For those counting, this is the fourth week of my journey. I’m going to go ahead and label this week “caregiving challenges,” but it might as well be called the “final week of my settling-in period.” Starting next week, I’ll begin meeting with experts on accessibility in Japan and leaders of the nation’s disability rights movements.
My activities for this week were as follows:
1) On Monday, I visited my hospital and consulted with an orthopedic specialist and cardiologist. The two insisted that I undergo a battery of tests, after which I received two certificates of health (one for my physical mobility, and one for my heart). The process took nine hours and cost around $300.
2) I also visited the City Hall for my ward in Tokyo on Monday to submit the certificates of health I received in exchange for my disability pass. Unfortunately, I was told that my documentation was insufficient for processing my request upon my arrival. Not only did the Japanese government require my passport, personal seal, proof of insurance, and completed application paperwork, they also needed my old passport (which expired this past May) to prove that I did not receive any income in Japan last year. Mailing that passport to Japan meant that I had to bother my dad in the United States to go find it. It also took three nights and cost another $100, creating quite a scare along the way due to some difficulties with customs.
3) On Tuesday, I purchased an audio recorder and began organizing my notes for next week’s interview sessions. I will not include the names of any individuals whom I intend to interview out of concern for their privacy. Suffice it to say that I will be speaking with access consultants, disability rights activists, and social welfare lawyers.
4) Also on Tuesday, I had dinner with a prospective Ph.D. student at my home university. The experience was really great, and I had a fantastic time chatting with that student about the pros and cons of academic life. As always, I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the reasons why I love teaching and following the path that I do.
5) On Wednesday, I visited the National Diet Library and registered a library card. I also scouted out the stacks and learned the acquisition process that I’ll follow to get my hands on disability periodicals and historical records that are critical components of my research.
6) On Thursday, I began sowing the seeds for next months’ interviews, which include a reporter from the Japan Times and multiple scholars of disability rights and activism at the University of Tokyo. I also set up a guided tour of the Nippon Foundation’s newly constructed Paralympic Training Center in Odaiba.
7) Having acquired my expired passport on Thursday afternoon, I returned to the City Hall of my ward in Tokyo on Friday. Although I presented the government office with all necessary materials to acquire my disability passbook, I was told that I may not be able to receive caregiving services from my ward due to my remote location. For those unaware, I live in a facility for international researchers established by the Japanese government in a non-residential area. Any caregiver who would come to assist me would have to spend a great deal of time and money to do so, and they would not receive any compensation from the government.
This situation has yet to be resolved, although I’m currently working on a solution. So far, I’ve reached out to my sponsoring organization and begun to search nearby wards for caregiving services. If anyone has any other ideas, I’d welcome any/all advice!
8) Friday evening I got together with some of my friends from Sophia University, where I studied abroad as an undergraduate student in 2013. We went out for dinner and enjoyed a couple hours of Korean BBQ, beer, and merriment. All in all, a great way to deal with the stress of settling in to a new place!
Next week promises to be eventful as I’ve several interviews and tours lined up back-to-back. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!