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'.

Competition details.
From March 2003 onwards, Onkyo Corporation and The Mainichi Newspapers " The Braille Mainichi "  held the first Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. The winning essays made a deep impression on readers all over Japan. Now, we have translated them into English, and are delighted to be able to present them to the rest of the world.

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
Naoto Otsuki
CEO Naoto Otsuki

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.

 
Award Winners 
Otsuki Prize - 200,000 yen prize money and user-friendly Onkyo stereo system
'A Hope for Peace', Takaaki Fujino (64), Osaka City
 
Runner-up - 100,000 yen prize money and user-friendly Onkyo stereo system
'My Challenge', Mitsuo Kawamura (43), Tsu City, Mie Prefecture
 
Highly Commended - 50,000 yen prize money and 20,000 yen in CD tokens
'My Challenge', Masahide Kishida (26), Nagano Prefecture
'My Challenge', Katsuko Hamamoto (61), Otsu City
'Braille Changed Me', Hiroko Kizuka (58), Tokyo
 
Special Prize - User-friendly Onkyo stereo system
'Me and My Drum', Kento Torii (11), Tokyo

Judge's Comments
conference panel

Giichi Fujimoto
Mr.Giichi Fujimoto
Concentrated Self Expression
In his prize-winning essay, Takaaki Fujino managed to say a lot with few words. He scored highly for the way he expressed the past, the present, and through his hopes, the future. Every line said something happy or sorrowful about the author's innermost feelings.
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 Shimbun newspaper.
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
 

Note to readers:
These original essays were written in the Japanese language. We have attempted to translate them into English without changing the original intent or meaning of the author. Therefore, you will find that in a few instances, the words may not seem to connect as smoothly as they would if originally written in English. We hope that you will excuse these instances and appreciate the overall meaning as expressed by the authors.
Thank you for your understanding.

Otsuki Prize
'A Hope for Peace'
Takaaki Fujino (Osaka City)

Mr.Takaaki Fujino

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.
Looking back over the 20th century, great progress was made in technology and medical science. Progress was also made in peace and human rights, as people continued their efforts to make them more secure. But those hundred years were also filled with conflict, stretching from the Russo-Japanese War to the Gulf War. World War II caused the deaths of more than 50 million people and damaged the lives of many times more than that number. Friends, relatives, loved ones were lost. Countless people lost their possessions.
An unexploded bomb left from that war affected me personally. I lost a brother two years younger than me, and I lost both my hands and the sight in both my eyes. That was in July 1946. I was in the second year of elementary school, enjoying my summer vacation. Because I was doubly disabled, the blind school in my native Fukuoka refused to accept me and I was forced out of the educational system for 13 years. When I was 18, I heard that some leprosy patients who had lost both their eyesight and their fingers had learned to read Braille using the lips or the tip of the tongue. I did my best to learn Braille and eventually mastered it. Braille opened new avenues for me. I was allowed into junior high section of Osaka Municipal School for the Blind when I was 20, then I went through the normal course of the high school and completed my university studies by correspondence. I gained my teaching qualification and fulfilled my dream of becoming a teacher when I was 33.
I think about my contemporaries and younger people who lived through the same period. During the war, and after it, many children touched unexploded bombs or landmines that had been scattered around so irresponsibly. Countless deaths and injuries were caused. Many of these people have lived without any welfare support from their country or society.
It is not so easy to live after you have received some kind of disability. I was often depressed thinking about it. I wished I still had the use of even one eye or one hand. And I was always angry that circumstances had put me in such an unfortunate position. In that sense, I felt as if I was dragging the whole weight of post-war Japanese history along with me. As I looked back on that emotion-filled 20th century, I hoped that the 21st century would be free from war and discrimination, even if such a future were uncertain.
Then the September 11th terrorist attacks took place. There followed a flood of retaliation focusing on Afghanistan. Then in March of this year, the US and Great Britain launched their cruel war on Iraq.
Based on my personal experience, I am against war, no matter what reasons are advanced to justify it. War will inevitably create countless new victims. Or it will affect the rights of disabled people who are trying to lead their lives. There will be no escape for them. Those who plan, prepare and command wars are not the people who lose their lives or suffer wounds on the battlefield.
The Japanese constitution states that, "We, the Japanese people [……] (are) resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government". This shows that some people might want to start a war even if the Japanese nation were against it.
'A Hope for Peace' is the starting point of my life. Terrorism is the worst crime and is totally unforgivable, but a war of revenge is not the way to eliminate the hotbeds of terrorism. Reason and discussion based on international law are the real keys to resolving conflicts.
Going back to my feelings on January 1st 2001, my hopes for peace have been badly dented. That is why I feel I must express my thoughts for peace through words and actions.
I think there are four conditions for peace.
First, there must be no war. When I was an impressionable age, there was always war, and America or China was the enemy. Children learned enmity and contempt from adults.
Second, there must be no discrimination or prejudice. The disabled used to be regarded as society's "disgrace" or its "burden" and they almost had to apologize for being alive.
Third, poverty and starvation must be conquered on a worldwide scale. Every time I hear news of famine, I remember as a child the hunger gnawing at my stomach.
Fourth, we must share the wonderful cultural heritage that the human race has created. We must be able to create together a new culture. Occasionally I go to concerts with my wife or friends. Whenever I hear the moving works of Beethoven or Mahler, I am filled with the grandeur of art and thankfulness for peace. When the music ends, after a moment of silence, the hall is filled with thunderous applause. As the applause resounds through the hall like a storm, I am acutely aware that I cannot add the sound of my own hands to the rest of the audience. Sorrow that I seldom express wells up in my heart. Even so, whenever I go to concerts, I am filled with the sense that music enriches the heart.

