“The 1st-prize winner”
Hiruyuki Tominaga, 49 years old
Ehime Prefectural Matsuyama School for the Blind, Senior High School, Second year,(Representative of Chugoku/Shikoku)
The title: “My family and me”
In April of last year, I entered into the Matsuyama School for the Blind. Until then, I was a truck driver and driving around the Kanto, Hokuriku, Kyusyu, Chugoku, and Shikoku regions delivering fresh fish. It wasn’t so rare that I was waking up and sleeping in the truck and not going back home for a couple days, but I even felt happiness for such a life which was working hard as the breadwinner for my family.
In October of last year, I crashed a work truck and was told by my employer that I should go to a doctor to take an examination for my eyes. I was afraid to tell my wife about it but gingerly told her, and then she said, “It doesn’t help; we must go to the examination that’s it. Let’s go”. From the result of the examination, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which forced me to quit my job. Soon after that, my wife took me to the school for the blind; I had nothing to say and just followed her lead. I had entered into the school so fast that I even didn’t have time to be sad. I could go to the school and back every day from home but decided to have the dorm life because I didn’t want to make my wife have trouble more than I already had.
With her encouragement, “Do whatever you need to do by yourself, then you don’t need to be worried when you are alone”, my dorm life had started. Every day, always the same time, we eat and clean up, etc. and with all those people in the dorm together that group living was totally new experience for me. What I wasn’t good at is communicating with people. I am really shy so it was very difficult for me to ask something from others or saying something in front of people.
When I was a truck driver, I didn’t talk with people so much other than if there was something needed for work. “Don’t you have anything to say? Say something!” My wife used to say to me. She soon gave me the nickname “looper”. A looper is an insect, which eats big leaves, and when it is touched, it shakes its head. I got upset being mocked by her like that but at the same time I thought that it actually sounded like me, so I understood it. Because I was always just shaking my head instead of answering her when she asked me for something and didn’t even care, just counting on her for everything like duties in our family life. After she had given me the nickname, she always calls my name as “looper”. Only when I brought her my salary, she was so kind to me, but it was only a moment, she soon started to call me “looper” again. She is just like that but how much I actually was saved by such a personality like hers where nothing is hidden and she always spoke honestly even though sometimes it was too strong. While living in the dorm, I started to appreciate those honest words from her because I knew there was always kindness behind them.
I am in the dorm from Sunday night to Friday. How lonely and long it is for me. Finally when I get to go back home on Friday nights, while packing, I always get a call from my wife, “You will be home soon”. I really look forward to the beginning of weekends. What I love to do most is drinking. It is most rewarding to drink at home while being around my grandchildren! The oldest boy is in the 5th year of elementary school and my granddaughter is in her 3rd year. She writes me every Sunday night “Go grandpa!” Those letters, which I had read many times in the dorm and wrote her back and gave her on the weekends, had became our tradition. Then my wife just tells me, “Don’t you care about me? You seem like you need only your grandchildren”.
When I was working, she always cared about me very much. But now, after I started to go to the blind school, she became evil. Nowadays, she even says, “You came home again?” Somehow, she seems to like the life with our grandchildren without me better because it is easier for her. She especially doesn’t like to prepare my food. Even when I was drinking quietly without any complaints; it makes her frustrated and she takes it out on me. That makes me wonder each time when I go back home, “What made her change like this?” However, I know her and her efforts the most and after I quit my job, she has been the breadwinner of our family. Her life is now just working, housekeeping, taking care of our grandchildren, and taking me to the school, so she has no time for sitting in a chair or taking a rest from everything. I promised her when we got married, “I will always good take care of you, and never let you have a hard life”, but now I always make her work hard. “Can you wait three years for me? “ I have always told her and myself this and counted day by day and now, a year and half has passed since I started school.
