“The 1st-prize winner”
Ai Kawazoe, Nara Prefectural School for the Blind, Senior High school, ordinary course, Third year, (Representative of Kinki).
The title: “To the Sky”
If I didn‘t have poor eyesight, I wouldn‘t be standing here now. When I think of it, it even hurts my heart, I find myself not being able to face the disease I have in my eyes. “Why me?” I have asked again and again many times. What is it like being able to see far away? I had no idea about the meaning of “seeing” because I was born with poor eyesight.
When I was little, I was curious about everything so my mom raised me with great care, more than anything and anybody. A few years after entering elementary school, I started to be more sensitive about classmates and how I looked to them or how they talked about me. Once I felt that way, it became so tough on me that taking gym class especially or playing a baseball game or basketball game was impossible. Every time I heard “We lost because of you”, I thought “I knew that from the beginning even if you didn‘t tell me” and it filled my heart with pain. One day during the 6th grade when I cried about something at lunch, one of my friends asked me, “Ai, do you shed tears from your right eye?” Those cruel words hurt me badly and I felt like it made a hole in my heart. I then realized that I have to make people more aware about my disease.
By the time I got to high school and started a new life there, I decided that I want to change my life and don‘t care what people think about me anymore. However, I looked away from those difficulties many times because I had to face them during the ceremony on the first day of school. My teacher told me while standing in front of me, “this is something, this is something else, and write it like this”. I thought “I don‘t know…if you say so, because I don‘t see it, so I don‘t understand it.” Finally, in Junior High I got sick of it. Once again it came up, the same thing again to introduce me as the new student in this new place. “This new classmate, Kawazoe-san who was sitting in the front row is…” I thought, “Ah… again, the teacher is going to talk about my disease”. I obviously could see what the teacher was going to say about me so I cried from the honest feeling that I wanted to escape from there. Finally I stopped opening myself to others during that year.
I joined a Judo club with the hope of making my spirit stronger by the time I entered my second year of junior high school and practiced hard every day. By the time I graduated from junior high, I made a decision of my own volition to attend a school for the blind.
Going to a school for the blind allowed me to finally face my disease. It was also a new challenge. The beginning of that year after entering the school, I couldn‘t adjust myself to the new circumstances. Because of that, I had put my family and other people through a lot of trouble and made them sad many times in many situations. Each time I did that, I looked back at myself and thought that I want to change my attitude, my weak will and negative thoughts about my disease and to try and be more positive. “Being handicapped”, involves a lot of things which will never be understood by many people. There are also a lot of tough times or sad experiences. However, I want to make a change and use them to gain strength. “Handicapped” is not something I have to be ashamed about. So I want to do whatever I can do now the best that I can. I want to find something to bring me toward the future step by step with my family, friends and important people who are here with me.
“The 2nd-prize winner”
Nobuaki Hashizume, Gifu Prefectural School for the Blind, Senior High school, ordinary course, Third year, (Representative of Chubu)
The title: “The Happy People”
“The person who does their best is a great one. The person who accomplished their mission is happy one”. These are my father‘s words and he has said this often since I was little. He is working at an egg farm and has been busy everyday from morning to night. I thought I understood about the difficulty of dealing with animals but I noticed that little by little I had been seeing a distance from my father because my father seemed like he thinks only about his work and I was reacting to that. He used be like this but when I got this eye disease had to go to the hospital, he came to the hospital often to see me and also when I had to change from school to school for the blind, he helped me a lot. When I had just entered the school and I was filled with anxiety about being in a new place, but I realized that even though I‘m blind, if I think a little and devise a plan, I can do anything. So little by little I become positive again and my father seemed also to be relieved about that.
Around those days when I just started my major in acupuncture and massage, my father came to me unusually and asked me to give him a shoulder massage. While getting a massage which I just learned how to do, he said, “What you will do after graduating from school? Will you go back to your school as a teacher?” It was because he asked me that, around the same time I started to think if I wanted to be a teacher while watching my teachers working with so much energy and positivity that it touched me. I was emotional to realize that my father cares about me that much despite his very busy life.
It was just after that, my father got an intracranial hemorrhage. He didn‘t die but suffers from a memory disorder as an after effect. He still has old memories but has difficulty remembering recent events and things he has just said. Also, sometimes he gets confused between reality and some stories which he has told. One day, when he was talking about “Tama-gokaku” [which is the name of the eggs at his company] at a meeting which I had joined. He told everybody so proudly that he printed those words “The person who does their best is great one. The person who accomplished their mission is happy one” to the back label of the egg carton as a marketing concept. I was really impressed and after I got home, I told my mother about it and she said it was not true and he had made up the story.
Recently, I often go for a walk with my father, he stays at home a lot more than before so it is part of his rehabilitation as well. During our walks, he tells me many stories when he was a kid, when he met my mother, the happiness when I was born, and the impatience of not being able to do anything for me and just watching me losing my sight even though he was there next to me. They were disjointed stories but his voice was so tender and gentle and I had never heard that before.