Comments on receiving the prize
When I received the news that I had been given the highest award in the competition, I was over the moon. When I read the competition outline, without hesitation I wanted to write about my "hope for peace". I wrote down in one concentrated effort all the feelings that had been brewing up inside me. Hoping for peace is not enough to bring about peace. It is not easy to preserve peace. I want people to look at the causes of war, going beyond thought and faith. I want as many people as possible to understand how wonderful peace is and how thankful we should be for it.

Profile of Takaaki Fujino
Born in 1938 in Fukuoka, Kyushu. Worked as a social studies teacher at Osaka Municipal School for the Blind for 30 years until retiring in 2002. During that time, he was also a central committee member of Zenshikyo (Japan Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) for 26 years, and was the 4th chairman of the committee during the final four years of that period.


Runner-up
'My Challenge'
'Just One Tape'
Mitsuo Kawamura (Tsu City)


I am visually handicapped. Now and for the rest of my life.
I am 43 years old. The cause of my blindness is failure of the retinal pigments. I started to notice a change in my eyesight when I was around 33 years old.
After being moved to a different section of the company I used to work for, I was unable to do my work because of my eyesight problems. I had enjoyed my previous work and did not feel too much inconvenience from my eyes. There had been talk of promotion for me, but as I found that my eyes were hindering me in my new work, I went to speak with my boss. I was shifted to another part of the company. Talk of promotion evaporated and my new work was not interesting for me. I was involved in washing, and my hands, feet, face and whole body were constantly covered with detergent.
I thought glasses might be a solution, but instead the eye specialist told me that I was gradually going to lose my eyesight. He suggested that I resign from the company and think about a new career. I was quite shocked to hear this.
In fact, I did not resign and tried my best for a while longer. But my eyes were getting worse by the day and my restricted eyesight caused me trouble all the time. One day my nine-year-old daughter said, "Daddy, my legs are tired, can you massage them for me?" As I rubbed her little legs, I murmured, "Daddy might give up his job and become a masseur." She said that if I did, she wanted me to give her a massage every day.
I did not think much about it at the time, but it was definitely the start of a new life for me. I resigned immediately after, and enrolled at a blind school. I was 38.
I had loved my job, I had loved baseball, golf, tennis, and I had loved the friends I made through those things. But now I had left my job because of my eyesight, and I gave up baseball, golf and tennis too. One by one, all the things I had loved were closed to me, and one by one my friends disappeared too. I felt truly alone every day. The massage study course at the blind school was difficult, and I wondered why a man with failing sight had to wear his eyes out studying.
One day, when we were sitting at the dining table, my daughter asked me if I could read the newspaper. I admitted that I could not because the print was too small. The next morning, when I woke up, I found next to my pillow a cassette tape and a note. The note said, "Daddy, please listen to the tape." I finished off my breakfast quickly and listened to the tape. There was my daughter's voice, reading yesterday's newspaper. She had filled a whole 90-minute cassette. I was so happy.
That tape became a priceless treasure for me. It was just a cassette. But at the time, I think that my handicap was not only visual but also emotional.
In the three years after that, thanks to my daughter's tapes, I became a qualified masseur. When I think back now, I can hear my daughter on the tape saying, "Even if you can't see at all, I'll be your eyes for you."
I have started the second phase of my life now as a masseur with my own clinic. All kinds of people visit the massage clinic, and I find I am learning a lot not just as a professional but also as a human being. By mixing with people at my work, my view of life is changing. I have taken up golf again, and the person who gave me the chance to play was one of the patients. I can't see where the ball has gone, that was one of the reasons I gave it up. But while I was talking to one of my patients, another patient told me he was a guide helper for the visually impaired. He would be my eyes, so why didn't I try again. I did. Thanks to him, I have entered competitions for the blind, enrolled in golf school, and even taken part in competitions with sighted people. The caddy and other people become my eyes for me. I am so happy that, by becoming a masseur, I met the helper, who introduced me to the golf school, and then I was able to play in competitions with the sighted people I met at the school.
Through the twists and turns in my life, many people have supported me. My daughter who is now in the third year of junior high school. My wife. The helper who gave me back enjoyment in life. My golfing friends. Thank you for being my eyes.
One by one, I feel the things I had lost are coming back to me. One by one, friends are coming back to support me. I have also made new friends since I lost my sight. I won't lose them. And I won't lose that cassette tape from my daughter.
I am visually handicapped. Soon I will be completely blind. But I won't be emotionally handicapped. Whatever happens.
That is my own small challenge.