For myself, and family, I work and study hard and sooner than later, I want to be a masseuse. Then I want to protect and provide for my wife and family again. My wife and my family, they are my treasure even though she does have a bit of a bad mouth. I can’t say that in person to them because it sounds weird, we are family, but I really appreciate them always in my heart, “Thank you, I can do it because I have you all”. So I always have this feeling with me and am supported by this great family for now, I promise, I will be the breadwinner again and protect my wife and family again someday. Thank you.
“The 2nd-prize winner”
Mizuki Ochi, 16 years old,
Hokkaido High School for the Blind, Senior High School, standard course, Second year, (Representative of Hokkaido)
The title: “Something I could see because I am a blinde”
I want to live like a sunflower. The strong flower, the sunflower. Always facing the sun and greatly growing toward it.
I have been blind since I was one. I don’t feel light, but I had never felt that it is inconvenient. From preschool, teachers and friends were always supportive, everybody was so kind and friendly to me. Until now, most of the people I had met, always understood who I am.
For 14 years, I had never noticed the differences between ordinary people and myself so I have never considered myself visually impaired so much. However, two experiences made me change and I was made aware of various things.
The first is that I have learned from my concern about the future, regarding courses, which I should take. I didn’t have any classmates when I was in elementary and junior high school for the blind. So that situation made me admire a traditional school life, which is surround by many classmates. Because of that, I started to have longing for a school life with many classmates and have considered applying to an ordinary high school.
My teacher in my third year of junior high school had weak eyes. He gave me kind advice from his painful experiences with not being able to see things so much. Because of him, I realized that I was naive and started to think about my disability. Through thinking about the visually impaired, I started to strongly think that I should make myself stronger to go into the society. So I decided to choose a high school for the blind, which will increase my strength and confidence for sure.
For the experience I had, I learned that I need to have a strong mind and make efforts in daily life for the next stage of my education and career. The ability to see my own weakness and strong mind, “never give up”. Plus if I have fortitude, the future will be opened in front of me. So my goal is being like the sunflower, which is like having a will to reach the sun and growing up toward it.
When I got to high school, there was an instance, which made a big change in my life. About one month had passed since I became a high school student, and an old lady came to my house. I was gone at school that time, so I didn’t see her in person. The lady was someone who had seen me every morning on the way to junior high school. Because I suddenly stopped going there and did not see her again, she worried about me and even came to my house to see me.
She told my mom, “Every morning during my walk, when I saw your daughter enjoying talking with you, I felt like I was seeing my granddaughter who is just like her. So I was so looking forward to seeing your daughter every morning. But suddenly it stopped and I never saw her again so I thought she became a high school student, but then I started to worry if there is a bully or she is lonely, etc. so now I can’t stop worrying and even can’t sleep with those ideas”. So my mom told her that I am ok, being good friends with everybody in the school. Then she said, “That is good news and makes me relieved. Tell her to do her best for me", and she left.
After I came back from school, I heard from my mom about the lady visiting and the story touched me very much. At the same time, it made me think again, “If there is such a person like her who worries and supports me that much, I have to do my best even harder”.
It is no point to think why I have this disability since I was born, nobody knows. However, I think I kind of found an answer for the question since I met her. If I became independent and had good social life, it could be possible to give people around me courage or hope. So I started thinking that what I do or how I act moves people.
A sunflower gets energy from the sun to glow. When I touch the sunflower, I feel like I am getting some energy from it too. By challenging something and making a lot of effort for my progress, I can give people courage. The more people I encourage, the more energy I get from them too. That positive circle makes me keep even more motivated, like I can do it! It sounds just like a sunflower, doesn't it?
I have been living my life with a lot of support from people who surround me. Now my mom takes me to school every day and back and it takes us two hours. I appreciate my mom for that very much. When I walk alone, a lot of people care about me and talk to me. Something like that, I think visually impaired people who get support in many ways are wonderful. Because we can’t see people's face, we carefully chose a word to use and they can always get our feeling from the bottom of our heart.
