It’s been one month since I left for Japan. So far, my time has been devoted to settling in, getting my medical situation squared away, and arranging a series of interviews and opportunities for expanding my research. I’m pleased to say that, as of this week, I’ve exited the “settling in” phase and begun the “research phase” of my stay.
1) On Monday, I took a boat out to Asakusa and spent some time at Senso-ji and Tokyo Sky Tree to mark the transition between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ aspects of my life. For those unaware, Senso-ji is an old, massive temple located not too far from the brand-new skyscraper/tourism center known as Tokyo Sky Tree. Walking between the two has become something of a tradition for me to mark major periods of transition in my life.
2) On Tuesday, I traveled to Ebisu to visit an accessibility consulting company called Mirairo Inc.. Mirairo provides a number of for-profit services that aim to assist companies in creating accommodating work environments including but not limited to architectural and product consulting, ‘universal manners’ training and certification, and market research. Their market research division is particularly interesting, as it maintains a pool of 2,000+ persons with disabilities from various backgrounds who provide simultaneous consulting services based on the intended audience of a product. In fact, I accepted an invitation to join the market research division as a volunteer to see what the process looks like. It’s been very fascinating so far!
3) On Wednesday, I spent some time at home researching articles about disability and violence on the National Diet Library’s website. I also took some time to start writing an article about disability and defilement in medieval Japan that was solicited for publication a while back. This became my “processing day,” where I began to think about the language I would use for my project and came up with a few key terms: ‘accessibility,’ ‘violence,’ ‘movements,’ and ‘media.’
4) On Thursday, I had a caregiving company come out in the morning to evaluate my physical condition and discuss the possibility of making a contract. In Japan, all caregiving contracts (regardless as to whether one possesses/does not possess a disability passbook) are made between the client and the caregiving company, so this evaluation was necessary. As it turns out, the company representative said that they may be able to help me, but only for around half of the time I need. I’m expecting a call back sometime next week with additional details.
More interesting than my in-home evaluation was a meeting I had with Professor Osamu Nagase of Ritsumeikan University later in the afternoon. A longtime friend, Professor Nagase wrote one of the first books on disability in Japan alongside Professor Jun Ishikawa. Professor Nagase and I had a lot to talk about, as this was the first opportunity we’ve had to discuss my research in some time. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Professor Nagase and many of his peers in Japanese Disabilities Studies do not often read the works of their Western counterparts, creating a gap that my work may be able to bridge.
5) On Friday, I met with Ms. Masako Okuhira, one of the prominent players in Japan’s independent living movement since the early 1980s. Ms. Okuhira and I had met previously on one occasion, but that was several years ago and much had changed since we’d last spoken. Thus, as was the case with Professor Nagase, Ms. Okuhira and I had much to discuss. We spoke about my current research and her experiences working with the ILC movement in Japan and abroad before grabbing some lunch together. As we chatted, Ms. Okuhira was gracious enough to offer to introduce me to several figures relevant to my project including but not limited to the accessibility advisors to the Olympic/Paralympic Committee, producers involved in NHK’s coverage of disability-focused issues, and the leaders of various disability organizations like the “Federation of Disabled Persons.” She also offered to put me in touch with the archivist for the Japan Society for the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD), which has several decades worth of diaries and journals tied to its founder and members that have yet to be analyzed. As a final treat, I received an e-mail from Ms. Okuhira after our parting letting me know that she spoke with a representative from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Tourism about my research and he told her that it was directly in line with the work currently being conducted by the ministry’s director of accessible law and policy!
Also on Friday, I met with a representative from my local ward office to discuss my physical condition and negotiate the hours of care that I’m entitled to each week. The results of that conversation are pending, but I should hear back next week.
6) On Saturday, I spent some time cleaning up around the house before heading outside to discover a Mexican festival on the promenade. I spent the day eating, drinking, relaxing, and processing the events of the week, with the highlight being a mariachi cover of ‘Despacito’ by an all-Japanese band in front a replica Statue of Liberty and a seven-story high robot statue. Only in Japan.
7) Today, I have two things on my agenda. First, I’m due to Skype with a friend who I attended the AAS Dissertation Workshop with this past spring. Hopefully our conversation will help me sort out some of my thoughts about the materials that I’ve discovered/read for my project so far. I’m also meeting with one of the chief organizers of the TedXFulbright Japan Conference to discuss how I might assist them this year and perhaps present some of my work.
Looking forward to next week, I have a lot lined up already: a tour of the Nippon Foundation’s newly-constructed ‘Para-Arena,’ meetings with multiple academic advisors (past and present), hospital/caregiving appointments, and more! As always, thank you for reading and stay tuned!