Highly Commended
'My Challenge'
Masahide Kishida (Nagano Pref.)


A voice conveys a great amount of expressiveness. In fact, it tells you a lot more than most fully-sighted people realise. The challenge I have set for myself is to convey - via mass media - my ideas about "voice culture".

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.


Highly Commended
'My Challenge'
Katsuko Hamamoto (Otsu City)


These are distant memories from the late 1960s. I was working at a hospital at the time. During some free time one day, I settled down to read a book I had just bought, Eiji Yoshikawa's Shin Heike Monogatari. I thought I saw a small insect jumping between the lines. I brushed it away, but it came back to annoy me. I thought it was strange, but I put it down to lack of sleep and thought no more about it. About a week after that, on my way home from work, I got off my bicycle to wait for the traffic lights to change. Suddenly the white lines of the crosswalk seemed to shimmer in waves. That was my first step on the decline into blindness.
As I remember, one day my two kids, who were in kindergarten at the time, were playing chase. One of them jumped up on my chest. His head hit me hard in the right eye. I underwent several operations for a detached retina, then glaucoma, cataracts, and a detached retina again. Eventually I could see nothing at all.
Roughly 20 years passed, during which time I was completely absorbed in all the usual household matters. I had to look after the children, take care of my parents. There was no time to read or write. That Shin Heike Monogatari lay gathering dust on the bookshelf.
It was hard for me to accept my blindness, but there was no way I could reject it or run away from it. I had to learn to live with it. There was a great turning point for me. That was my first meeting with a guide dog and learning to read Braille. The guide dog gave me the freedom to walk around. And Braille gave me the chance to read the Shin Heike Monogatari roughly twenty years after that small black "insect" had first entered my life.
I had known about Braille before. But that was Braille I could read with my eyes. Physically reading words with your fingertips seems to strike deep into your heart. I was so delighted when I could read one character. When I could read a whole line of text, I felt like jumping for joy. After working so hard, you have to work even harder to really master Braille. Even so, I devoted myself entirely to running my fingers along those lines of Braille characters. Looking back over my long life, I can say that was the time I really tried the hardest.
After I had completed my education program for the blind, and I had a guide dog by my side, I was able to return to being a housewife. Once I had settled down, I borrowed one Braille book from the library. It was the non-fiction work Shuyojyo kara kita Isho by Jun Henmi. It is about Hatao Yamamoto, a Japanese man imprisoned in Siberia at the end of the Second World War. The testament was written to his family back in Japan as he faced death. He dreamed of returning to his native land, but he died and was buried in Siberia. His language was very dignified. But there was no pen or paper with which to copy the testament. Instead, his fellow prisoners who were able to return to Japan learned different parts by heart and brought them back to Japan that way. Over several years, the text was assembled piece by piece until his testament was complete. It was then given to his family.
Conditions were terrible. Prisoners were willing to inform against their comrades for just one slice of bread. Temperatures in the Siberian winter dropped below minus 30 degrees. The Japanese prisoners were forced to do hard labor and died off accordingly. Each year, the number of deaths was estimated and the prisoners dug a communal grave for the bodies during the brief summer. For us, living in peace, the lives of those prisoners were unimaginably terrible. And as their dream of returning to Japan became more distant, they gradually lost the heart to carry on.
Yamamoto gave those people inspiration with his haiku poems. Even in such extreme conditions, he could find material for his poetry in the sound of the wind, or the seasonal changes in the sky. As someone who never gave up his dream of returning to Japan, he inspired his fellow prisoners to live without losing their feelings or dignity.
Braille brought me back to the world of literature after a 20-year blank. After reading the three Braille books in the library, I was filled with deep emotion and my heart was overflowing with joy at the thought that I had mastered the art of reading for the second time.
Someone once wrote, "The beauty of a rosebud opening lies in its shades". For me, the handicap of blindness is a huge shadow. But I might be able to add that shadow to my emotions and make it into one of my attractive features. I have felt that way since I read, Shuyojyo kara kita Isho. Letters can teach us many things. Letters have nurtured my emotions. Letters, in the form of Braille, may have become a lasting challenge for me. It might be the challenge to turn my handicap into an attractive feature, like the shade of the rose.


