Otsuki Award (Japan)
“With the Cane of Angel”
Kyoto Yuki Kobayashi(45)
Photo:Yuki Kobayashi

It has been over a year since I started living in Kyoto. Kyoto is a truly beautiful town. The mountains surrounding Kyoto in three directions change their colors depending on four seasons. The modern part of the city is prospering right next to historic buildings with a thousand years of history. Once I step into a small street from a busy main street, I immediately encounter traditional features of this historic town. Being a travel lover, living in Kyoto is dream-come-true to me. Even the sound of rain sounded elegant to me, and I was fascinated and moved by every aspect of this town.
People in Kyoto often laugh at me when I describe such feeling. All these aspects are too familiar to them to become interested or fascinated.
There is also the aspect of “being able to see.”
I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when I was in an elementary school. My grandmother and my father have also lost sight with the same disease. I did not think I would also be the one who would lose sight back then. Then, things I could not do gradually increased. One day, I felt difficulty distinguishing whether a traffic signal was green or red. Then, I could no longer find a traffic light. Riding a bicycle became too dangerous, but soon, I found it too difficult to just walk in streets. My visual field became narrow, and I often nearly collided with other pedestrians who gave me a strange look. It was harder for me to look at someone giving me the look than walking into some objects and feeling physical pain. I gradually avoided going out except for when I go to work or go shopping. And I will soon become unable to go out at all. I will soon lose my sight completely. I was forced to think it would be okay to stop living when the life becomes too hard for me so that I could turn my back to the inescapable fear of reality.
I moved to Kyoto in the middle of such despair. I had a mixed feeling of joy and anxiety. Then the staff at Kyoto Lighthouse, the house that the ward office introduced to me, gave me a white cane saying, “You must be in trouble. Please use this.”
I applied for the acquisition of the white cane feeling that it would be the last hope to me. Yet, I felt heisted to carry it with me. It was a greater fear and sorrow for me to be carrying around the sign that tells the world that I am visually handicapped.
Nonetheless, I gathered all my courage and made the first step with the white cane. People in Kyoto very warmly talked to me, and my fear gradually disappeared. Kind words such as “Are you okay?” and “Do you need any help?” dissolved my fear of walking and the fear of living.
I will be fine. I can keep living.
One year has passed since then. I have become more fond of Kyoto as I wandered around the town with the white cane with the help of others and feeling seasonal features and the kindness of people.
The scene reflected in my eyes is no longer ordinary. I live in the beautiful dream-like place, but the scene will soon disappear from my eyes completely. I can still see, but the vision is blurred. I often think I wish I can see more clearly. Still, I can now feel a lot of good aspects as I gradually lose my sight. The bright blue sky seen through trees along streets, the color gradation at the edge of mountains in the evening. These ordinary scenes are irreplaceable and truly darling to me. I feel really lucky that I can use my last vision to see such a beautiful town. It is not just sceneries. This town has so many kind and warm-hearted people. I noticed that because many people kindly talked to me nearly every day. This is a grateful and noble treasure of town which compare with all the national treasures stored in Kyoto.
People feel discouraged when encounter spitefulness, but they become encouraged and happy when kindly treated. This is why I feel very happy.
I still feel anxious toward my gradually diminishing eyesight. Still, I feel that the kindness of people will support me and I can conquer my fear and keep living.
Sometimes people talk to me at the station, roads, and in buses. “The seat over there is not taken.” “There?” “Right, to the right, a little bit to the left.” It is like a game. I am so grateful to these people and I feel like crying inside, but I cannot see their faces and I cannot even give something back to them. I want to express my feeling in any way I can and put a small message on my white cane.
“Thank you for your kindness.
I wish you to be filled with happiness.”
The white cane is the cane of angel that the God gave me. I will positively and joyfully keep walking with this cane while making stops for fun along the way.
I want to tell my future self to stop crying. I will be bringing a heart-full of beautiful memories and kindness.


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