Futokoro ni tobikomu

asako en shuko

Asako-san (r)and her daughter (l),


tiger mask logo

Tiger Mask Fund Japan


 
Futokoro ni tobikomu means in Japanese that you jump in the very middle of the essential, in the heart of the people.

Misao shares her house, her friends, her knowledge of the English language and Japanese culture, her culinary talent (recipes will follow later), her sense of humor and her enthusiasm for the making of this film with me. I count myself lucky

Misao’s friends

Every Sunday for the past five years, one of Misao’s friends has visited two boys living in an orphanage. Unfortunately he doesn’t want me to join him when he visits his ‘sons’. The orphanage would not allow it. Through him we meet Asako-san, a foster mother. She has four children of her own, ranging from 13 to 19 years old. At present she has two foster children, a girl aged 5 and a boy aged 6. Asako-san explains that the idea of taking care of children not her own first came to her when she was living with her parents in Germany for a few years as a toddler and witnessed a white couple that had adopted two children from Africa. When years later, back in Japan, one of her children had an undernourished boy dressed in rags in his classroom, she decided to take the boy home. The yakuza immediately intervened and told her to mind her own business. In that same year (2004), together with her husband, she applied to become a foster parent. Since then the couple has fostered eight children.

Asako-san invites me to join the monthly lunch she hosts for foster mothers from her prefecture, a small town just outside of Tokyo, and their children. As she has studied English, we communicate without interpreter. I stay the night, after we’ve spent it talking until three o’clock. Asako-san is doing what she thinks is right, without any regard for other people’s opinions. In that sense she is quite un-Japanese. She expresses the wish that all children whose parents are unable to take care of them, could grow up in foster families. But there is still a long way to go.

According to a report of the Nippon Foundation, in 2015 more than 40.000 children under 20 were growing up in alternative care, with only 10% of them placed in foster families. The so-called Child Guidance Centers responsible for the children’s placement still give priority to family reunion. The same report states lack of time to find suitable foster families for these (problem) children as the main reason why they grow up in state homes.

Tiger Mask Foundation

Misao’s publisher regularly visits orphanage children to read to and sometimes also cook for them. He is a member of the Tiger Mask Foundation, a non-profit Aftercare organization aimed at children who want to study after leaving the orphanage. The Tiger Mask Foundation looks for sponsors to support their studies and has so far enabled 171 children to go to university. The organization’s name is derived from a well-known manga series of the ’60s and 70′s, in which the main character, Naote Date, is a wrestler who, having grown up in an orphanage himself, fights for other orphans.

At a French restaurant in the heart of Tokyo, Misao and I have dinner with her publisher and the woman who is the driving force behind the organization. By the end of the evening, I have gained their trust and my plan to make this film is embraced. The next day, arrangements are made for us to visit an orphanage and the Aftercare organization Bridge4Smile in Tokyo. The Japanese are very hospitable and helpful.

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