• Kyodo


A mysterious donor who posed as a cartoon wrestler hero and triggered a wave of similar donations for underprivileged children in Japan several years ago revealed his identity Wednesday at a pro wrestling event in Tokyo and called for sustained support for youngsters.

Masatake Kawamura, a 43-year-old company employee from Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, said he was the donor impersonating Naoto Date, the protagonist of the “Tiger Mask” cartoon series dating back to the 1960s.

In the wrestling ring at Korakuen Hall, Kawamura said: “Children are born not to be abused but to be hugged. I’d like to continue engagement” in supporting them. His remarks drew applause from the crowd.

According to Kawamura, he gifted school backpacks in the name of Naoto Date to a home for children in Maebashi in December 2010 and followed up with several similar donations of supplies using his own money.

His actions were followed by a spate of donations of school bags and supplies at children’s homes in other parts of the country — actions dubbed by the media as the “Tiger Mask” phenomenon.

Hailing from Oita Prefecture, Kawamura said when he was younger his family could not afford the typical durable school backpack used by elementary school students.

“By going public, I hope to draw attention again to the need for providing support (for the underprivileged) in society and that it will lead to more help,” he added.

He said donated backpacks outside Maebashi were not his doing and he used the name of the cartoon character because he “could sympathize with the cartoon.”

The manga series, authored by the late Ikki Kajiwara and illustrated by the late Naoki Tsuji, appeared in a weekly cartoon magazine in the late 1960s and ’70s.

In the story, after growing up in a home for children, Date becomes a masked wrestler, beats vicious opponents in the ring and donates prize money to the home where he grew up.

The story was later turned into an animated TV series.

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