Is it just that it happened in Japan?

It is now six days since Satoshi Uematsu killed 19 people, and injured 26 others at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en care home for the intellectually disabled in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. The last few days has been emotional time for me since I live in Japan, have cerebral palsy and am married to a Japanese woman who also has cerebral palsy. We are both academics who write about disability.

It is difficult to know how to respond Uematsu’s killing of disabled people, and I feel that any response is inadequate. What can you say when so many disabled people have been killed or injured. I am not capable of writing anything meaningful that can somehow explain what Uematsu did.

However, a day or so after July 26th – the day of the attack – several friends of mine, friends who are part of the disability community both in the UK and the USA began making posts about how the Sagamihara killings were not be being discussed as a disability hate crime. They are alleging that the issue is simply not being discussed.  It is true to say that are some in Japan who ask why the names of the victims are not being printed. The Sankei Shimbun highlighted the fact that Tsukui police decided not to release the names of the victims. I do wonder why the Tsukui police made the decision not to release the names of the victims, if this was a case of ‘simple’ murder, I’m sure the names of attacker and victim would be printed.

However, the Sagamihara attack by Satoshi Uematsu, as a disability hate crime, is being discussed in Japan. Many do wonder why the names of the victims are not being released, as the Sankei Shimbun article makes clear.  The NHK disability TV programme, NHK Baribara TV show hosted by people with disabilities – I have in fact been on the show – will discuss the Sagamihara attacks on a show on August 7th on channel NHK E.

Japan and the world at large could of course, talk about disability more, but I remain unconvinced that the reason the attacks in Sagamihara are not discussed outside of Japan, are, as some allege because of some anti-disability bias in the press, although I do wonder why the names of the victims are withheld by the police. The truth may be much simpler: Unless it is about a typhoon, an earthquake, or can be put under the ‘weird Japan’ category of news (which usually involves robots, sex, or a combination of the two), Japan is rarely talked about in the press outside of Japan. It could be that there is no ‘silence’ on the issue of disability hate crime in the Japanese media, there may however, be a general silence about news from Japan in media published outside of Japan that does not fit neatly under the category of a ‘very Japanese story’. That Japan is a ‘bad place for disabled people, rightly or wrongly, simply does not fit the image some of the western press has of Japan.


Trying to Write ‘Reasonably’ about Disability in Japan

I have been neglectful of my blog and writing in general. Some of this neglect is due to lack of a subject, I think it is well established that I have a penchant for writing about having a disability in general and the issue of  disability in Japan in particular. However, some of this neglect is due to the Japanese summer – 38.5C will make a writer…less than enthusiastic about writing.

On a serious note, I haven’t written on the issue of disability of late because there has been very little information upon which to base any article. I do look at Japanese news, searching for stories about disability in Japan, but if one does a Google search, one finds previous little recent topical links, and I can’t believe that is because there are no stories to tell.

I suppose I have to say that I have no pressing ‘disability  issue’ to talk you  about, except to remind you of  Philip Brasor’s comments in The Japan Times on The Law on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities, which came into effect on April 2016:

As the Yomiuri Shimbun explains, it “bans administrative bodies and private businesses from unduly discriminating against people with disabilities.” The idea is to make a society where those with disabilities can move and communicate with the same freedom a person without disabilities enjoys. But while the law mandates that private and public sectors alike must “make an effort” to remove all barriers that prevent people with disabilities from realizing the law’s aims, it qualifies the mandate with the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” In other words, there may be circumstances that make it difficult for a party to fully accommodate certain disabilities, but the law is too vague to specify those limitations. Facilities and practices should be made “barrier-free,” but if a business claims it can’t afford to make the appropriate changes, is that an “unreasonable” consideration?

I put my philosophers hat on as I leave you, and ask you this: What does ‘unreasonable’ mean?

Development Coming Soon

In writing this post, I have to break my self-imposed Golden Rule that, if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.

I recently visited my country of birth, Britain, and it was good to see my grandmother, Mum and Dad, brother and nephews, as well as many friends.

I really don’t want to be one of expats that seems to hate their county of birth. There is much to recommend Britain as a country. I still miss Yorkshire pudding, John Smith’s beer and conversations about rain.

However, I am still often disappointed in Britain as a country. My disappointed can be encapsulated in this photograph: ‘Development Coming Soon’.

The sign is at least three years old. 

The Newbie

An extract from a work of fiction tentatively entitled ‘Foreigner’ by Michael Gillan Peckitt

Finally  I arise, turn on the TV, and the morning chat show is on, Japan’s morning serving of cooking shows and celebrities. The show usually begins with a starter of chefs and their food, maybe followed by the main course; an interview with the celeb de jour, for whom they prepare a meal and today is no different, the hostess explains to the latest soon to be has-been that the right way to make a meal of barbequed chicken. According to the host of the show, there is a wrong way to skewer chicken, it is apparently not enough that you stick a metal rod through the poultry’s backside, you must insert said rod in the proper way, to fail to do so would be very bad and result in ill-tasting chicken. The chicken does look good and I consider going back to sleep to dream of fried chicken. But no, alas I have to work today, so about that caffeine. I only started drinking coffee after moving to Japan a few years ago. 

