Day 4. July 13, 2012
Well here we are on July 13, or July 14 depending on your point of view and where you are. This is the first day I give a real public speech.
I was up and Adam at 6 AM. First on the agenda was a phone call to Karen and check-in with her. All seems to be going well at the house except that Tony after her surgery on Wednesday is still in a lot of pain. She still has not come back to work. I hope she is okay. Karen misses her and her assistants a great deal. Meanwhile, grandma Judy, (Tony’s grandmother and a close quilting friend of Karen’s), is staying with Karen and helping her a great deal. Thanks Judy.
After a leisurely wake-up and a check of e-mail including the hundred plus junk e-mails, we went off to the usual potentially huge Japanese breakfast. Again the buffet has American, Japanese, and Chinese dishes. I like the Japanese and Chinese best. So, I had a combination of some dim sum and some Japanese food. Lots of fish and rice is usual I think.
We left the hotel for the last time at 830 On Our Way to the location of the YMCA speech which was to begin at 10 AM. An audience of 200 was expected. Each person paid roughly $10, or thousand yen, to hear the speech.
As you can imagine, speaking here is a bit different since everything I say must be translated. The speech began with a very brief introduction of me by the manager of the YMCA. Then the plan was that I would stand and briefly introduce myself. After that, we would play one of the videos on my new intro DVD. We chose the KGO video. (You can see it on my website at www.Michaelhingson.com.) After the DVD I spoke about my life, thunder dog, and the World Trade Center attacks. The idea was to combine the three topics to get people interested in thunder dog and, for my part; the goal was to give people a better understanding of blindness. Yoshie and I have discussed this quite a bit and even she agrees there is much that could be done better for blind people. I am showing her how the Japanese system is not being smart when it comes to blind people because there is much that needs to be improved about blindness oriented attitudes. For example, all of the elevators I have found in Japan, at least so far, have Braille numbers by the buttons. However, there is no difference in sound between an elevator going up as it arrives and one’ going down when it arrives at a floor. In addition, the doorframe outside the door does not contain the Braille numbers of the floors as we find them in the United States. Instead, the only numbers outside the doors are on the elevator buttons themselves. So, in order for a blind person to tell what floor thereon they would have to exit the elevator, feel the button, call another elevator, and then continue on their way. This indicates to me that someone is not thinking very smart. In addition, this clearly indicates that people do not understand nor accept yet that there are ways to give blind people equal access. I have chosen not to challenge us directly and to strongly in my speeches as I do not want to alienate people. However, I do challenge them to consider looking for wiser options and when the opportunity comes to discuss this further during questions and answers I can then explain further.
After speaking for about 15 min. we played another video. This time it was the story of Roselle’s retirement. After that video I spoke for about 15 min. about guide dogs. Again, I am sure that what I said was a bit different than what was expected. I think people wanted me to say how great guide dogs were and that guide dogs were the only way to truly enrich the lives of blind people. Instead, I talked about the difference between white canes and guide dogs explaining the value of each. I did say why I think that guide dogs are the greatest things since sliced bread, but I also explained that not everyone will use a guide dog nor should they. They wanted me to demonstrate guide dogs a bit and again here I changed us gripped slightly. I walked around the stage with a cane showing how the cane finds objects that the dog would avoid. I then walked with Africa showing how Africa avoided objects and why this could be a bad thing if it were important for me to learn the geography and the location of objects. I explained how I actually use both a dog and a cane, (at different times), to learn an area and to become a better traveler. Based on questions that followed later I am sure some perceptions were changed and some eyes were opened a bit.
Between the “menstruation” and the discussion of guide dogs I spent 25 min. talking before we opened up for a Q&A session. People started a bit shy, but quickly warmed to the subject and opened up with lots of questions. We had to cut off the Q&A session before all questions were asked and answered. I am sure will change this with future speeches. In all, the session lasted until about 11:45 AM, an hour and 45 min.
Keeping with the traditions of this tour we then went to lunch. We went to a nice restaurant where I had a fried fish combo lunch. In addition to the obligatory rice, which was good, I had several kinds of fish and shrimp. There were only seven items on the menu and I was not in the mood for pasta or hamburgers or Curry which I had Thursday night. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the food I have eaten thus far. I am still working on eating small portions and mostly good food so I could lose some weight while here.
After lunch we drove to the first private Christian school for blind children which was established over 130 years ago. Today, rather than just serving blind children, the school also includes many multi handicapped students. If a righty of different disabilities were represented.
Around 50 students plus faculty were present. Mr. Shirai and Team Africa wanted to again show the KGO video. After the video I spoke for around 25 minutes. As I do in the US, I began with questions in order to engage the kids. After talking we had another great Q&A questions kids asked everything from how could I emotionally accept being blind to what was that like walking down the stairs in the tower. The students wanted encouragement to fulfill their dreams, and as I learned they had a lot of great dreams. One student wanted to grow up to be a soccer player. Another wanted to be a singer. A third wanted to be a businessman. The kids ranged in age from little ones of kindergarten age up through high school.
After I spoke representatives of the local guide dog Association talked a bit about what a guide dog does. Yoshie was not able to keep up with the translation, but I suspect that the talk was the usual sort. I think they got some kids interested in guide dogs, but I think the potential I showed the children may have open more eyes to the real value of learning to travel then considering a guide dog.
After all the speaking was over, lots of people wanted pictures with Africa and me and the other guide dog brought by the school. I got to meet lots of the kids close-up as well as bunches of high school girl volunteers and college girl volunteers. Yes, there were even a few guys who volunteer at the school and we got some pictures with them to.
At about 330 we left for Tokyo. It took us about 45 minutes to get to our next destination, the Grand Palace Hotel, where we were to stay the night. After checking in and arranging for Internet access, something that seems to be a challenge as Japan is not as Wi-Fi oriented as the US, Mr. Shirai went on his way to rest. Yoshie and I met one of her high school friends, Ruriko for dinner. Ruko, as Yoshie likes to call her, upon hearing of my Wi-Fi woes insisted that I take her little box which provided Wi-Fi through the local Japanese phone service. This box is like the cards people in the US get for their tablets and PC systems. Here you simply turn on the box, it makes a phone connection, and you go off and connect your machine to the network.
We went to dinner at a “Japanese Tapas restaurant” as Yoshie describes it. We had an incredible dinner of all kinds of Sashimi, Sushi, Tempura, and much much more. The entire bill including beers for Yoshie and Ruko was $60 or 5,000 yen. We could never have eaten so well for so little in America.
After dinner we took a walk to the Summer Festival. Lots of people gathered to have a good time visiting and seeing the sites. I had a wonderful time, but I decided that bed sounded like a good thing. Besides, I wanted to give Yoshie and Ruko a chance to catch up. So, after relieving Africa we went back to the hotel. I went up to my room and the women headed to the bar. By 9:45PM I was in bed and asleep.
Tomorrow I speak at the Daiwa House and then off we go to Hiroshima by the Bullet Train.