| Report from Japan|
1st Onkyo Braille Essay Contest Awards
Announced October 3, 2003 Onkyo Corporation
We thank everyone for entering the contest. The standard of essays was remarkably impressive. The winning essays have been selected. Our highest award, the Otsuki Prize, goes to Takaaki Fujino for his essay, 'A Hope for Peace'.
Invitations were opened from March of this year, with the aim of forming a bridge for the blind community between the worlds of Braille and sound. A total of 117 essays - both in Braille and typewritten - were received from all over Japan. The judging panel, including the author Giichi Fujimoto along with representatives of the sponsors, has completed its deliberations.
The highest award, the Otsuki Prize, has been given to Takaaki Fujino (64), a resident of Osaka City and a former teacher at the Osaka Municipal School for the Blind. His work is entitled 'A Hope for Peace'. Kento Torii, aged just 11, won a special award for junior high and elementary school students with his essay, 'Me and My Drum'. At the end of October, Mr. Fujino was invited to receive his award at a special ceremony held at the Onkyo Corporation head office in Osaka, Japan.
We thank all the participants in the competition for sending in so many remarkable essays. Onkyo Corporation will continue to bring a rich musical experience to the blind community by providing easy-to-use sound systems and technical support. The inspirational qualities of the many essays we received will help us create even more attractive products.
Chief executive officer of Onkyo Corporation
First, let me say I was most impressed by all of the essays. It has been my aim to form a bridge for the blind community between the worlds of Braille and sound. Hence I'm very pleased to have organized the first Onkyo Braille Essay Contest, with the joint sponsorship of The Mainichi Newspapers " The Braille Mainichi " and Onkyo Corporation.
While working at Technol Eight Corporation, I helped develop Braille printers. Then, at Onkyo Corporation, I helped develop a special kit which allows visually impaired people to operate our sound systems by themselves.
When I was a young man, I met a girl with visual difficulties. At that time, I had no specific career goal, but this encounter changed my career. This girl left a deep impression on me, and taught me a lot. It was an experience unlike any I'd had. Since that first encounter, I've gone on to have many more wonderful experiences with visually impaired people.
One of our judges, Mr. Fujimoto, told me that visually impaired people have greater sensitivity and will-power than fully-sighted people. That's why I hope to continue organizing this contest, so that I can spend more time with visually impaired people and share their precious experiences with everyone around the world.
During the course of this contest, we had the opportunity to read several impressive compositions. Because of so many excellent essays, it was very difficult to narrow down our choice to one overall winner. So we would like to extend our sincere, heartfelt thanks to all the applicants for participating in this contest and expressing their passion through Braille. We were particularly impressed with the sense of warm family interaction described by runner up, Mitsuo Kawamura, and with the enthusiasm for music expressed by Kento Torii, a 6th grade elementary school student.
Above all, Mr. Fujino's Otsuki prize-winning 'Hope for Peace' gave us a deep understanding of his longstanding condition, as well as of his youthful idealism and passion. Thank you very much.
At Onkyo, we continue to break down barriers and we continue our efforts to bring you the finest sounding products that we can. As we look ahead to other contests, we would appreciate your cooperation and support. Your help will allow us the opportunity to share the experiences of so many gifted and talented people who happen to be blind. We look forward to receiving your latest inspirational works. Many thanks to everyone who has taken part in this year's contest, and congratulations to Mr. Fujino for winning the Otsuki prize. May we wish you continued success, good health and a passion for life.
I recalled one friend in particular who had been through the same kind of post-war experiences as Mr. Fujino. I hope that Mr. Fujino will continue to write about his deeply personal experiences, expressing as he does the great hopes of people like him. I hope he will continue to give a cool perspective on the cruel times that we live in.
Mr. Kawamura's work expresses the everyday warmth of the family. I particularly enjoyed the way he expresses the rich emotions contained in the brief exchanges with his daughter. People in today's Japan have lost the sense of danger in their everyday lives. He expresses naturally how one cassette tape from his daughter saved him from despair. If the author had been able to dig more deeply into his emotions, I think he would have earned the top prize. I felt it was a pity he let the narrative drift off into the golf theme.
In their essays, Mr. Kishida and Mrs. Hamamoto both show the same flaw. They write about literature that is well known and has already been written about extensively. Of course there is nothing wrong with expressing how a work has influenced you. But I hope they realize that they lose something of their own presence in the process. Mr. Kishida could have told us more about the depth of that "voice" and I felt Mrs. Hamamoto needed to express herself more on the emotional experience the guide dog afforded her.
Mrs. Kizuka gives us a vivid picture of her step-by-step progress with Braille and the energy it has given her. That energy is a precious thing.
"Me and My Drum" gives us, in rhythmic prose, a straight account of how the young author will live his life from now on. But it was difficult to compare this essay with the work of adults. Therefore we decided to create a special category for Kento Torii. We hope he will continue to follow that drumbeat to fulfill his dreams.
Lastly I was sorry to leave out Mr. Yonamine with his essay on how Braille had changed his life. He stood out because he chose to write about himself in the style of a novel. The strength of his writing carried him through to the final round of judging, however this novel format was not the intended format of the essay.
|The results were published in the Braille Mainichi Shimbun (Braille edition
on October 5, printed edition on October 9), as well as the regular Mainichi
The prize-winning essays were published regularly in the Braille Mainichi Shimbun.
Collected editions of the prize-winning works will be donated to schools for the blind and other community groups.
The highest award in the competition, the Otsuki Prize, was named after Naoto Otsuki, chief executive officer of Onkyo Corporation.
The Onkyo stereo systems mentioned here are Intec 275 M7 systems.
