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Aspiration for a “New Community”
—The Ripple Effect of the “Tiger Mask” Phenomenon

Hatsuko Kawana
Associate Professor, School of Human Sciences, Waseda University

It started with the news that on Christmas Day in 2010, ten school bags were delivered to a child guidance center in Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture, along with a card signed by Mr. Naoto Date, the hero of the cartoon "Tiger Mask." Since then, presents from Mr. Date were delivered to child care institution all around the country, which was covered extensively by the media in the middle of January, reporting that, "700 school bags and 34 million yen have been donated to child care institution." The situation is now truly festive and merry, as presents came to vary from children's clothes, stationary, and New Year's gift money to gold plates and a big tiger mask used at the Nebuta festival.

People were interested in who the sender was and made various assumptions based on the contents of presents and the letters attached to them. Meanwhile, staff members at the child guidance centers and child care institution appeared in the media a bit hesitantly, with most of them expressing their appreciation. Will children carrying the same school bags, which were presented to children who would enter primary schools next spring, make their first appearance on TV or in newspapers on the first day of the school?

Children in need of social nurturing

In Japan, the number of children whose parents are alive but cannot raise them for a range of reasons-such as child abuse, child neglect, alcohol or drug addiction and other mental illnesses, domestic violence, escaping from debt, and incarceration-has been increasing and has exceeded 40,000 (Source: a 2009-2010 information released by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare). The Convention of the Rights of the Child, which was adopted at the UN General Assembly in 1989 and ratified by Japan in 1994, stipulates that children deprived of a family environment have the right to be adopted, be placed in foster care, or be institutionalized properly when necessary. In Japan, however, only about 10% of such children are raised in foster care, and 90% are living in baby's home, child care institution, children's home, short-term therapeutic institutions for emotionally disturbed children, or support facilities for development of self-sustaining capacity.

Mr. Date must have embarked on these supportive activities with the intention of providing encouragement for these children who need social care. I wonder if you readers also see this in them-children who are raised by their own families asking their parents and grandparents to buy school bags, saying, "I like a red one," "I'll take a blue one," "I like a bright pink one, not the black one."

Children who are being raised at today's children's welfare homes are not necessarily forced to spend materially poor lives. The big difference between them and children raised by their own families is that it is not easy for them to act selfishly or self- indulgently in their group lives. It is heartwarming but somewhat sad for me to see a female high school student who lives in a child care institution, children's home cherish her high-end clothes and bags; or a male junior high school student-who lost his home because of his heavy psychosomatic disorder sitting in a wheelchair-wearing fashionable jeans that the nursing home staff bought for him.

Some of the adults who grew up in nursing homes criticize Mr. Date, saying that he "presents money and goods just for self-satisfaction." The reason why they criticize must be that Mr. Date's presents remind them of their experience in their childhood when they send off charitable visitors and felt lonely, thinking, "They have a home to return to." I anticipate, however, that myriad Naoto Dates all around the country will emerge, young and old, male and female-and create an atmosphere of building a new kind of community, with the potential for growth to become the leaders of this new community.

Two staff members from the child welfare division and the disabled welfare division of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare attended a study group meeting of the private sector and, from a practical viewpoint, started to consider allowing "children in social care to use services for the disabled," which is a double measure that has been impossible in the past. The discussion led to a decision to establish a study group to discuss challenges faced by social care institutions, including child care institution, children's home. These moves are considered to be the ripple effect of the "Tiger Mask" phenomenon.

Culture of donation must take root in Japan

The total amount of donations in 2010 was 9 trillion yen in the United States and 1.3 trillion yen in the UK, compared to 500 billion yen in Japan. Ms. Tokunaga of the Japan Fundraising Association points out that this significant gap is caused by the tax system problem (http://www.jfra.jp/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/summary1.pdf). I found an example of efforts to make a culture of donation take root in Japan. Saitama Prefecture established a nonprofit activities promotion fund (nonprofit organization fund) to make donations to small-sized incorporated nonprofit organizations tax-deductable.

I saw a media report that focused on nursing staff members who look after children, taking care of their daily needs, and on college students who do homework together and play together with children. The report revealed that these people had formed bonds, rather than material relationships, with children.

People are beginning to seek how a new human society should be beyond the existence of disabilities or blood ties, differences between old and young or male and female, and the disparity between rich and poor. I would like to take this opportunity to connect this new orientation to a movement to allow children in social care to be accepted and raised by the local community. The issue here is who the stakeholders will be, and the manner in which they listen to children, especially those who are deprived of the right to desire something because of disability, abuse, or for other reasons. Can we be the advocates for such children, who may be very near to you?

Hatsuko Kawana
Associate Professor, School of Human Sciences, Waseda University

[Career Summary]
After working for the editorial division of a publishing company and on the Faculty of Medicine at Teikyo University, she has been associate professor in the School of Human Sciences at Waseda University since April, 2003.

[Research fields]
Child welfare studies (social care for children / welfare for disabled children and people); Working with students in the Foster Parent Study Society of Waseda University on transferring children raised in nursing homes to foster parents so that children living away from their parents because of various reasons can be raised in a family environment.

Japanese Society for the Study of Social Welfare, School Social Work Association of Japan, Board of Directors Member for the Society for the Study of Adoption and Foster Placement of Children, Anne Project, Board of Directors Member for the Anne Funds PROJECT for Supporting Foster Children and Foster Parents

Family Support in the Future, Research and Study Report of the Preparatory Project for Foster Placement Resource Center for Foster Parents and Foster Children, p. 25-48 (2007)