Student Group - Excellent Work (Japan)
Wings of Flying Fish
Rui Katsumata (18, 3rd grade, High School Division, Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, Tsukuba University, female)

I am 18 years old high school student. I am a third-grade of Tsukuba University's Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired. I live in the school dormitory. I was blinded by the disease on my 6th birthday. On that day my pitch-dark days started.

I was born and raised in Niigata prefecture, very snowy region. Particularly it is very snowy in my neighborhood; the snow piles up to about 3 meters high. Many people come to this area for skiing. My hometown is a very tranquil town bestowed with tasty rice, fresh air, clean river flow, and the songs of insects as the daily background music. The story of my relocation from such a rural area to the gigantic city Tokyo started when I passed the entrance examination of the junior high division of this school. In the initial days after my enrollment, I had many worries and difficulties and spent days and days thinking about going back home. But those days were gone, and the efforts were rewarded. When I became a high school student, I started leading a very meaningful life going out with my friends on holidays and going to new places. Now I really believe I made the right choice in taking on the entrance exam and deciding to come to Tokyo. My desire to go to Tokyo started when I was a fourth-grade of elementary school.

Soon after I was born, it was revealed I had an eye disease. So I started going to Tokyo to see a doctor when I was small. But usually we returned home immediately after treatment or check-up as my parents were very busy with their work. So my impression of Tokyo was only negative; big hospitals, so many people living there, and a lot of smelly exhaust gas. But on one occasion, probably because my mother happened to be not so busy or she felt sorry for me as I only came to Tokyo to do nothing but seeing a doctor, she decided we would stay overnight in Tokyo after check-up. We put our bags in our hotel room and walk together around the Shinjuku Station crowded with so many people for many hours using a white cane and braille blocks as the guide. During the walk, I was surprised to realize a great difference in the environment from where I live and was moved to see braille blocks and indications were very well installed at various places. Here in Tokyo, I could go to various places I like even though I can't see. I felt exalted by this thought.

We began to feel hunger after walking around the town for a while. Then we went into a nearby yakitori restaurant we spotted by chance as if drawn by the savory smell flowing from it. Although the interior was not so wide, the restaurant was filled with noise and gaiety and a little bit crowded. When I and my mother were about to walk toward empty seats at the back of the restaurant, guests sitting close to where we stood kindly gave their seats to us probably they noticed my white cane. We sat on a small table seat. While my mother was ordering foods to eat, a man sitting next to us spoke to me, "Where did you come from?" "From Niigata," I answered. Some guests nearby then started talking to us one after another, "From Niigata? You traveled a lot." "You really have delicious rice there." Thanks to their hospitality, my tense nerves, because of an unfamiliar place, relaxed, and I gradually came to enjoy the situation.

Perhaps out of kindness, the restaurant master who noticed us showed a funny shaped fish named flying fish. In those days, I never heard flying fish. It aroused my curiosity. I remember touching the fish so ardently as I wanted to know its shape rather than tasting it. It had a long thin shape, and the fins were like bird wings. That unique shape really intrigued me and deeply impressed me. The master saw me so earnestly touch and feel the fish and said to us, "Interesting? Would you like to bring them back home as a souvenir?" and put the fins in an envelope for us to bring back home.

At that very moment, I heard a song sung by Yuzu, a pair of two singers, named "Eikou no Kakehashi " (Bridge of Honor) from the radio. I love that song very much. My mother played the song for me every time I felt so sad, painful, or bitter and wanted to back home because of the medical treatment. I was so overwhelmed by the joy of listening to that song that I started to sing to the song unawares. My voice must have sounded louder than I thought. Many restaurant guests praised me, "You're a good singer." I was on cloud nine. I finished singing until the end of the song on the spur of the moment. The moment I finished, I suddenly felt embarrassed. But the guests kindly accepted me with their warm applause. I felt warmth in my mind despite the awkward embarrassment. This experience was turned into a great motivation for me to go to Tokyo and live there. That experience showed me the world I didn't know and many worlds I still need to know.

I am now trying very hard to prepare for a college entrance examination. I like my leisurely hometown Niigata. But I am doing my best in study so that I can learn more worlds I don't know yet and more new people to meet. I face hardship and difficulties from time to time, but kind guidance of unknown people I happen to meet in town, casual kindness showed by a shop clerk of a store I dropped in for the first time, and the powerful singing voice of street musicians trying to convey some message always relax my tense feeling. Someday I wish I would be able to give the warm feelings and energy I got from many people back to a variety of people. I wish the wings of the flying fish give me and many other people the wings to fly.


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