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Reflections / 4 May 2011

photo of a powerchair with a heart design in the back rest

Powerchair Unloved. Image © Gini

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Everything about my life here feels so strange now... I miss so much. Don't laugh, but a warm loo seat just has to be on the list! Like the freedom, it took me a while to get used to, but now the shock of the cold feels even stranger.

I miss the food; so much fresh and delicious fish and wonderful wasabi;  I miss the noises I found so distracting when I arrived. "The noises tell us that everything is functioning normally" I was told and it wasn't long before I came to appreciate them too. And I miss so many enticing smells.

I miss the amazingly rich tapestry of life and the enabling quality of the Japanese way of living.
I would like people here to reclaim public spaces, to feel that degree of safety no matter what time of day or night. We can't all be too greedy or selfish to share and have fun together.

Primarily of course I miss the freedom; the physical freedom that came with the accessibility of the life I experienced in Japan, and the psychological, emotional, attitudinal freedom I experienced through sharing space with Japanese people. Access, equality, quality of life, and energy, they are all so much about attitude.

I have been enriched, inspired and energised and I'm feeling brave enough to rethink my hopes and aspirations. I have changed the way I interact with people and my expectations of how they will interact with me.

I miss feeling accepted, trusted and welcome. Here I cannot look forward to getting out and about in my powerchair as the temporarily non-disabled generally look so dismayed at the prospect of sharing space with Us,  and they exhaust me.

I have already had folk flattening themselves against walls to give me two or three clear meters of room to pass them; heard the "mown down" warnings, and the persistent and unfounded accusations of speeding. People are very ready to assume bad things based on absolutely no evidence; and to exercise what I'm guessing is supposed to be a sense of humour that I cannot connect with at all.

Its time for all of us to rethink our attitudes and priorities, because its not just disabled people who need society to change. There is no financial cost to being HumanKind, we could all try it. No-one should have to accept being made to feel like a leper because their presence is inconvenient.

where is home, when it no longer calls to me
the days chill my bones and the people exhaust me
the man I love is a stranger and my friends are leaving
home is in my heart but my heart is full of longing

home is wanting and needing nothing
and right now I cannot find it

I think Japanese people are as alarmed about disability as any other people, but their culture made life very good for me personally. I am still wondering what life is actually like for disabled Japanese people. Also, I wonder if it is as difficult for the non-native speakers to track down the artists and Disability Arts in this country as it was in Japan.

I'm wondering about Disability Arts as we understand it, or indeed any kind of issue based arts: do they actually exist in Japan? Or are they a culturally alien concept? They might have been under my nose, but I saw no evidence; the call for international artists to respond to the 11 03 disaster by creating artworks about an unknown cartoon character, left me puzzled.

As far as I could tell not one of them referenced the actual or ongoing circumstances created by earthquakes, tsunami or radiation leaks. Yet the people I met talked about it constantly; the unseen threat; the unknowable danger; these topics appeared to unsettle everyone yet destabilize no-one. The people retained their integrity. The people remained HumanKind.

And I remain seeking; needing to distill this into something I can work with.