“The 1st-prize winner”
Tokuko Takemoto (Representative of Chugoku/Shikoku) Okayama Prefectural Okayama Blind School, 73 years old
The title: “Live today without regret”
On last Apr. 11th, when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, I went on to Okayama Blind School with assistance from people around me. It was the first day of my new life.
Because I had poor eyesight since my childhood, my parents worried about my future. They recommended me becoming the master of koto and I became a disciple. The training was really hard. In addition to the daytime training, I sometimes played koto through the night. My poor eyesight got worse little by little and then I became blind completely. But I struggled with koto training using a tape recorder and thinking out the training method with effort.
Then, I finished the training and came to develop descendants. I could contribute to the koto world variously. I greatly appreciated my parents who recommended me koto and all the people around me in my life.
But I had only one thing to regret in my mind. It’s learning at the blind school. When I graduated from junior high school, I wanted to go on to the blind school but the grand master of the association for koto said to me, “It’s difficult to combine school life and koto.” Also for the economic reasons, I gave up going on to the blind school. However, I dreamt of gong to school so many times.
When I was at the turning point of my koto 60-year career, I decided to make my dream, which I couldn’t realize 60 years ago, come true.
Because I am getting very old, I wanted to enter and finish school silently. But it was known to people very quickly. Many people thought I went to school to teach koto or attend the class just for a while as a listener but would give up soon making a peep.
When I said, “I have a lot of fun in my school life which is so busy and time passes like dreaming every day,” people whispered, “She wouldn’t give up going to school.” My long-cherished dream came true. Why do I have to give it up?
I have 5 classmates. I can’t feel I am 50 years older than everyone. I feel like everyone is even my senior everyday. The atmosphere of the classroom is very bright and cheerful, and we chat and laugh a lot. I get power from everyone to learn always happily.
I take various lessons and one of these is walking training. It was not until I entered the blind school that I used white cane and stepped on braille block. I always used to ask assistance when transfer. So I’ve never imagined I would be able to walk by myself again through my life. But owing to walking training, I became able to go to school from dormitory by myself with white cane every day.
However, I fell down stairs at school to break my middle finger of right hand and crashed my head onto the concrete pillar and came to the ground to injure my face. These accidents happened when I didn’t observe the caution from the teacher.I braced up again when I injured my face.
I have overcome difficulties in my life with the positive thinking. So, I think the encounter with everyone at school is a gift from the gods. I think nothing is too late to learn with the motivation. After I graduate from the blind school, I want to go on to university of music to learn teaching method of koto and new songs. This is my new goal. I will make an effort to achieve in everything and enjoy my tough school life without regret towards the goal. I would like to thank you all for listening so attentively.
“The 2nd-prize winner”
Makoto Nishikame (Representative of Kinki) Osaka Municipal Blind School, 49 years old
The title: “Never ever give up your dream”
“Just to make sure, let’s get checked by another doctor.” When the doctor said to me, “Just to make sure,” I felt somehow uneasy. The eye doctor at the general hospital wrote “retinitis pigmentosa” in large letters clearly, saying, “This is a progressive disease and I’m sorry there is no known remedy for the disease at the moment.” It was the beginning of my life with the disease. I didn’t know what I would learn through the disease at that time.
In those days, my hobbies were playing tennis, skiing, surfing, clay shooting and calligraphy. I was so afraid I would be unable to do each of these enjoyments gradually. It’s just like my purpose in life would be taken off one by one and finally nothing would be left with me and I would be able to do nothing. My heart was filled with angst, fear and sorrow.
At one time, I bumped into an old lady on the street. She spoke loudly and angrily to me, “You, strange guy!” in front of the crowd. I apologized to her many times saying, “Excuse me, excuse me.” Right after that, I was very sad to become “strange guy” and tears fell down. I was almost trapped in a wave of sadness and anxiousness. I thought, “I have to do something, hold on to something.” And I started to learn braille.
However, it was so difficult to read braille and finally one summer morning I whined to the teacher Ms. Matsui who taught me braille saying, “It seems to be impossible for me to read braille.” And the teacher said to me, “Yes, it’s difficult to read braille but I’ve heard a story of a man who was blind in both eyes also lost both hands. He read braille with his lip.” To hear that, I was extremely shocked to my bone. I can’t imagine how much difficulty we need in reading braille with lip. I felt, “All right! Let’s try again,” and I continued to learn braille. When I became able to read braille with much effort, I was really glad to achieve. I felt, “Nothing is impossible if I don’t give up. Even if I become blind in the future, I may be able to manage to live.” This experience gave me a little bit of confidence and hope.
Then, continuously I challenged, found and became able to do something new.