I want to live strong like a sunflower that blossoms big, facing into the sun. And I want to prove that even though I can’t see anything, with a lot of effort, I can do whatever I want to, just like ordinary people do. We have a lot of possibilities, and the ability of dealing with others even deeper. So let’s live strong. There are a lot of things only we, blind people can see or feel. This is what “I could see because I’m a blind”.
Thank you for the listening.
“The 3 rd-prize winner”
Tomohiro Sakurada, 14 years old,
Iwate Prefectural Morioka School for the Blind, Junior High School, Second year,(Representative of Chugoku/Shikoku)
The title: “My dream turned to reality”
Being a train station attendant has been my dream job since I was child. They looked so cool when they were giving signs for the trains to start at the platform or checking people's tickets at the gate. Just imagining myself being a station attendant used to make me very happy. So right after I entered a junior high school for the blind, the day I filled out a form for students regarding courses they should take for their future, I was asked what my goal is; I didn’t even need to think, so I wrote, "Being a station attendant". On the day in my 2nd year at the school, the curriculum for the career guidance had just started, and my teacher told me, “The Yamanote line in Tokyo has more than 10 cars on each of the trains. So the train attendant needs to make sure it’s safe instantly, all the way from the first car to the last and then make the sign to shut the door”. Even after hearing that, I didn't realized what he meant by that, on the contrary, my dream of being a train station attendant had grown on me even more, and I believed with confidence, I can be a train station attendant someday. I was such a naïve student; my teacher said again, “When you are selling tickets, you have to make sure of the destination and the price with no mistakes as quick as possible. If you can't read tiny letters or the screen of a computer quickly, you would make your customer wait”. After hearing that, I thought, “What was he saying? What tiny letters? The screen of a computer? I can read them ...but quickly? “No. Actually, I knew that vaguely but until then, I had not thought about being visually impaired so seriously.
“If I was visually impaired, I can’t be a station attendant?” I decided to research about the station attendant job again. During my internet research, there were various jobs such as sales or attendant for tickets, announcer for information, ticket examiner, a mechanical engineer, or standing guard on the platform of a railway station, driver and train conductor, etc. etc., but each job seems to require site. "Can I really be a station attendant in the future?" “Should I give up my dream job even if I had it in my heart for a long time?” I started feeling strong anxiety that I had never felt before. It was the first time; I had to face to my disability of sight.
Then a question popped into my mind, "What were the dream jobs for my teachers when they were in the junior high school?” So I decided to send out a questionnaire to them; what was your dream job? Are you doing what you wanted to do? What is the most important thing for you to work? If you have any advice for me to make my dream job come true, etc.
From the result of that, the amount of people who were doing what they wanted to do when they were in junior high school was only 14 out of 68 people. There were various jobs, which they wanted to be when they were junior high school students, such as a pilot, diplomat, train engineer, doctor, nurse and so on. It made me feel closer to them knowing they also had dreams or longings. Many of the reasons as to why they did not do what they wanted to do were, “I found other things that I wanted to do", “I realized I wasn't good at it" or "I had a disability of sight", etc. However, most of the teachers were satisfied with their present jobs, which made me very relieved.
In all honesty, I haven't given up my dream of being a station attendant. As a result of the questionnaire to the teachers, there was some advice for my dream job to come true, "Never give up", "Collect a lot of information for the job that you want to do" and “Keep making efforts toward it". For the question "what is the most important thing to work?” one of answer was, “To feel a religion for it”.
When I went to Morioka Station for a school trip, I asked people who work for the station about employment for the disabled. They said there is no hiring for visually impaired people yet, but there are possibilities because there are a many kinds of jobs such as a clerk in the station. I want to research if there is something that I can do in the station until I am satisfied that I got all the information.
Finally, I just made my first step for a way to make my “Dream to reality”. There is a saying “A dream is not something to have, a dream is the thing you make true”, but it does not mean everyone can do it. However, there is a big difference between giving up by doing nothing and changing your plans after you get a result of making the effort. I think the most important part for making a dream come true is making an effort. In that way, if you find something new and you can feel a religion for it, then it is not giving up; I think it is progress.