Interview with Junko Asai, a super-positive person living in a world of total blindness
Love! 〜(Nippon Television Network Corporation), starring Hana Sugisaki, is doing well.
(Nippon Television Network Corporation), starring Hana Sugisaki, is doing well. It is a love story between a pure-hearted yankee and a blind school girl who is strong-willed but timid in love, and I am sure that many people, including myself, felt that they had no idea what kind of encouragement and assistance would be helpful and what kind of behavior would be annoying. I’m sure that many of them, including myself, felt that they had no idea what kind of behavior would be annoying.
One person who can provide such learning is Ms. Junko Asai, 48, who is totally blind and enjoys various challenges such as making ohagi (rice cakes), ballroom dancing, and yoga, while sending out various messages on Twitter and YouTube from her blind perspective.
Ms. Asai developed idiopathic peripheral corneal ulcers (Moren’s ulcers) when she was 30 years old, and since then she has gradually lost the ability to see, became totally blind, and got an artificial eye in 2018.
Sending out information from the perspective of a blind person on social networking sites!
Why did you start using Twitter and other social networking sites in the first place?
I have a prosthetic eye, and I usually talk about things like, ‘My prosthetic eye fell off in the train…’ or ‘What, it fell off? I have an artificial eye.
Then, Mr. Shuji Ogawa, an associate professor at the Hyogo University of Education, and Ms. Kei Hirabayashi of Botomall, a company that proposes welfare and fashion, told me, “I think everyone wants to know about that kind of thing, so you should definitely get the word out.
When I actually sent out the information, I received a lot of comments like, “Thank you for telling me something I didn’t know. I was surprised that people wanted to know such a thing. I was surprised.
I once thought about suicide…
Ms. Asai is a cheerful and positive person who takes on various challenges, but she says that she was in and out of the hospital repeatedly for about seven years after the onset of her illness, and at one point she even considered suicide.
I wanted to kill myself, but I was too scared to stab myself with a kitchen knife. So I thought about jumping off the roof, but I finally got to the elevator by following a wall I could barely remember. So I felt kind of stupid….
Moreover, when I thought about going home, I realized that I was obsessed with going home. I had been thinking about killing myself, but when I decided to go home, I made a desperate effort to get home. Realizing that there was still so much more to strive for was the beginning of a change in my way of thinking.
Ms. Asai says that her deepest despair came three or four years after the onset of her illness, “when I could see only faintly.
I wasn’t born blind, but it was a disease that progressed, so I was always worried about when I would lose my sight. So when I became totally blind, I thought, ‘It can’t get any worse,’ or ‘Now I finally don’t have to worry anymore.
However, even after I became totally blind, I still needed to take care of my eyes because of my corneal disease and the risk of infection and various complications. This was a constant thought. Moreover, I had to go to the university hospital twice a week with a guide helper, which took an hour and a half each way, and after putting up with what I wanted to do for more than a decade, I felt I couldn’t do it anymore.
That’s when Mr. Asai decided to get artificial eyes for both eyes. The doctors repeatedly asked her if she regretted her decision.
I don’t regret it at all (laughs). (laughs) Some people seem to be bothered by the uncomfortable feeling that it’s not their own eye, or the difference between the left and right eye when only one of the eyes is prosthetic, so there are a lot of people who hide their prosthetic eyes. But I myself have a strong feeling of being liberated.
Meeting Vivid, a guide dog for the blind
Another big change in Ms. Asai’s life was when she met Vivid, a guide dog for the blind.
When I have a white cane, I bump into all sorts of things, like bicycles and billboards parked on the street. When I have a white cane, I bump into all kinds of things, like bicycles parked on the street, billboards, etc. Even a tree branch growing out of the ground stings my eyes. So I have to walk slowly because I have to search for things.
But the guide dog has a high ability to avoid obstacles, and I don’t bump into abandoned bicycles at all anymore. Since I started walking with my guide dog, I’ve been able to walk more than twice as fast.
By the way, when I look at Ms. Asai’s Twitter page, I am surprised to see that she enjoys her makeup, fashion, and hairstyles to the fullest.
If I were a healthy person, I would make an effort to wear clothes and makeup, but I don’t like the idea of not being able to do so just because I’m blind, so I try to find ways to do so.