I became confident to feel it’s awesome to be able to read and write braille in the darkness. I was really delightful to achieve without giving up.
At that time, I held a private exhibition of my calligraphy works on the theme of “Never give up.” The calligraphy is my hobby remained to the end. The message I wanted to tell through the exhibition was “Never ever give up your dream.”
How do you think about this? To get disable gradually as becoming blind, do you think it means lose something or disappearance? But in fact, “to lose something” means to get something new. This is what I learnt through the disease. Concerning the business, I got a new job of counselor. I got a new life at the blind school as well. It also brought me a chance of miraculous encounter.
That is I could meet the man who read braille with his lip as I mentioned a little while ago. He is Mr. Takaaki Fujino who used to teach at Osaka Municipal Blind School which I attend. I was very glad to see him. I was really delighted to see him. Because he is exactly my benefactor who encouraged me when I was almost giving up to master braille on that summer morning. Mr. Fujino taught me the encouraging words again, that is, “It’s up to you to think of a disability as a wall or a door.” I say it again, “It’s up to you to think of a disability as a wall or a door.” If you think of it as a door, you can open the future.
I’m going to open the door to the future cherishing the words. However, when I can’t find the door, I will tell myself, “Never ever give up your dream.” When you give up, it is over.
Thank you all for listening.
“The 3 rd-prize winner”
Miki Imai (Representative of Tokai) Gifu Prefectural Gifu Blind School, 16 years old
The title: “Treasure hunt”
Hello, everyone. I am a visually impaired person. Because I was born premature weighing less than 1000g, I became a disease of “retinopathy of prematurity.” However, it’s thanks to my parents who took me to a good hospital far away,
my right eye can sense light and about 0.005 left vision was remained. Although it’s a little bit inconvenient for seeing, I live happily everyday.
But sometimes my family tells me this,
“If only you were able to see. I’m very sorry. I wish I could exchange my eyes with you.” In childhood, I listened to it to feel nothing special. But as I grow up, I started to feel so sad to hear it gradually. It’s not because of my visual impairment. It’s because ordinary people think of visual impairment as being only unhappy and pitiful. I’ve heard people get 80% of information from seeing and a disability which ordinary people don’t want to get most is visual impairment.
However, is it really unhappy? I don’t think so.
First of all, there is not very high probability for human to have visual impairment. But we are selected to have visual impairment. This must be a terrific fortune. It depends on the person to think of this as a positive thing or a negative thing. Of course I think of this as a positive thing. I’ve ever found so many good points in visual impairment.
For example, if we become visually impaired, the sense of touch and hearing are developed to make up for it. When I got snacks at the excursion in childhood, I used to like to guess the content of snacks by touching the outside of its package. I also like to think about sounds. I can hear almost sounds around me as “sol-fa.” For example, a doorbell of my house sounds “la-fa” for me. It’s a lot of fun because it’s just like I’m always in a music room.
Here’s another good point. We are helped by people around us in various places. A girl who shyly taught me what kind of beverages we have in the vending machine, a lady who led me to the train from the station entrance and an old man who helped me to use the public phone. I’m so happy to feel their warm hearts deeply.
Although what I said is a positive side of visual impairment, of course I’ve had bad experiences as well. When I went to camping with my family, of course it was outside on the unsteady ground to be different from staying at the hotel. The biggest problem I had there was going to the bathroom. To get there, I had to walk between many tents. It’s even more impossible in the night. I was unwilling to ask my little sister relaxing inside the tent and mother being busy to take me to the bathroom. But I couldn’t bear as well. Although “going to the bathroom” in the life is most personal affair, I couldn’t go anytime I want freely. I had a great distress in this experience. If it was the place familiar to me, I could go to the bathroom by myself and I didn’t have to be so nervous. I felt severity of visual impairment. In this way, “being unable to see” often prevents me from acting smoothly and we have a lot of difficulties in terms of study and life.
But I don’t become negative. Because I know every time I overcome a difficulty, I obtain something and become stronger. If we think like this, don’t you think we can face everything?
I’m sure it means something for us to have visual impairment. That is, there should be important roles which can be played only by blind people. It might be played in the form of occupation. It might exist somewhere closer. I feel like it’s not found yet by anyone and buried everywhere. I’m going to look for it. It’s just like a treasure hunt to go to find something unknown which is buried somewhere. However, it’s difficult to find one’s role. So, I’m going to challenge various things to get the chance for it without being afraid. Also, I hope the negative image of blind people such as unhappy and pitiful will be decreased by appealing our existence like this.
In this way, if we can think we are lucky to have visual impairment, our world will expand infinitely and become new. I believe there must be your own role and “my own role” nobody else can play. Now, it’s time to go for a treasure hunt. I would like to thank you all for listening so attentively.