User-friendly features are provided by the Onkyo Rakuraku Kit. This kit is provided free of charge. Please visit the Onkyo Barrier Free site Rakuraku-kan for more details.
Technol Eight Group helps to promote barrier-free access to information through its Braille printers
On January 1st 2001, as the world took the great step into the 21st century,
I was 62 years old, but my heart was beating fast like someone much younger.
I was filled with emotion. The 20th century was a particularly harsh period
in human history, as the light and dark of history mixed to alter the
lives of so many individuals at random.
Comments on receiving the prize
Profile of Takaaki Fujino
In Autumn 1998, I participated in a radio program called 'Saturday Hot Request' on the NHK FM station. That incredible experience sparked my interest in the power of the voice. On the program, listeners made use of the NHK studio to prepare a 10-minute radio show for nationwide broadcast. I had the opportunity of being in just such a show; one in which there was a guest appearance from voice actress Mariko Kouda. She is involved not only in voice acting, but also in radio announcing and singing. If you've ever thought of becoming a voice actor or are a big fan of voice actors, you probably already know her name.
Before I met her at the studio, I had heard her voice on the radio. But when I heard her talking to the staff there, I was quite stunned. It wasn't the instant excitement of meeting a celebrity. My surprise was at the level of her professionalism as a voice actress. Even just her "Good morning!" greeting was enough to cheer everyone up straight away. That was when I realised the expressive force of a voice.
It's not so easy to find descriptions of voice actors over the mass media - and that includes on the internet. Even when you do find a voice described, it's usually in such over-simple terms as "cute" or "clear". But the human voice is not so simple as to be described with a single word.
How someone talks reveals a great deal about their personality. So, if I were to describe Mariko's voice in my own words, I would say: "Her voice has a stunningly bright timbre. It reaches out to every listener with its incomparable strength and elegance."
People with visual disabilities know through experience the profundity of the human voice. We read changes in voice the way fully-sighted people read facial expressions. I would very much like to convey to as wide an audience as possible how important this voice culture is for effective communication. I'm going to keep pushing myself to achieve this goal, so I can find out exactly how much I'm capable of.
Since I suffer from severe amblyopia ("lazy eye"), the easiest way for me to get involved in the media is via print media. Thanks to the progress of computer technology, I can compose text the same way a fully-sighted person does. If I get involved in other media - video, for example - I'm fortunate that I'm able to write. Of course, conducting interviews and gathering reference materials is still a struggle. But the way I look at it, dealing with those problems is part of my job.
When I write, I try to do so efficiently and to the best of my ability. For example, there are two steps in my writing process. First, I write an entire piece to the end, using a text programme such as Microsoft Word - the same software fully-sighted people use. Next, I translate the text into braille and read it again. Finally, I incorporate my amendments into the original document.
Reading a text in braille lets me pick up subtle nuances and word usages I might miss when I hear the word processor's mechanized voice. Since I started writing this way, I've been able to analyse my writing from several different perspectives.
In the past, I was under the illusion that computers were automatically good for everything. When I bought my first computer, I thought I wouldn't need braille anymore. Two years later, and books and papers written in braille still fill my room. I've come to see that computers have both their good and bad points. And now I think the best approach is to use computers and braille together. The horizons of my world have broadened. Now that information moves so much more freely than before, I feel I can relate my dreams to the outside world.
It's hard to describe a voice in words, but it's not impossible. If I'm
sensitive enough to feel the expressive force of a voice, and if I have
sufficient skill to convey my impressions in written language, I might
just be able to find a way to achieve something unique. Now I've become
an adult, I have finally found a dream that isn't impossible to achieve.
I've been learning the drums for a while. I started learning to play drums when I was in the fourth grade. I was inspired by watching a junior high school talent show, where a band performed the song 'Ashita Ga Arusa'. I thought the band were cool, and was inspired to play like them. The moment I got home, I asked my mother if I could learn the drums. To my surprise, she agreed. "Sure, it'd be a good idea for you to learn a musical instrument", she said. I really didn't expect her to agree so easily.
I felt I was already one step closer to my dream of playing in a band. But, even though I had my mother's permission, I still couldn't find a drum class. The longer I kept waiting, the more I wanted to play the drums. In the meantime, I settled for playing the drums at break time in my school's music room. It took four months to find a drum class after having gotten my mother's permission.
I discovered something in common with my drum teacher: he had started learning drums when he was in the fourth grade, too. He was inspired by the Beatles. These days, he plays with a band at a number of different venues. I really admire my teacher.
The first tune I learnt was 'Mamotte Agetai' by Yumi Arai. I chose that song because it's my mother's favorite song. I practiced for an hour every week in the drum class, listening to the whole tune and trying to remember all of it. Then my teacher would offer me advice, so that eventually I could play the song perfectly.
After four months of practice, I finally got a chance to play live. I was tense and nervous. It was my first real performance, even if the audience was just two people - my mother and sister. Once I started playing, my tension eased and I felt calm. I felt that my hands were moving automatically. My first performance was successful, and my mother, my teacher (and even I) were satisfied with my playing.
A year has passed since I first started learning the drums. Before I got into drumming, I used to spend a lot of time playing games. Now, though, I've changed the way I spend my time. I spend a lot of my spare time practicing rhythms by slapping on my knees. I often practice playing the 8-beat and segues between tunes. While I play, I get absorbed in the activity. My teacher has been teaching me more and more new rhythms. I'm currently working on SMAP's 'Sekaini Hitotsu Dakeno Hana'. I chose this song for the same reason I chose 'Mamotte Agetai'; because my whole family loves this song.
When I'm ready with a tune, I play it for my family. When I'm playing
the drums, I devote myself fully to the rhythm of the drum. And every
time I play, I feel I'm getting one step closer to my dream of performing