“The 1st-prize winner”
Takeshi Watanabe, 47 years old
First year student from the Fukushima Prefectural School for the Blind (Representative of Tohoku)
Titled: “To the shining moon”
The next year of my birthday, July 20th, 1969, the first man in our history landed on the radiant moon in the sky. It was “The historic first step”. At that time, I was too little and couldn’t even imagine how humans could travel to and finally land on the moon, which is such a distance, like 38,500 kilometers from our earth.
Is the shining moon really that far from us? A mathematician says, “Here is a piece of paper which has a thickness of 0.1 millimeters. If we fold it once, it becomes 0.2mm, and if we do it again, then it becomes 0.4mm and the third, it will be 0.8mm. Then how many times if we fold the paper we can reach the moon which is 38,5000km far from here?” When we ask some elementary students about the question, most of them answer 10,000 times or a million times. However, it is surprisingly only 42 times in actual calculation. It is true. Don’t all of you here feel like you want to hold a paper for experience? This concept made me start to think that the moon is closer than I thought.
I had been working at elementary and junior high schools as a teacher. I was always busy and sometimes I had to work until the middle of the night, but I really enjoyed dealing with my students, as there was nothing better than that. All of the elementary students were always pure and all of the junior high school students were always honest from their heart. Each of them is suffering with their own challenges but on the other hand, each of them has a dream. By spending such precious time with them, I didn’t realize how much energy I got because of them. Now I look back on those days and I think, it was really an invaluable time and never to be replaced.
However, even in a perfect life, the challenges had slowly overtaken me. One day, I suddenly lost the ability to read a paperback book. Another day, I lost my ability to see my own handwriting on the blackboard at the school. Then, one day, I lost my vision of seeing my wife’s cooking. I could smell that it was delicious but could no longer see the colorful food. But the most of all, what made me sad was that I was no longer able to see my lovely students and my daughter, who I love the most, could no longer see her face. My life became endless days of frustration and sadness.
It was one such day, my daughter who was about to start elementary school said, “You are my dad even though you lost your sight, it doesn’t change. I will see things as much as you need” and took my hand kindly to lead me. I was shocked. Have I been turning away from them for years even though I have always had such a wonderful family close to me? Did I want them to think I am such a poor helpless thing or what? Did I want them to hold my shoulders and say, “its ok”? Am I still a father? Am I still a husband and do I deserve my wife? I was really ashamed of myself. Why am I suffering now? It is the fear that those things, which I used to be able to do by myself, were disappearing. I was surrounded by the fear that I would become a “zero" someday. However, I felt like there was something, I had been forgetting something.
Then I realized that I had been forgetting those feelings of being nervous, excited, and being thrilled for something. Those feelings, being excited about something new, and getting nervous about meeting new people, and then enjoying the fresh feeling with my whole body and from the bottom of my heart. Yes, I had forgotten them. That feeling of joy doing something new, we can overcome anything, not only physical or mental challenges, but even such obstacles between countries, religions or races. I had been teaching that with passion to my students. Why can’t I now do it myself?
After I had realized that, I opened my eyes to the outside part of my life, and I found the school for the blind. I still remember that I felt a light come on in my head and light up. It was so gentle like the moon, not like a glare of sunlight and it lit me up in the dark softly. Now I can think of the school as going to be my “Moon of hope”.
I have joined the Grand softball club even though I am 47 years old. My classmate, Mr. M, who is 19 years old, almost forced me to join the club. However, it was quite an interesting experience! Since then, I have been playing games daily with my team under the blazing sun, sweating and suffering with pain in all of my joints. Continuing my excitement, I have even joined a floor volleyball club. Unexpectedly we won the Tohoku championship for the first time in 17 years. I was impressed even though I wasn’t in the game; I was only cheering them on. However, that was also a new self to me.
The shining moon is not that far from us. I had the first step of my new life in the new place and now I feel for sure that I had started to hold that 0.1mm paper toward the moon. However, for me, right before entering my 50’s, it feels more like steel than paper.