For example, if you are a hairdresser, the first thing you should do is to choose someone you trust. In my case, I tell my hairdresser, who has been taking care of me since I was 20 years old, that I want to shorten my hair, and then I show her a picture of me in this costume for a ballroom dancing competition, and she thinks about whether it will be on stage or outdoors, and how to make my hair look good in the light. The most important point is that the hairstyle should not take too much effort, and the rest is total trust (laughs).
Besides, I work in apparel, so I ask the employees around me for clothes (laughs). (laughs) The most important thing for me is to ask people to bring me clothes that look good on me, rather than just saying, ‘What’s in fashion now?
I want to know how to guide people,” a common comment on Twitter.
By the way, when and what kind of help would be useful? Ms. Asai says that she often tells the following story to children at elementary schools she visits as a guest teacher.
“How do you think the lady crosses the street at traffic lights? “You can’t see if the light is green or red at all. Can you tell her that the light is green? Can you tell her it’s green?” The children would say, “I can’t” or “I’m embarrassed.
Then, I asked them, “While talking with your friends, can you say, ’00-chan, it’s green, let’s cross? They said, “Yes, you can. Then I said, “Traffic lights are very dangerous places, so if someone is using a white cane or a guide dog, can you just say to your friends and people around you, ‘It’s green, let’s cross. And everyone says, ‘I can do that! I can do that!” they would all say.
The most common comment on Twitter is, “I want to know how to guide people.
When people ask me what they should do when I show them around, at first I say, ‘You can hold their shoulders or hands,’ but then they say they don’t know if I should hold them or if they should hold me. So many people seem to think that the safest position is to hold me like they do with drunk people, but I can walk normally on my feet, so if they take that position, I’m in front of them and I can’t see, so I can’t walk ahead of them (laughs).
(laughs) From there, I try to send out information to people by asking them what they want to know, such as how to relieve their anxiety by showing them pictures.
How do you know if someone is in need of help?
Most of the time, people who are in trouble don’t see us, but they are scurrying around. In the middle of the road, they pretend to ask, ‘Where am I? or stop to think in a daze.
I definitely want them to talk to me, but I heard that there are people who don’t want me to talk to them. However, if those people who want to help are met by someone who says coldly, “I know what to do,” they will think, “I’ve done something unnecessary. I think that would make them hesitant to talk to me next time. That’s why I think that people with various disabilities, not just the visually impaired, should properly consider the courage of those who are trying to help them.
She also said that when she calls out to people, instead of saying “Excuse me,” she simply says, “Someone with a white cane,” or “Someone with a guide dog,” which makes it easier for them to understand that she is talking to them.
Then you can say, “Can I help you with something? It’s also helpful if you can say, ‘Can I help you with something?
I want to go to station 00, but I don’t know which way to go,” or “I don’t know where the stairs (elevator) are.
Another difficult part is getting on and off the train. In the case of subways, only the doors are equipped with two halves of Braille blocks, but otherwise, a blind person would not even know where the door is. JR trains are particularly tall and have wide gaps, and I once got caught between a train and a platform, so I think it would be helpful to have assistance in such places.
Incidentally, Ms. Asai told me about the differences between Japan and other countries.
Incidentally, Ms. Asai told me a story about the difference between Japan and other countries: “When I was still using a white cane, a friend in the Philippines asked me why people didn’t give up their seats to Ms. Asai on the train. I replied that I didn’t mind, but he said, “But in the Philippines, when a person with a disability gets on the train, everyone stands up. But in the Philippines, if a person with a disability comes on board, everyone stands up, and if you don’t, the passengers around you will tell the young person to stand up.
When I asked her if she had learned that in school, she said, “We don’t learn that in school, it’s a moral issue. I asked her if she had learned that in school, and she said, ‘I didn’t learn that in school. It was a problem before they learned in school.
Nowadays, products that are easy for the blind to use are gradually increasing, but there are still many things that each of us should learn and think about in our society. However, there are many things that each of us should learn and think about in society.
Interview and text by： Wakako Tago
Born in 1973. Worked at a publishing company and an advertising production company before becoming a freelance writer. In addition to interviewing actors and actresses for weekly and monthly magazines, she writes drama columns for a variety of media. JUMP 9 no Tobira ga Openitoki" (both published by Earl's Publishing).
Photo： Otsuki WAY Teiji