Before moving to Japan I found coffee to be one of the most inconvenient of drinks, a trait it shares with all hot beverages, I mean, you’re thirsty and perhaps really thirsty, so what is the point of drink you have to leave ten minutes to cool down before consuming? I do like the occasional expresso though, but not today, today will be all about soft drinks, and ultimately, the best reason to take up the habit of drinking coffee is to use the WIFI at Starbucks. Cola and cheese on toast, a breakfast that reminds of my student days, no essay could be completed without such necessary sustenance. I eat, shave, and find my keys, wallet and resident card. The iPhone is fully charged and I put on my headphones, although I am not actually listening to anything, the mere inserting of earplugs creates a sometimes necessary haven of solitude, a buffer between me and the world. What is it about the wearing of headphones that suggests to the native people of Japan ‘let’s chat?’ I leave the apartment.

 

It’s called The Land of the Rising Sun for a reason; the morning vista can be something special, a crisp blue skyline with the brightest yellow sun. If I were a morning person, I would like the mornings here, but I like my futon too much and have to work today, so it is difficult to appreciate the view. I enter my local conbini, a 711, to buy a drink and a sandwich, ‘Irrashaimase’ exclaims the cute girl from across the counter. I smile awkwardly and nod upon hearing her words and grab a copy of The Japan Times from the newsstand, fold the paper and present it and yield five hundred to the lady behind the counter. Arigatogozaimasu she says, and Arigatogaimashta I say as I exit the conbini. Since I am need of a good internet connection, I linger outside the train station, pacing up and down as I listen to YouTube videos and podcasts. There are many benefits to standing near a train station. You are outside, so there is good internet and a means of escape should, to put it kindly, troublesome individuals turn up, individuals such as The Newbie, who has just come up on the elevator and is making a beeline for the ticket machine. I close my eyes and focus on the sound of the talking head being emitted from my headphones and imagine a world where, since I had just barely noticed The Newbie, he did notice me

 Alas we do not live in such a world and as he wave his aims to get my attention and begins galloping, releasing the hand of his latest Gaijin Hunter; a cute young girl, petit with dyed brunette hair, I wonder if The Newbie has some kind GPS tracker app that enables him to find me when I least what to seem him. I know I shouldn’t be unkind, it’s just he’s young, ever so eager, yet being fresh off the boat, completely clueless about Japan, and there is something about that combined with his average looks and the fact he always has a new cute girl by his side that makes his face eminently slapable.

He asks me if I had tried the latest seasonal soft drink ‘sakura cola’, essentially just cherry cola. I say I had but found it a bit too sweet – a lie – I actually quite like it, I just want this conversation to be over as soon as possible. A pause. If I were a social person this where I would speak, mercifully, I hear the chimes announcing an approaching train, quite literally saved by the bell; I shrug, stare at my iPhone and mumble:

 

Sorry I’ve got to go. 

And then I scramble on a train.

 

Morning 

Mornings seem forced to me. – Osamu Dazai

I awake to the theme music from an NHK TV program, some Japanese lady singing a love song, no doubt about a great and long lost flame, and how she misses him. Why it never occurs to her to stop singing about it and find someone who actually loves her is beyond me, that would be a song worth listening to, but alas, apparently, that is not done thing, and the singer rather pathetically wails on about the loss of her paramour. He left you lady; get over it, I think to myself. 

Annoying as such music can be, I do like some of it, the voice of the singer is often so loud and imposing that it’s quite useful as an alarm clock, and as the last verse is cried out I’m completely awake. 

Actually that’s a lie, I am almost completely awake, and there is still some residual debris from the night’s rest that only caffeine will wash away. The temptation is to close my eyes, to embrace the idea that there is something rather arbitrary about mornings, why must we get up simply because the sun has come out, why does a ball of fire determine what our waking hours should be? But arguing against nature is no use; it is a new day, for better or for worse. Get up, start moving. But inevitably I stay horizontal for another half an hour, or so. 

Finally I arise, turn on the TV, and the morning chat show is on, Japan’s morning serving of cooking shows and celebrities. The show usually begins with a starter of chefs and their food, maybe followed by the main course; an interview with the celeb de jour, for whom they prepare a meal and today is no different, the hostess explains to the latest soon to be has-been that the right way to make a meal of barbequed chicken. According to the host of the show, there is a wrong way to skewer chicken, it is apparently not enough that you stick a metal rod through the poultry’s backside, you must insert said rod in the proper way, to fail to do so would be very bad and result in ill-tasting chicken. The chicken does look good and I consider going back to sleep to dream of fried chicken. But no, alas I have to work today, so about that caffeine.

I only started drinking coffee after moving to Japan a few years ago. Before that I  found coffee to be one of the most inconvenient of drinks, a trait it shares with all hot beverages. I mean, you’re thirsty and perhaps really thirsty, so what is the point of drink you have to leave ten minutes to cool down before consuming? I do like the occasional expresso though, but not today, today will be all about soft drinks. Cola and cheese on toast, a breakfast that reminds of my student days, no essay could be completed without such necessary sustenance. I eat, shave, and find my keys, wallet and resident card. 

The iPhone is fully charged and I put on my headphones, although I am not actually listening to anything, the mere inserting of earplugs creates a sometimes necessary haven of solitude, a buffer between me and the world. I leave the apartment.

An extract from a work of fiction by Michael Gillan Peckitt, tentatively entitled ‘Foreigner.’

The Limping Philosopher’s new e-book: ‘The Chrysanthemum & the Stick’

Hi readers, 

Sorry for the lack of blog posts of late, although I have been writing for a Japan based website called Accessible Japan a kind of part information site for people with disability wanting to visit Japan, part disability and Japan news service. It’s ran by a man named Josh Grisdale.

I contribute to the blog section with a kind of column called ‘Notes from the Obstacle Course’ This is my latest post.

I also have another e-booklet out there! The link below is for Amazon Japan but it’s available on all Amazon Stores!

The Chrysanthemum & the Stick