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Disability Arts Online

seeing diversity / 27 August 2014


Approaching the Tokyo apartment, I'd made a joke about the familiar British look of the very patched up road outside. Next morning it was gone - the road that is. There was merely a river of rubble.
The workmen looked very concerned when they saw me looking to exit the main entrance of the building for a day out, but we assured them I could leave the other way - through the bicycle storage area. It has one steep step which, with help, is just possible to negotiate.
In the early evening when we returned, one side of the road was re-surfaced, the other was almost finished; there was just one last metre to finish off. I was suitably impressed.

The day out was to Lalaport to check out some new eateries for a small celebration meal.
Judging by the promotional posters, Japanese Metro is already gearing up for the 2020 Olympics. Our local station has a poster of a red-robed Santa wearing Japanese Geta (a sort of blend of flip-flop and clog), carrying a fan and asking: 'Where are the fireworks?' under the slogan 'Here to serve everybody.'
In Lalaport we ended up in the Italian restaurant with a very Japanese version of Italian food. These eateries are part of a small development of 24 new shops; every year there are new buildings with new versions of the shopping experience. I noticed a large sign, in English, proudly proclaiming that the Indian restaurant uses Japanese curry rice.
Some of the restaurants had queues outside. The Italian one had a long queue of mostly young Japanese people of clearly diverse ethnic origins.

There were a lot of wheelchairs there. Some of them occupied by elderly or disabled people. Some were neatly folded and parked. The parked chairs, unlike the many bicycles, were not padlocked, but I noticed that some had bright attractive colours and I had a flash of chair envy.


Suddenly Japan is peopled by many races;
my inner eye opens to details I never
observed before; the small, swathed ladies who scurry
under summer parasols are culturally,
racially different to the frilly manga doll
whose mobile phone is almost not - the bulk of charms
the size of a small cat swinging. And the guys in
shorts and foot-form sandals; I notice the textures
of hair, shades of skin, shapes of faces and angles
of eyes. I realise I have seen them all before
in ukiyo-e, the woodblock prints, without quite
appreciating the subtleties of this form
of communication; seduced by the myth of
us and gaijin. But in truth, the Japanese are
many people.