There are three toy stores near The Children’s Hospital in Hangzhou China. Perhaps not surprisingly, the stores get crowded.
Stacks of toys are piled up and cover the walls and the store owners sit on their small bench politely answering queries or concluding another sale.
Girls normally want Barbie, and most boys go for the toy car, or Ultraman, the sliver and red action figure.
Ultraman was created by Tokyo Broadcasting System and Tsuburaya Productions 55 years ago. The TV series premiered in Japan on July 10, 1966, and was introduced to China in 1993.
A superhero, who protects peace on Earth, Ultraman has become an inspiring icon beloved by children and fans in Japan and the world over.
Last December, Ultraman was recognized as a fashion icon by one of China’s biggest online shopping retailers. Elements of Ultraman’s look, including tights, metallic fabric, and a mixture of red and blue, were among the fashion trends of the past year.
The Ultraman Foundation was founded by Eiji Tsuburaya and other supporting companies in March 2011, straight after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The primary goal was to support people who lost their homes in the disaster by visiting the shelters they had to live in.
Kei Minamitani, head of Tsuburaya Productions’ overseas business department, claims that, at the beginning, some team members felt reluctant to present an Ultraman show at such a difficult time, when entertainment was not exactly the top priority.
“To spark viewer imagination, provide hope for the future, and cultivate kindness in young hearts” was the wish of the company’s founder, Eiji Tsuburaya.
Minamitani recalls that as the team started the show, they could see in people’s eyes that they had more pressing concerns, but, as the show went on, children started to gather around. At the climax of the show, children were cheering and shouting for Ultraman so loudly and were overcome with excitement when Ultraman defeated the enemy. It was even more touching to see that parents and adults began to smile together with their children, some with tears in their eyes.
“We believe that for many children, Ultraman is their first encounter of hope and happiness, and the experience will last forever,” Minamitani says in Hangzhou.
Since then, the foundation has been sending Ultra Heroes to visit children in need at nursery schools, kindergartens, and orphanages in areas struck by disaster, as well as children’s hospitals.
It has carried out 13 major activities up to now. The latest project, Stay at Home With Ultraman, was conducted during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. The Ultraman Foundation released the best episodes from the series and created original videos, including content to help children during the stay-at-home period and messages from their heroes.