Supporting Group - Fine Work (Japan)
“Under the guidance of my uncle ”
Tokyo, Worker of Japan Federation of the Blind
Kei Nakayama (49; male)
My uncle, Kiyoshi, always offered to shake hands. Then, he touched my head, face and shoulders I didn't mind what he did to me. I was just embarrassing.
“Say hello to your uncle.” My mother prompted me to approach him, and I did so thinking he would touch me again. After I said hello to him, he and I played with a large model train. My mother was proud of him because he was smart. I've heard from my mother many times that he got the highest score at a Braille competitive event in Kyoto.
I've never been conscious about my sightless uncle when I was a child. I started to be concerned about sightlessness when I was a high school student. A Braille block was laid on a school road. I used to see often a thin and long-haired man walking with a white cane. I might have finally recognized that he was “sightless” since I met with such a stranger many times on the way to school. After I was conscious of sightlessness, I met my uncle, but couldn't talk to him as I used to do.
I left from my family home in Tokyo and began to go to the university in Osaka, so I rarely met him since then. Because I wanted to write him instead, I started to learn Braille. I wrote him based on rules of Braille. I first thought we would exchange letters writing about things experienced in everyday life, but he wrote me about a totally-unexpected suggestion. “Let's play shogi (Japanese chess). We can play a game by writing a move on each letter.” Additionally, he wrote me little by little on each letter about his feelings when he gradually lost his sight in his childhood. Our game finished in an early stage.
My Braille teacher introduced me a Braille publishing facility of Hyogo Visually Impaired People Welfare Association. I started to work there as a part-timer, and then became a staff member after a few years. We referenced a book “Japan Braille Notation, 2001” for confirming rules at work. I opened this book for reference, but found myself concentrating on reading. I've never had a textbook very complicated and interesting. I can gain a new understanding each time I read the book. For translation into Braille on PR that I engaged as a job, it was insufficient for me to only memorize Braille rules. I wonder how a layout focused on visuality can be translated into readable Braille. My translation into Braille is proofread in red every time. I was in no particular disappointment all the time. I wrote down fabulous ideas of senior staff on a notebook. I wrote down them many times, but it took time until I could employ just one of them as my own idea.
I had frequent contact with visually impaired people. I belonged to the sports section, and walked with them while having a chat. I thought I guided them carefully as I learned, but I noticed how I have guided when I guided a sighted person in a guide helper workshop. I found I have just walked with a sightless person who is accustomed to walk alone.
I moved to Hyogo Braille Library, and I had a job there for proofreading Braille books translated by volunteers. I was surprised in proofreading that all the books translated into Braille got interesting. All the books looked like boring or books I've never chosen become good. The books are good for me enough to really believe that the contents are changed after translation from characters to Braille. Braille books attract me more and more while reading enough to thinks so.
About the first of working in the Braille Library, I got a letter from one of the users, Mr. Ikeda. He told me in the letter that there were too many mistakes in Braille books he borrowed. So, I replied to him that we were going to make preparations for creating Braille books. About a year later, we requested Mr. Ikeda to proofread Braille books by reading by touch as one of the procedure in creating such books. He kindly accepted our offer. Every time I sent him several Braille books for proofreading, I enclosed a note. In reply, Mr. Ikeda gave some advices and questions in a letter in addition to proofreading for each book. I started to learn Braille for writing a letter to my uncle, so by exchanging a letter between Mr. Ikeda and me, I made sure I have utilized Braille in a meaningful way.
I told Mr. Ikeda that I would transfer to Tokyo and also my uncle got the highest score at a Braille competitive event. Then, when I told him my uncle's sir name, “Hosaka,” he surprisingly said, “Is it Kiyoshi?” “I used to always compete against your uncle for the highest score, but he mostly was the best in the competition. I could have won him only once.”
It was an unexpectedly happy accident. It reminded me of my dead uncle. Although I'm sure that Braille-related work is what I want to do in life, it became not just about whether I'd like to do or not like to do the work as soon as I knew such relationship. This is only work I can dedicate also in the future. I often remember my uncle. Even when my heart almost break due to an unsuccessful job, I believe from someplace inside me that he will support me.
Through Braille work, I got to know many people at work and outside of work, regardless of sighted people or sightless people. Now I have friends to talk about Braille all over the country. I'm truly thankful for the relationship led by my uncle.