I will live my life like having a romance in my heart, like Jirocho Shimizu, a Japanese hero from the Meiji period, or being fresh like wasabi from Numazu city, and being full of flavor like unagi from Hamamatsu city. Then someday I would be able to reach to the moon, which is shining like a ring. I now feel it for the first time in my entire life. Now, let’s go to the shining moon by being honest with myself. Let’s be excited and nervous and go to the “Moon of hope!” Don’t worry, let me handle this!
Thank you for listening.
“The 2nd-prize winner”
Osaka Prefectural Special Needs Educational School for the Visually Impaired , Senior high school, Third year, (Representative of Kinki)
Titled: “The compass of heart”
I have had weak eyesight since I was born. My right eye doesn't see anything and my left eye sees things as if looking through frosted glass. This story is what I experienced when I was in elementary school.
I had entered an ordinary elementary school. I was full of anxiousness about,”Can I catch up with everyone? Is there anyone going to be mean to me? Can I make friends with them?”
I remember that when the new school term began, our teacher told all of my classmates about my disorder. Then one of my classmates said,”What does the disorder mean? That is so creepy”.
When I moved into the 3rd grade, the things I was afraid of the most had begun. When I returned to my classroom from another room, there was a note with big characters on my electronic magnifier, “Idiot. Die”. Another day, when we were playing dodge ball, someone threw a ball into my face on purpose. And on a different day, when I was going down the stairs, a group of three girls came and kicked me and I fell down more than ten steps to the ground.
When I got bullied by some students, I was always thinking, “I should tell everyone about my disorder with my own voice. They will understand if I tell them my feelings!” So I decided to go our teacher and ask about it. “Look teacher, I want to tell my classmates about my disorder. Could you arrange that sometime for me?” Then the teacher said, “I understand but are you sure? It may cause to you get bullied even more.” I felt a pain in my chest when I heard this. However, I said with all of my courage, “I don’t mind it. It will be better than saying nothing. Please let me say it, please”.
Two weeks after I asked my teacher, with the principal’s help, I got my opportunity. I had prepared three things to focus on talking about. The first was, “I can’t see anything with my right eye and can only see a little with my left eye”. The second, “It is difficult to see far. In the dark it is even worse”. The third one was, “Please give me your hand when I have trouble. I do my best if there is something I can do on my own but if there are some things I can’t do, please help me and if you see someone else, who has a disorder somewhere, please help them too”.
The atmosphere was immediately surrounded with negativity, “Why do I have to help you?” Of course I had not gotten them to understand over a couple of days, so I kept trying to get some understanding from them by showing them my monocular glasses, my loupe magnifying glass and an artificial eye.
After several days, there were some changes in the classroom. It happened one night in my summer class, while we were looking to the sky, the teacher said, “There is the triangle of the summer!” I couldn’t see it so I was looking down toward the ground, but then a boy next to me took my hand and said, “Look! There is a star and below that, there is one on the right and there is another one on the left. If you connect these three stars, look, they can be a triangle!” His hand, which held my hand at that time, was warmer than any hand I have ever held.
Also there was a surprise. The three girls who kicked me down the stairs proposed something to another girl who has a speaking disability and is also a student at the school. “Why don’t we teach her how to talk with sign language?” Then all of the classmates agreed with them and said, “That is good idea. Let’s do it!” They went to the library to read some books about sign language and taught the girl “Good morning” in sign language. Every time when they saw the girl during a break, they taught her, “Raise your right hand and then down, show both your hands and then bend both forefingers. That is good morning”. After one week, the girl could say “good morning” using sign language for the first time.
I didn't know why they changed that much, but the answer was in their impression essays. They wrote them after that time in class when I told them about my own disability. There were many words like, “It was the first time to see a person who has a disability and it caught me by a surprise. I had no idea how to talk to them but it was really good to know there are some people who need help. From now on, I want to help these people who need my help”. I was really happy about it and will never forget what I read.
It was only a story of mine, which is when I was a student in elementary school. Because of this experience, I could feel, “If I can be honest with myself and try to talk to people about how I feel, then people will finally understand me”. Now I have hope, which is that someday, there will be a world where I can be closer to ordinary people.
