Review of Award-Winning Essays
“Determination and Courage”
Mr. Giichi Fujimoto (novelist)

This year’s winner of the Otsuki Prize, our highest award, is Mr. Seiji Tozoe. At the age of 44, Mr. Tozoe lost his sight to retinitis pigmentosa. One can hardly imagine the suffering he endured in the year following this loss.
 
After joining a municipal braille-transcription class, Mr. Tozoe faced one hurdle after another. But when his wife offered to read the textbook sentences for him, they were able to start transcribing together. Mrs. Tozoe would research words at the library and then dictate the text into a tape recorder so they could do the transcriptions together. As well as working in tandem and sharing her knowledge with her husband, the diligent Mrs. Tozoe also learned braille transcription by correspondence. The couple’s 15 years together is testament to the ever-strengthening bonds of their love.
 
An Excellence Award was given to Mr. Osamu Kurikawa for his essay “White Blackboard”. This essay, which conveys the writer’s determination to continue teaching even after losing his sight, discusses his work on developing a computerized blackboard. He had been thinking about this unique system ever since his sight suddenly deteriorated at the age of 27. Mr. Kurikawa clearly explains the process leading up to his big decision to return to a normal high school after working at a school for the blind. Reading his story, we get a sense of his strong resolve and his kind devotion to his students. We learn that the most vital ingredients in life are effort and good habits.
 
The judging panel also admired Mr. Kenji Katayose, writer of the Highly Commended essay “Living a Meaningful Life as a Minority”, for his refreshing approach and single-minded persistence while working at his braille school. Mr. Katayose never looked back. Eventually, he was allowed to run with a support runner in the 1980 Oume Marathon. His impressively strong-willed actions have helped boost the prospects of other visually impaired people.
 
This year’s other Highly Commended work is “Strawberries”. The writer, Ms. Akiko Yanagihara, lost her sight at the age of 31 despite having undergone ten operations. After losing her sight, she withdrew into her shell and felt abandoned. A couple of years later, though, she tasted a strawberry that her mother had picked from the garden. Ms. Yanagihara realized that the strawberry would always be a strawberry—its essence had not changed just because she was now blind. Similarly, she herself would always be essentially the same person. This realization gave her the confidence to move forward. It was heartening to get a sense of her walking through the door to a new life.
 
Among the remaining essays on the shortlist, it is difficult to say which are the better ones. We feel that all of them would benefit from having a little more variety in their sentence structure.
 
All of the essays short-listed in the student section were excellent. Special Award winners, Mr. Wakimoto (14) and Mr. Ouchi (12), impressed the judging panel with the cheerful and natural way they wrote about daily life, and with how they avoided the understandable inclination to be self-centered. It is hoped that their essays will provide some inspiration to visually impaired people.


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