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Disability Arts Online

On attitudes to diversity... / 6 September 2013

The Roppongi Art Triangle is a favourite destination, but each Japan visit I also go to Roppongi Crossing to attempt a new pay-as-you-go SIM card for my Japanese phone. It's a frustrating experience, but I persevere. I have to bring my passport. And every year it is rejected because it does not contain my address. My driving license is not acceptable. 
I roll into the SoftBank (phone) shop and explain my need to a young man who listens, nods, says this sounds possible and issues me with a ticket. There is hardly a queue and I am soon at the counter of a woman who listens patiently to my request, examines my passport minutely, and then demands documentation with an address on it. I explain that Passports do not have addresses, but I have British evidence of my address.
She rejects my driving license explaining that only a passport will do. And waits, as if expecting me to produce a different passport, one that will be acceptable. Something Japanese.
I am once again forced to admit defeat. And all this for a PAYG SIM.
Later I will ask a Chinese friend to buy me the SIM card. My friend is indistinguishable from native Japanese and has never had a problem in the past, never needed ID. But then, the rules have changed since last year.

In complete contrast, I have booked a service for my skinny-wheeled chair and the engineer turns up with smile to complete a comprehensive check and service of chair, batteries and charger. He also supplies replacement for the battery cover misplaced on last years flight and all this free of charge.
Having overcome the initial reluctance to sell a chair to a foreigner, he seems very satisfied with my care of the equipment. Bows a respectful goodbye until next year.

The concept of discrimination,
like beauty, lies in the eye of the
person on the receiving end?
As visibly disabled, I get offered
equal treatment as a 'special person'
I can choose to accept this in lieu of
equality and stretch positive
discrimination to its limits.
As gaijin, alien, stranger, I am
offered the choice of accepting
the Japanese evaluation of 
people without straight black hair,
with curiously browned skin
and big, cute manga eyes
to feel ok about my place
as curiosity, or join the almost
invisible, growing band
of brown/blonde activists 
attempting, one-by-one,
to change the nation.
And yet I ask myself
where do I feel most
accepted, included
integrated,
whole...