All our life has a tomorrow. However, we don’t have a map to get there. I will never forget to have a warm and brave heart to open my life all by myself. And I will hold hands with ordinary people and do my best. I believe in myself that I can do it.
The compass of my heart.
Thank you for listening.
“The 3 rd-prize winner”
Kotono Matsuoka, 17 years old
Special Needs Educational School for the Visually Impaired, University of Tsukuba, Senior High School, Second year, (Representative of Chugoku/Shikoku)
Titled: “I want to be a teacher who just can be close with student”
I have a dream. In the future, I want to be a teacher in a hospital who makes children smile and gives them hope and I will always be with those who are facing sickness on their own. What gives me this dream was a meeting I had when I was 11 years old.
When I was little, I had cancer in my eyes and been constantly in and out of the hospital. Fortunately, the cancer was gone and I could get into an elementary school in my neighborhood and spent time there learning, just like any other student.
However, the cancer came back, this time to attack my right leg when I was 11 years old. I was in despair.
My heart was filled by the darkness and sadness by the tough reality which I was now facing. However, even in the darkness, there was a small light that got through. It was a question from a nurse, “Do you want to go the school in the hospital?”
With that recommendation from the nurse, I took my first step into the school, and then what I saw was that the school was filled by smiles.
When I saw the smiles, I realized that “Since having this disease, there have been a lot of things I couldn’t do by myself, but even the disease wouldn’t be able to make me stop smiling now”. I had decided that if I can’t change the length of time, eight months, which is how long I had to stay there in the hospital, I should try to have as much fun as possible, so I immediately joined the school in the hospital as a student.
The school had saved me from the darkness.
However, during the long stay in the hospital, there were many nights I couldn't sleep because of my anxieties which were trying to crush my heart.
In those days, the people who had supported me and cheered me up were teachers and my friends at the school. Teachers, they were always there for us, caring for us, holding our hands and even crying with us when we needed. Also my friends, sometimes we had talked to each other well into the middle of the night, cried together some nights, and sometimes even laughed loudly together as we forgot our diseases in those moments.
If I hadn’t met those people, I wouldn’t have been able to survive my situation.
When I was 15 years old, one of my friends passed away from a recurrent cancer, so again I lost my smile throughout that time.
However, it didn’t mean she was disappearing from my life. She was my comrade; we both had suffered within the boundary between life and death together because of cancer.
Even now these people who live in my heart give me the courage to live and smile.
At that time, I had thought that I want to be a teacher at the school in the hospital who can give hope to live and smiles to students who are facing their own disease like me. Maybe someone like me can be a reason for others to live, just as I live my life for my comrade. Even though we are apart from each other now or we won't ever see each other again, I promised myself that I will be the one for those who need me and live our life together as a living partner for them.
On the other hand, having such a dream of mine, recently, I have been hearing about a “decrease in the school size at the hospital”. One of the reasons is that a lot of staff members who work at the hospital are saying that there are many rooms and facilities that are needed for saving patients in the hospital, where space is limited.
I understand the concept of their opinion but at the same time; I think it is not the only way to save patients through the chemotherapy. Because even if we use strong chemotherapy on a patient, if they don’t have the hope to live, there is no meaning for doing it. It actually could even ruin the progress of recovery.
I think the most important thing for kids who have a disease is having friends who care about them. My idea is that taking care of each other at the school in the hospital gives them the hope to keep going to class, then that hope will become a hope to live, finally it would turn into a power to cure their own disease.
So that is why I want to be a teacher who can give them comfort and smiles and keep giving them that hope even though their disease is serious.
Of course, I know it is not going to be easy for me, who also has a disability in making my dream come true. However, I have experienced despair many times but each time, I came back from there with a hope to live. And now I know that through all of my 17 years of experiences made me who I am today. I am going to walk, step by step toward my dream and make it come true.
And someday, I don’t need to be a great teacher but just a teacher whom students can be with.
Thank you for listening.