Special support for the Speech Contest of the Schools for the Blind

“The 1st-prize winner”
Asa Naka, 18 years old
Wakayama Prefectural School for the Blind, Senior High School, standard course, third year, (Representative of Kinki)
The title: “My most precious thing in the world

“I wish I could see.” This is what I used think when I was little but if I didn’t have that precious thing, I wouldn’t even be able to think about it that way.

I had lost all of my sight by the time I reached 3 years old. I don’t have any memories what I had seen. The name of my disease is “Retinoblastoma”. It is one kind of cancer that if the cancer had spread to another part of my body, I wouldn’t have been here. With the right medication, I only lost my sight and now I’m here with good health. I’m now so happy to be alive. However, when I was able to think that way wasn’t until I got to high school, and up until then, I couldn’t accept my disability.

When I was an elementary student, I used to bug my mom, “I want to see colors!”, then pretend that I could see things. When my friends says, “How beautiful the blue sky is.” or “How cute is this red dress?” always those kinds of questions came up in my head, “What is color like?” “What is cute really like?” Also, I got jealous when I knew there were kids running around in a park by themselves, apart from their parents and I couldn’t bear it. “If I had my sight, I also could run around like them by myself”. Sometimes, I ran by myself and hit to a column or step and sometimes I fell down without even noticing them. Then other people would say to me, “You weren’t careful.” but I hated hearing that.

When such thinking started to change was when I entered junior high school. I had remembered one of my old friends and asked my mom about her. She was an important friend who was also fighting a serious disease when we were little. She passed away probably by the time I got to elementary school. I remembered those days, and my mom said to me, “She became one of stars and went into the sky”. When I became a junior high school student, I got to wondering about the reason why she actually had to die so I asked my mom about it her story.

My mom told me I was grown up enough to know that the reason she died was because she wasn’t able to be cured and my mother said to me, “Even though you became blind, you are still alive. You have to live your life for her and take good care of yourself”.

Then I realized, “I can do whatever I want to do because I’m alive, but she couldn’t do anything that she dreamed about when she was grown up. I have to appreciate my life which was given to me even though I can’t see anything. I have to live this life with my best”. After this, I quit hiding my disability from people. If there is something that people usually do with their sight, now I do those same things with my own idea. I quit giving up in the face of challenges and became an active and competitive person. I hate to be given up on by others for my blindness but even if people say that to me, now I can positively appeal to them and say, “I can do that even though I can’t see it”. The reason I became this positive was because there were a lot of opportunities to gain enough experience, people like friends and teachers who let me do whatever I want to do until I am satisfied. And the friend who became a star, well, she is still supporting me from the sky. I’m so happy I can study, join club activities, or play with friends like a regular girl because if I weren’t alive now, of course I couldn’t do any of those things.

Do you have a “most precious thing”? Do you have anything important you can say, “This is my most precious thing”? For me, it is my life. It is the only one in the world. Once you lose it, you can’t get it back ever again so it is important more than anything for me. Even though I don’t have my sight, I have my life so I will do my best with it and make it bright. “I live my life with no regrets and a lot of smiles, positive thoughts and I will live strong”. Thank you for listening.

“The 2nd-prize winner”
Mai Takase, 20 years old,
Kyoto Prefectural School for the Visually Impaired, Senior High School, Third year, (Representative of Kinki)
The title: “To appreciate people”

I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa before I reached elementary school. My mom had a hard time deciding which school I should go to, between a school for the blind or a traditional school and finally decided to put me to a traditional school.

In elementary school, I barely would have survived there if it weren’t for the teachers support but in junior high school it was different. There were more people and classes, and while others were making new friends, I couldn't make any. Also those friends I was good friends with in elementary school were slowly leaving me. Eventually I had noticed that I was just sitting by myself looking around and worrying if I bothered my classmates with my disability.

It was the spring of my second year in junior high school, as we changed classes everyone was talking with smiles on their faces and they seemed to be having a good time. As usual, I was sitting by myself feeling, "I'm not involved with any of the fun", but then a girl came over and talked me, "Good morning, it is hot today, isn't it?"

I couldn't say anything other than "Yes" at the time but later, I tried to go talk to her and from then, little by little we became good friends. We went to a Japanese festival together and also went to her place.

Because she always listened to me whatever my story was about, I began trusting her and started complaining about things around me. However, she gave me her advice or her opinion "But it could be this way?" or "But I think there is another way you could think". I was dissatisfied with her not having sympathy with what I said and I started ignoring her on purpose. When she said "good morning" to me, she finally said, "Please talk to me, the least you can give me is one word" and I eventually was not talking to her at all before we graduated from the school.

Why was I so stubborn? Now I know, I was in desperation from facing my blindness and took out my anger on her and I realize it wasn't fair.

After that, I went to Kyoto Prefectural School for the Visually Impaired as my high school and I had a lot of experiences there. I played drums and challenged myself in various sports and my life changed completely.

One time I used eyeshades for floor volleyball. It is like a pair of black goggles and I can't see anything. I have amblyopia and can't see enough to play in the back so I have to put the goggles on and play as a forward. I didn't like playing with the goggles because I felt like I was presented with the fact that I'm was blind.

I quit playing volleyball and went to join the ping-pong club because I thought I wouldn't need the eyeshades. When I tried to play it, I could return the ping-pong better than I expected. It felt complicated the first time but it grew on me in time and became fun to practice. Finally I had a great experience like when I won the Kinki region championship in February of my first year in high school. Why I said it was "a big experience" is because not only was it a big competition, but it made me realize "I had such power". Then my mind had started to change from chasing something I couldn't do, to finding something I'm good at doing.

