Kamen Rider
The vigilante 'Kamen Rider 1' helps his local police force to stop drunk drivers. Source: YouTube

A Japanese artist has an unusual pastime: dressing up as a giant superhero grasshopper to patrol the streets of his native city and protect citizens against drunk drivers.

By day, environmentally conscious artist Shinjiro Kumagai makes statues out of old aluminium cans in the Japanese city of Kitakyushu.

But by night, Kumagai dresses up as iconic 1970s Japanese superhero Kamen Rider 1 and patrols the city streets on a Cyclone motorbike to hunt down drunk drivers – who may think they're hallucinating when they see his giant grasshopper helmet looming in their rear-view mirror.

Kumagai is far from being a lone wolf vigilante. He is supported by local police, and wears a special white armband identifying him as an official patrolman.

He is funded by a local Buddhist priest Fukumitsu, the head of the Gokurakuji Temple and a die-hard Kamen Rider fan who's been collecting memorabilia from the popular sci-fi TV shows and movies for more than 20 years.

In the show, the superhero team Kamen Riders (which means "masked riders"), fight against a shadowy organisation that mutated Kamen Rider 1 into a grasshopper-themed human.

Kumagai told the Mirror that Priest Fukumitsu is "a real fan of Kamen Rider 1 and has been collecting memorabilia for 20 years. So when he heard about what I was doing he jumped at the chance to help".

Kamen Rider gang
Every main Kamen Rider from every TV season and movie (except Kamen Rider G) from 1971 to 2011.  Rider 1 is on the right, in the second row from the front. Toei Company

Locals are loving the sight of the masked man, and Japanese social media sites are full of sightings of the superhero in action.

A shopkeeper, Kageki Umeta, 43, said: "He is doing a very good job. He is actually raising awareness of the dangers of drink driving and is catching people at it who he then reports to the police.

"Every city should have a Kamen Rider."