Times are bad: A prologue to a disabled foreigner’s life in Japan

Times are bad.  Children no longer obey their parents.  And everyone is writing a book. – Attr. Cicero

I wish it could write that it was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were just striking thirteen.  Or at least, that it was a dark and stormy night.  But quite frankly, it was none of those things.  It was April though, but not the cold bright kind that Orwell wrote about, but the post-April-showers drizzily kind that most residents of Britain actually experience.

I had arrived in Hull, where I was – in fact still am, an honorary staff member for a talk on philosophy.  I was really looking forward to it.  I knew that in about four months I would be moving to Japan, and was very much treating every visit to my Alma Mater as if it were my last.  This would be my tri-ultimate.

I came through the ticket gate, about ten to three, dying for a pee.  I delve into my pockets; and extract the requisite twenty pence and ten pence.  I stumble towards the turnstile that precedes the entrance to the toilets.  And it’s a long queue.  About ten people in front of me, and not a typical April day, it is rainy and warm.  So about four minutes later I am at the front of the queue, and about to slide my money into the turnstile slot.  The queue behind me was already growing restless – it was quite a long queue and uncommonly busy.  As I bent down to put the money into the slot I tripped and dropped the money, as I bent down further to pick it up, the man behind me, about six foot tall, booted me on the backside. And continued kicking. I managed to get to my feet.  Turned round to see a fist coming my way.  I ducked.  Unsuccessfully.  Thankfully, but this point, the Transport police had noticed, and a boy in blue pulled me over the ticket barrier and bundled me in to the toilet reserved for disabled people.

Where at least, I got relief.

A few minutes later I emerged.  Still shaken, but at least with an empty bladder.  The policeman asked me if I wanted to press charges.  I said I did not.  He looked surprised.  ‘Why not, sir?’  I responded, by say  that this was the third time I had been attacked in five years, and that I no longer saw the point in pressing charges.

It was four months before I left for Japan.  I would be attacked twice again.

The philosophy talk  was really good.

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An Open Letter to Mr. Edward Miliband, MP & HM Leader of the Opposition

Dear Mr. Miliband,

I am a Labour Supporter.  I have always voted Labour, and have been a paying member since the election of 2010, when the Coalition took power.  I remain a member of the Labour party from Japan where I now live.  I also have a disability –  mild left sided hemiplegia, and off shoot of cerebral palsy.

I wanted to applaud the fact that you came out against the Bedroom Tax.  That was a good thing.  However, it the next election in the UK is unlikely to be until 2015.

Of the five times I was attacked in Britain, in the last five years at least three were in the years 2007-2009, under a Labour Government.  Two others were in 2012.  One week before the last, after which I was badly bruised was a week before I left UK for Japan. I arrived battered and bruised, but thankfully below the neck so only my wife would see.

Thankfully, I am reasonably happy in Japan, although worry if I ever had to come back to the UK.  The Coalition has destroyed any hope of my really living usefully in Britain.

As I said to begin with, I applaud your stance on the Bedroom Tax, but it is not enough.  You are, quite frankly, unlikely to be leader of the opposition at the time of the next election.  Maybe though, you could, in the meantime, aim to highlight cases of violence against disabled people. You are well placed to do so.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Gillan Peckitt

On Japanese Print Media’s Reporting of Recent Disability Legislation

It is my custom to, every so often, type subjects that interest me into Google Search.  Yesterday I typed ‘Japan’ and ‘disability’ to see if any new news stories had been reported.  Google throw back at me, this editorial from the Japan Times.

The article reports on July 25 2013, that the Japanese Parliament – ‘The Diet’ had passed a law, that would come into effect in April 2016, the aim of which was to prevent discrimination against disabled people.  It also, according to the article, lays the foundation in domestic law, “necessary for Japan’s ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

My reason for my highlighting this article, is not to point out the fact that Japan has yet to join the other 130 countries and regions that have ratified the UN Convention, that may be bad, but it’s not the point here.  My reason for highlighting is that only the Japan Times seems to have picked up on the story – and even then only as an editorial.  Please don’t mistake me, I salute the Japan Times for doing so, but type in ‘disability’ and the name of any Japanese newspaper and you get very little reporting of the same story.  The closest I could find to it was this from the Asahi Shimbun, although it it was published a month before the law would be passed.

It is not of course, the case that there is necessarily  a lot of discrimination against disabled people here in Japan, when compared to the rest of the world, it mostly likely the on par with the UK.  I can confirm that as a disabled foreigner living in Japan, with my disability exemption card I can get reduced prices on Shinkansen, and a reduced mobile phone bill in fact, although exactly how good ‘deal’ you get varies from prefecture to prefecture.

In the UK, even the Telegraph,  hardly a bastion of support for pro-welfarist legislation has been reasonably supportive of the DDA, although quick to put out its shortcomings.  This was probably largely by disabled people appealing to the newspaper to actually write about disability issues, but also because of the presence of a good social affairs editor at the newspaper, alas it hardly ever disabled people themselves who write the article.

So I reiterate, I applaud the Japan Times, although I do wonder why other broadsheets didn’t not seem to report this story at all.

ImageMy Disability Card

Is England past its sell-by date?

So I just heard that ex-footballer and sometime actor Vinnie Jones left the UK because ‘England is past its sell-by date. There is nothing to go back to. It’s not the country I grew up in…If someone blindfolded you and put you on a plane and you landed at Heathrow and they took it off, you wouldn’t have a clue where you were.” 

Well ladies and gentleman, I’m here to tell you that Mr. Jones is correct – it is not the country I grew up in either.  I didn’t grow up in a country where there were 1,492 hate crimes against disabled people – up 14% from the last recorded average.  But don’t take my word for it, take, The Independent’s.

I wish I could say that I left the UK for Japan because of this reason, but I can’t.  I left because I love my wife and my wife lives in Japan.  This has been no real hardship for me, I am in the land of Sake and Sushi and Girls Bars.  However, I was attacked twice before leaving the UK  – once in broad daylight by two people at Hull Train Station, once in Rotherham.  I like Mr. Jones’ don’t really want to go back to the UK, but am sad that I feel that way.  It is only fear of being attacked again, or worse, of being useless, I could get no employment in the UK,  that prevents me.  And I do miss friends and family.

I doubt Mr. Jones, has ever been attacked for merely existing – I have.  And I doubt that the immigrations concerns, truly concern him that much.  He says he is no poster boy for UKIP – but why else make such a statement?  I truly want to go back someday to the UK – but statements like is convince me that I am right to stay here.