Then, even volleyball became fun to play again, and also I could dedicate myself to practicing "Tenji”. There I was, no longer turning away from reality and was bravely to try to face my own disability.

However there was one thing I had been worrying about. It was her, the friend from junior high school and I had been thinking that I owed her an apology. Finally one night, I decided to call her.  "It has been long time no see, I'm Takase". At first my voice sounded tense.  "Oh Mi, long time no see, thank you for the call. I have been afraid of calling you because I thought you disliked me. I'm sorry for that". I heard her voice was relieved. "I'm sorry too, even though you were such an important friend of mine". I could apologize to her with a clear mind and then I could take the pressure off my chest. She is still a good friend of mine now.

I have been living with the support from a lot of people. Even though I didn't ask them to, they still supported me. Now I'm about to graduate from school and go into society. I want to express myself more actively from now on. Also I want to find out what I can do well and try it as hard as I can. Even if there was something I can't do after all the effort I make, I ask people properly what I need them to do or for some help, then I will appreciate them and live my life with that appreciation.

I have a visual defect. I can't change that fact. However I have accepted it and realized the importance of appreciation for others, and I think I gotten strength from that, so now I can face my future life with it. Thank you for listening.

“The 3 rd-prize winner”
Kiyomi Yonehara, 16 years old,
Kumamoto Prefectural School for the Blind, standard course, second year (Representative of Kyushu)
The title: “The word from my sister in my heart

I used to have only negative thoughts about myself being blind. I had been thinking “it is really a shame to be blind" until "the moment".

I lost my sight in car accident when I was 3 years old. Since then, I haven't been able to do what I used to do before and also now I am not able to see my family's face or lot of things ever again so I couldn't hide my sadness and confusion. Almost every day, I asked my mom, "Why did I become blind? Why am I only like this?” Around that time, we learned about blind schools and I entered into a preschool for the blind.

In school, I could forget about the sadness and bitterness of my life being blind but when I got home, it wasn't so easy. Always when my neighbor passed me or when people saw me in a shop and told me, "I feel sorry for you that you can't see anything" or even ask me, "Why can’t you see anything?" and it made me not like going out. Each time someone said that to me, I wanted to say back to them, "Why, even though I can read Tenji, go to school and live just like others, but you still say I'm pitiful? Which part of me is pitiful? The only difference from others is that I can't see things, right?" but I couldn't say that and I just became upset.

Those days lasted such a long time; I had been worrying about that until I reached my third year of elementary school. However, there were so many things that changed my thinking and "the moment" finally came to me.

That summer of my third year of elementary school, my little sister was born. While on summer vacation, I was spending time with my sister every day. Because I had never spent time with or have been close to babies, I thought they only cried, drank milk or slept and just be whoever their mom wanted them to be. But they were not, they actually cried when we didn’t expect, and also made us confused like sometimes when they seem to want some milk but really they just want to sleep. Dealing with babies is just like everyday dealing with something we never expect.

Then I realized that "Even though they seem to be doing the same thing every single day, actually this little baby who was just born can express her feelings better than me and live her life. I shouldn't worry too much about things because it doesn't help anything. I have to look to forward and be positive otherwise I can't go forward". It shouldn't be "I can do nothing because I'm blind". It should be "If I have a challenging spirit, there is nothing I can't do even though I'm blind and even with some limitations".

I decided that I will try to overcome those invisible walls in front of me. Little by little I wrote down what I didn't like to do, couldn't do or had given up doing, one by one. Next I organized them into things that take time to do and some things that can be cleared up in shorter time and planned to do them better and so I started working on them.

House duties, such as cooking or laundry that my parents tried to make me do since I was little were practiced everyday and now I can make a hamburger and miso soup by myself. I used to think when I faced something which I'm not good at, "Should I give up on this? Maybe it is wrong to think I should try anything by myself. I don't like hard work anyway". Many times I almost gave up but I didn't and even tackled them. I have overcome many walls, and finally there are many things I can do by myself. I really thought "I'm glad that I didn't give up at the time and finished them”. It was really a great accomplishment, I felt great and had such satisfaction that I have never had before, so I was really happy with my decision.

Once again I am facing a big wall. It is going to school by myself far away from home. It is something I have been trying hard for but still is so difficult and I haven't made it yet. There were some days I was thinking and almost gave up “Maybe someday, even if I can't do it now, but eventually". While sitting in a car, I murmured, "Everyone looks good walking home. I wish I could do it by myself someday". Then my sister said, "You can do it because of who you are. Even if you can't do it by yourself, then I will be your eyes so you will be ok, try your best". Hearing that, I regret what I had said about not making any effort. At the same time, that feeling I had in "the moment" when my sister was born came back to me, "I have to be positive about being blind".

I'm still trying to my best in overcoming the wall. However, sometimes I can’t be brave enough to do things and just worry and think I might fail. Then I always try to remember what my sister said to me and my decision, and now I believe that getting used to it is all I have to do now, so I am doing my best every day. Someday, not only in school, I want to be someone who can go to a shop which is close to my home or even go to another town alone. I'm not sure yet when it is coming but I believe in myself, do my best and never give up. Always the words my sister gave me are in my heart.
Thank you for listening.