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Japan boy with developmental disorder becomes on-stage hero thanks to parents

Haru Ranger, the heroic alter ego of Haruto Fujii, center, is seen with his mentor Natsu Ranger, left, and Umakaban on stage in the city of Saga on Feb. 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Mio Ikeda)

SAGA -- In this southwestern Japan city, there is a hero born from two parents' desire to fulfill their son's wish. Haruto Fujii, 14, a local boy with disabilities caused by a condition after birth, made his dream come true by performing as Haru Ranger at a Feb. 9 city event.

A student in the second year of junior high at Shiseikan School in the Kubota area of the city of Saga, Haruto came down with a brain hemorrhage shortly after he was born. At one point, his parents were told it was uncertain if he would regain consciousness, and even after his recovery the condition has affected his development. But on Feb. 9 he performed on stage in Saga, showing his parents how much he had grown.

For around a month after he was born, Haruto was kept under anesthesia in an intensive care unit. His parents, Fumio, 45, and Rie, 47, came constantly to the hospital, and the two would look on anxiously at Haruto, who was hooked up to a breathing apparatus. When he finally woke up, they cried with happiness.

But Haruto was left with learning disabilities, and in his early years at elementary school he couldn't even kick a ball if left in front of him on the ground. To try and encourage his son's development, Fumio got a qualification as a development support coach, among other efforts by the family, and they worked together to help Haruto grow.

From a very young age, Haruto has loved the Japanese television series "Kamen Rider," and his dream was to become a hero like the masked ones on the show. His parents approached Toshio Natsuaki, 42, an employee at Saga Municipal Government's branch office in Kubota, who moonlights as the local hero Natsu Ranger, and asked him to make Haruto into the hero he longs to be.

Haruto Fujii, right, and Toshio Natsuaki pose for a photo in the city of Saga on Feb. 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Mio Ikeda)

Under Natsuaki's guidance, Haruto became able to perform as a member of the superhero team on stage. His dad then made his son a special suit for the event, and in November 2019 Haruto performed for the first time as a hero on stage.

On Feb. 9 at Plaza 656 in Saga, at the international exchange hero festival, Haruto debuted his second suit. With the visual motif of a bird based on the message that he wants his son to spread his wings in the future, Fumio spent his nights after work for about 3 months making the costume. "It was hard," he said, then smiled and added, "But it made my son happy, so I enjoyed making it."

On that day, Haruto performed with his mentor, Natsu Ranger, and Umakaban, another hero that promotes healthy eating. As Fumio watched his son give a faultless performance with his mentors and defeat the villain, he smiled and marveled at how far his son had grown up.

Around four years ago, a malignant tumor was found in Rie's small intestine. Even now there is a risk of relapse. She said, "When I feel worried, I can look at him playing the hero and forget my concerns. I feel he is growing with every performance, and it gives me strength."

Reflecting on his performance, Haruto said, "Today was 10 out of 10. I enjoyed seeing the audience happy. I want to appear in a show as a hero again."

(Japanese original by Mio Ikeda, Saga Bureau)

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