These past two weeks have been fairly busy. I’m pleased to say that I’ve gotten a lot of work done on the first chapter of my dissertation, which I aim to complete by the end of next week. I’ve also taken advantage of Golden Week (a long string of holidays in Japan) to catch up with some friends, do some traveling, and take care of a couple of errands.
Over the last two weeks, I finished a solid 4,000 words of the first chapter of my dissertation. Most of my writing focused on the period between 1905 and 1930. I began by tracing how blind movements borne out of the introduction of braille to Japan in 1890 found solidarity with one another and petitioned the Imperial Diet for social protections including the reservation of traditional trades like acupuncture, moxibustion, bone-setting, and massage for their use. I then explored how blind movements expanded from regional resistance cells to national advocacy networks in the 1920s thanks in part to government-subsidized developments in communications and infrastructure. As blind movements spread across the country, I argued, they need to broaden their demands to appeal to wider publics. They began to push for new objectives like the recognition of braille ballots and creation of a general welfare system based on national surveys. Next week, I’ll illustrate how the successes and failures of such movements for the blind led to significant hardships for some (but not all) constituents during the 1930s and 1940s.
In addition to working on my dissertation, I also used the last two weeks to catch up with many of my friends and colleagues, including Andrew Zhu, Max Hain, Lily Shapiro, Kate Strickland, Kaitlyn Ugoretz, John Grisafi, Frank Mondelli, Ryo Hatakeyama, and Kristina Horn. All of my conversations were enjoyable, but I particularly enjoyed speaking with Andrew and Kate. Both are enterprising undergraduate students who contacted me for assistance with their respective research projects. Andrew is working on a digital interface that will draw attention to the lives and experiences of individuals with rare and orphaned diseases. His project touched me on a personal level as I have lived with an orphaned disease my entire life: Bookman Syndrome (named after my family). The disease affects six people on the planet (that we know of) and is the main cause of my muscle weakness. I can’t wait to see how Andrew develops his project and look forward to contributing to it once it goes live! Likewise, I am equally excited by Kate’s project, which analyzes and aims to improve accessibility at her home institution (University of Texas at Austin). Kate discovered my work through my Accessibility Mapping Project (AMP) and contacted me about including the AMP in her list of suggestions for creating better accessibility at U Texas. I look forward to our continued conversations and wish her the best for her mission to make campus a more inviting place for everyone!
Golden Week also afforded me a great opportunity to travel. Indeed, I was inclined to do so as my home town of Odaiba (a tourist trap) was incredibly crowded. Almost every day, I went to a different part of Tokyo and visited food festivals, beer gardens, and movie theaters. Two trips in particular stand out above the rest in my mind: my trip to Tokyo Disneyland last Monday and my trip to Kamakura this past Friday. I’ll have full articles about both trips online in the coming days, including a five-part miniseries that uses my trip to Disneyland to discuss best practices for creating access at entertainment centers. I’ll upload the links to both sets of articles here when they become available. For now, keep an eye out for “Disabled at Disneyland: Best Practices for Barrier-Removal” and “A Pilgrim’s Tale: Religion, Ritual, and Physical Disability in Japan.”
Errands and Extraneous Matters
Finally, the last two weeks allowed me to accomplish several errands and participate in various cultural activities. I watched the abdication of the Heisei Emperor and enthronement ceremony for the Reiwa Emperor, going out into the streets to celebrate alongside my friends. I also met with my caregivers and representatives from city hall to discuss increasing my caregiving hours from sixteen a day to twenty a day: a necessary development tied to my facial paralysis. While I’ve yet to hear back from city hall, I’m optimistic that my request will be approved, if only partially. Time will tell!
And that’s all I have for this week, friends! Tomorrow I’m due to meet with a blind undergraduate student from Olivet College who want to learn more about disability in Japan. I’m also going to meet with many friends and advisors next week to discuss a slew of upcoming conferences and events. I’ll keep you all posted!
As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned!