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Fictional Wrestler Tiger Mask Inspires Massive Donations to Japanese Orphanages

In a story reported by Topless Robot, dozens of people in Japan have been making anonymous donations to orphanages since Christmas, sending in cash, food, expensive backpacks and more under the name of fictional crimefighting Japanese luchador Tiger Mask.

It started on Christmas, when an anonymous donor left 10 expensive backpacks at a Japanese orpahanage, signing the name Naoto Date, the name of Tiger Mask’s secret identity. The good Samaritan in question was undoubtedly inspired by the events of the character’s origin story — the fictional Tiger Mask was raised in an orphanage and decided to forsake his heel character to become a good guy so that the kids wouldn’t grow up idolizing villains — but the really amazing thing is what happened next.

After the first “Naoto Date” donation on Christmas in Guma Prefecture was picked up by the Japanese press, over a hundred similarly anonymous donations inspired by Tiger Mask have been reported all over Japan.

According to a list at Anime News Network, orphanages in almost all of Japan’s prefectures — which are responsible for raising over 300,000 children, a number that was sadly raised by 10% over the past decade — have received “over 155 backpacks and 1.76 million yen (about US$21,000)” since Christmas thanks to a groundswell of donations inspired by Tiger Mask.

It’s even spread to other stories, with more fictional characters coming to life to do good in the world. A donor in Okayama who claimed to be inspired by “Date” left backpacks and dumplings called kibidango at a local orphanage with a note signed by Momotaru, a local folktale about an orphan boy found in a giant peach and raised by a kindly couple, and in Himeji, the title character of Ashita no Joe, about a boxer who grew up in an orphanage, left the kids a pair of backpacks and paint sets.

It’s not the first time Tiger Mask has made his presence felt outside of anime and manga; the mask and name have been licensed out to real-life professional wrestlers, including Satoru Sayama, seen here in his series of titanic battles against the Dynamite Kid set to the strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” for no other reason than because it’s awesome:

Even so, no matter how his devastating battles against the villainous Black Tiger and Bret “The Hitman” Hart may have affected the cosmic balance of good and evil in the wrestling ring, it doesn’t hold a candle to the charity that’s going on now.

It’s a great example of just why heroes — even, and sometimes especially fictional ones — are important. Just because they’re made up doesn’t mean they can’t do good in the world by inspiring others.

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