Onkyo Braille Essay Contest - General Comment
“What Makes Us Start Thinking about Help”
Novelist Kaoru Tamaoka

The Braille Essay Contest is a valuable opportunity for the visually disabled people to express and let others know what they feel and think. It is also a valuable opportunity for the people without disabilities to learn what it means to live with the loss of sight and without light.
This year we have many excellent essays. I have to tell you that the selection results are quite rare in the history of this contest. The most outstanding result is that the essay of an 11-year old boy won the Grand Prize, or Otsuki Award. Keigo Nagai’s Going to School by Bus, which is originally one of the selected works of the Student Group (elementary and middle school students), is an essay honestly describing what happens to him on his way to school by bus. It makes us deeply understand what it means to be a person with disability. It actually made me feel like talking to him in the bus as other bus users who did it. He describes how he came to have the notion to “have the courage to depend on others about what I cannot do alone and the courage to say no to them” while feeling happy they talked to them. It gave all the juries a pause for thought.
When you show kindness or help others, it is desirable that it be appropriate in the degree. In real life, it is sometimes less or more than just right. That is the difficult part. When we talk about realization of an inclusive society where people with and without disabilities live together, I have a feeling that this essay has given us the chance to give it a good thought.
In the screening meeting, we chose Junko Sugimoto’s “Making Friends with Sounds” in the Adult Group. The townscape of the Gion Festival of Kyoto that started with the sound of “konchikichin” makes the readers visualize the festive scene. Colors depicted in the festive scene she used to see in the past look highly fresh and more impressive when compared with her days of lost sight.
Fine work, “Conveying the Voices of Hibakushas with Six Studs” is an essay about the writer’s valuable experience in participating in an activity of leaving the records of Nagasaki’s atomic bombing in braille for the visually disabled people. Tsai Yun, who came to Japan from a foreign country, keenly and painfully felt the fear of atomic bombing and the vanity of war that she so far only understood on a conceptual basis through this work and she always concentrated all her attention on her fingertips lest she put down even a single sentence, a single letter erroneously. The process of her agony as described here is extremely grave.
In the section of the Student Group for high school students and older students, every essay mentioned quite less about how they came to lose their sight or the gravity of visual disability, which surprised me. I feel that this tone of essay suggests their mental orientation toward the future possibility. The relationship between braille and music, two essential elements in communication, is taken by many essays as the major theme. This may also be one of the characteristics of the works this year.
“What Music Gave Me” written by Madoka Yasome tells the steps she took in growing up in a big way as she opened her mind to music when she felt isolated and failed to make friends. Although not finally selected, “Space, Music and Me” by Takumi Iino proposes people with sight look over a far distance space through music with their eyes closed, thereby depicting the beauty of music.
The section of elementary and middle school students selects excellent essays separate from high school students. As I mentioned earlier, one of the selected essays won the Otsuki Award. All these essays give us a vivid description of how hard they tried in writing braille they just learned. “Encounter” by Yuka Hirose also gives a detailed description of her experience that she was given the power to live through encounter with music.
In the Supporting Group, “I Want To Become a Chestnut” by 11-year-old Ayano Wanatabe is full of narrativity and very vigorously impressive. I hope the younger generation write essays more actively in the future.
“Impressive Braille” by Mihoko Misato clearly describes the confusion of living together with the visually disabled and specifically and excellently explains the tool by the name of braille lessens the confusion and helps us live more easily.
Every work is well written, which shows how hard they tried to write them. We are more moved by their efforts, and that emotional feeling lingers long after we read the essays. I sincerely hope to read excellent works in the coming year.

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