in the ’60s, dealt with a pro-wrestler who changed from a villain to a hero and regularly gave back to the orphanage where he grew up.

▼ Tekken‘s King character is heavily based – to put it mildly – on the Tiger Mask series

However, with 2020 coming to a close, Okayama’s Tiger Mask has fulfilled their five-year promise and sent a handwritten letter to the Okayama Prefectural Children’s Institution Council, confessing that they couldn’t continue due to old age. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it going for a longer time,” the letter read and hoped that another person would be willing to carry on.

As in previous years, Okayama’s Tiger Mask also wrote messages directly to the kids. This year one of them read: “I sincerely hope that you can have a great time with your friends and teachers.”

Although their final message was tinged with regret, Okayama’s Tiger Mask should be proud for having impacted so many young kids in meaningful ways. As far as someone else carrying on their work, nothing is certain, but with the untold number of active Tiger Masks across the country doing similar acts of random kindness, there is a decent chance of it happening.

And that’s not including all the people have drifted to other orphaned heroes of cinema like Tanjiro or Jason Vorhees. While the legacy of Tiger Mask getting co-opted by trendy characters is less than ideal, the end more than justifies the means. So, whether it’s a tiger mask, hockey mask, or pair of earrings, it doesn’t matter what gets picked up, just as long as it keeps getting picked up when it falls.

Source: Asahi Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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