Fighting to Inspire Communities
Superheroes have recently become an even more familiar presence. People living in certain towns, cities and neighborhoods have created superheroes representing their area. They promote special products or tourist spots to attract shoppers and visitors. Local superheroes have become more and more common since 2000, with more than 100 in Japan today.
The first is said to be Island Soldier Tanegashiman. They come from Tanegashima, a remote island in Kagoshima Prefecture known as the site of Japan's largest space-launch complex. The superhero team was created in the summer of 1996 by young locals of the town Nakatane-cho, who wished to spark excitement in the area. Tanegashiman have since become popular and appeared at local events to promote the island.
Since then, new, local superheroes began to appear across Japan. While some of them help promote a local area's natural environment or delicious treats, others appear at events and shows to attract visitors to local hot spring towns, for example. Some of them have even become famous with their own local TV shows or movie appearances, and their fame has boosted superheroes in other areas.
Left: Onagawa Rias Soldier Eager (left). Above: Once affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, he is now back at events and encouraging local people.
©Onagawa Rias Soldier Eager Project
In March 2011, Onagawa-cho was severely damaged by the tsunami that followed the massive earthquake that struck the Tohoku region in northern Japan. The performer of the local superhero, Onagawa Rias Soldier Eager, was also affected by the disaster and public appearances were halted. Fans of the hero, however, found his weapons that had been swept away by the tsunami, and local children waited eagerly for their superhero's return. One month later, Onagawa Rias Soldier Eager was back fighting for the people, cheering up disaster victims during visits to evacuation shelters and temporary housing units, and making appearances at local events.
Superheroes arrived in Japan alongside television, and they have since become integral to Japanese pop culture, changing and updating with the times. Today, communities throughout Japan also have their own superheroes who bring cheer to their neighbors and inspire the locals.
Left: Ryujin Mabuyer, a superhero from Okinawa now with his own film, is becoming popular nationwide.
Right: Chojin Neiger, a popular superhero in Akita, fights with weapons inspired by local specialties.
©Neiger Project, Takahashi Dai
(Updated in January 2012)