TOKYO >> Faced with a new nemesis in the coronavirus, do-gooders donning superhero costumes are confronting the battle head-on by performing community service in towns nationwide.
In the Osu shopping district in Naka Ward, Nagoya, which is often crowded with visitors when emergency restrictions are not in place, seven masked volunteers were out recently cleaning up cigarette butts and empty plastic bottles. Discarded face masks littering the street were picked up and placed in plastic bags, with the tops tied tightly to prevent spread of the virus.
While taking the occasional moment to pose for a photo, the heroes filled up three garbage bags in about 90 minutes.
The group started their community service in the spring of 2018.
“Wearing a costume mask lifts me up and makes even picking up litter fun,” said a 27-year-old woman volunteer from Minokamo, Gifu Prefecture, who calls herself Clean Panther.
“I want to create something that will prompt others to want to do something themselves,” said Skullrouser, a 24-year-old man who has picked up trash at the JR Shibuya train station in Tokyo for the past three years. Photos of him have flooded social media, showing him the power of the costume.
At a station for the Tokyo Metro in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, Baby Buggy Orosunger, who wears a Power Ranger costume, helps people carry bags up and down the stairs. The 35-year-old, who operates a rice shop, said he decided to wear the costume because “it was embarrassing to address people with my real face.”
At first, passengers were wary, but now he is popular, especially among children.
One hero switched his focus from litter patrol to crime prevention. Twice weekly, Last Cannon, a 25-year-old Nagano man, keeps watch at JR Nagano train station. He has become such a familiar sight that he draws greetings and waves from eager children.
“These real-life heroes display Japanese-style modesty,” said Takeshi Okamoto, a Kindai University professor who specializes in subculture. “They want to do something useful for society but are embarrassed to show their faces while doing it.”