Highly Commended
'Braille Changed Me'
'What is Braille Power?'
Hiroko Kizuka (Tokyo)


I have finished reading a book. My left index finger is still slightly hot as I lost myself in the climax of the story. An A4-size Braille book of 120 pages, with its thick paper, is quite a heavy item. Supporting the book on my lap with my right hand, I needed some strength to constantly slide my left index finger from left to right along the lines of text. The great and deep sense of fulfillment I got from reading a whole Braille book for the first time was overwhelming.
About two years ago, at the end of March 2001, I was sitting in a room on the third floor of the Japan Braille Library facing my teacher Utako Matsutani, the president of the Braille school. She was much younger than me and totally blind.
"Do you think I can learn to read Braille at my age?"
"We have people of 70 learning to read. We'll teach you over three years, so take it easy. Don't rush."
It is difficult for older people who lose their sight to learn Braille. I had heard that it was especially difficult for people in their late fifties, like me, so I was worried.
The following month I started classes. I had one 70-minute class per week. There were seven of us in the class. Most of them were younger than me. Teaching was one on one; as I read the text falteringly, the teacher would check me.
The Japan Braille Library teaching method was to teach reading thoroughly from the start. I only started to write after I was able to read quite fluently. I'm sure there are many ways to teach Braille, but this method suited me well. More than anything, I could hardly wait to read a whole book. I wanted to get back the pleasure of reading that I had lost.
It took me almost half a year to learn the basics of reading the Japanese language in Braille. By then I could read a short article of about half a page. After about a year, the teacher told me I should try to read a whole book, rather than just short texts. I started to read a Soseki Natsume novel that I had wanted to read for some time. I had already read it when I could see, so the story was still inside my head. That made it easier to understand.
At first, my finger and my head refused to work properly. I stumbled along word by word. The sentences in Soseki's works are long. Four or five lines of printed text are more than three times longer than that in Braille. As I read the text word by word, the full story gradually unfolded. I used the words I could read to help me guess the words I could not read, just as I had done when I was learning English. It was difficult to read a sentence straight through. When I reached the end of the sentence, I found I had forgotten the beginning, so I had to read it all over again.
In that way, it took me a month to get through the whole book. As I progressed, I found I was guessing less and my reading speed accelerated. Before I knew it, my finger was slipping smoothly across the page.
Braille has turned from "classes" into the pleasure of reading.
I found if you can read whole books in Braille, you have more energy. I call that "the power of Braille".
Why does it give me more energy? I think the sense of fulfillment that comes from learning to read is part of that energy. But I also think it has something to do with using your fingers and your brain to turn those strange six-dot patterns instantaneously into words. I don't think reading print gives you the same stimulus. Of course it takes a lot of concentration to feel your way through a text, so you tire quickly. I find one hour to 90 minutes is about my limit. As you tire, your concentration level slips, your brain and your finger become dull, and it's hard to read even simple words. If you stop reading and do something different for a while, it's amazing how you can come back to reading refreshed.
So thanks to Braille, I have new energy and my life has changed.
And if I tell other people who have lost their sight, like me, that I can read Braille, they have great respect for me. Braille power is amazing. Well, I think I'll read some Braille today!


Special Prize
'Me and My Drum'
Kento Torii (6th Grade at Katsushika Blind School, Tokyo)


I'm hoping to be able to put a band together and do a live performance some time in the future. It's my dream to play drums in a jazz band.

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 live.


back