I felt so sorry for my father and my heart filled with regrets of why I haven‘t been face to face with him until now. He has worked so hard in a difficult position as a section manager at his company, even though his body and heart were exhausted from it. He survived by telling himself “The person who does their best is great one…” to work hard for us and eventually was broken down by illness. I almost gave up my dream of being a teacher because I have to work for my family but seeing my father and his spirit for work changed my mind and thought that I want to work the rest of my life with the same satisfaction. It might put my family through trouble sometime in the future but I decided to repay them by being a teacher.
When my father suddenly talks about something from yesterday or remembers what we were just talking about, I feel happy because he is surely getting better. Although it seems that it is taking time for him to go back into society.
“The person who does their best is great one. The person who accomplished their mission is happy one”. Dad, I will accomplish my mission and be a happy person. So, you too dad; with the goal of going back into society, let‘s do our best together.
“The 3 rd-prize winner”
Ai Shintani, Aichi Prefectural NagoyaSchool for the Blind, First grade of Junior high school, 13 years old, (Representative of Chubu)
The title: “Fight! I never lose!”
It started when I was 10, suddenly my eyes were losing their sight and I had to face the reality that I‘m handicapped. In those days, I was still too young and my heart couldn‘t afford to admit it and deal with that reality. I got confused on what to do and what I should do in the future. I hated myself for being such a weak person and my thoughts were getting bigger day by day. My family saw me being like that, and maybe because they worried about me being sensitive about the situation, they avoided talking about it and just looked at me as kindly as they could. Their kindness has upheld my spirit greatly.
My school was an ordinary school so I didn‘t do well in class and my grades were going down quickly. My doctor said I shouldn‘t do exercise at gym class or play outside due to my eyes. When I heard my friends playing outside with joy; I got jealous of them and even felt angry. Back in those days when I was living as a person who looks at everything negatively, one of my friends said, “Even though you can‘t see well, it‘s better than nothing”. She was the person from my childhood who I trust the most and not only because she said it, but also because it was the first time hearing something like that without sympathy, nor discrimination, and in honest and strait words. I was really happy with it so I decided to live positively and could change immediately as if who I was until now had been an illusion. Suddenly I felt a shaft of light enter my dark mind which had always been negative about my eyesight. I became more positive than before and I could even say proudly “It‘s fun everyday”.
Because of that, I have a lot of friends now and still keep in touch with them. Everyone have supported me and always protected me. When I had to move to another class or leave school to go home, they held my arm and surrounded me on my right and left to walk with me. Also they always did their best to support me. The kindness of them has been the best energy for me.
The day I had to say good bye to them, I cried big tears and said thank you to each one but to the friend whose words changed me, I couldn‘t say anything and I still regret it even now. I will never forget this feeling of regret. I appreciate this best friend from the bottom of my heart but why I couldn‘t be honest with myself and show the friend my appreciation? Now I think maybe I was embarrassed and didn‘t want to show my tears and weakness to my friend.
After that, I began trying to be independent. I tried to decide things by myself and made efforts to accomplish things which I can do by myself responsibly. To do that, I got the courage to not be afraid of anything challenging. Being this positive, I think will be good for me because it makes my parents proud and feel relieved. However, a lot of teachers still say to me, “Don‘t work too hard on yourself”. “What do they mean? Am I still getting their sympathy?” I thought as much and got very frustrated about it again and it made me want to work harder instantly “I have to do better!” Then more kind words surround me more and more. One day, I was called over by the principle of the school. “How have you been recently?” At that moment, suddenly I started crying. I couldn‘t control my feelings and couldn‘t stop my tears from falling down. The principle saw me like that and said, “You shouldn‘t hold everything in your mind. Too much tension will break the string someday”.
The principle told me about a school for the blind for the first time. He thought it might put pressure on me so he hadn‘t talked about the name of the school until then but introduced it as the best path for me. Honestly, I didn‘t want to change my situation being with my friends and I wanted to go high school to study with them in our neighborhood. After a while, he asked me, “Why don‘t you go visit the school for the blind?” I was reluctant to go, but to be nice I said, “Well, I will go”. I thought “If I go to that school, what about my friends? Will they forget about me? And first of all, I still didn‘t like to admit the reality of being handicapped!” Again, I started thinking about all the negatives.
However, as soon as I met some students from the school, it changed my mind completely. How were they possibly so happy and laughing even though they could have had a harder life than mine? I was in a shock and started thinking “I want to get special instruction at the school for the blind!” I also thought if I studied here, I may be able to find a new self.
My dream is going to a high school in Tokyo. In the dream, I want to live my life with the words from my good friend always in my heart. There will always be challenges there and that is something I have to fight with, but if anything happens, I won‘t lose the fight against my disease or difficulties!! I never lose!!