Local Initiatives

The Paralympics, moving towards an inclusive society

OITA GODO NEWS COMPANY

Feeling like a member of society, providing hope and teaching about accomplishments 

“Birthplace of Para Sports”

“I hope this will lead to greater understanding of people with disabilities”—Taro Nakamura, Oita City

As of August 25, there is only one year left until the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics begin. The 1964 Tokyo Paralympics were held thanks to the efforts of Dr. Yutaka Nakamura, founder of Japan Sun Industries, a social welfare organization, in Uchikamado, Beppu, Oita Prefecture, and were a major step forward for people with disabilities to participate in society. Oita Prefecture is called “the birthplace of para sports,” and its symbol in that respect, the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon, will be held for the 39th time this year. Local people stated their hope that next year’s Paralympics would create momentum for society to become even more inclusive.

“By watching the athletes as they participate in the Tokyo Paralympics next year and by seeing them around town, I hope people will realize that people with disabilities are not special, they are members of society like everyone else.”

Dr. Nakamura’s eldest son, Dr. Taro Nakamura (58), president of Oita Nakamura Hospital, has been involved in the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon and speaks passionately about this subject.

Over half a century has passed since the first Tokyo Paralympics, when the perception of people with disabilities shifted from being people who needed to be taken care of. People with disabilities now enjoy sports and are hired by businesses.

The Paralympics has been having more media appearances, including TV commercials and news reports. However, Dr. Taro Nakamura notes, “There is still a gap between the number of appearances and the public’s interest.” In order to make this into an opportunity for society to become more inclusive, the question is how to raise interest over the next year, and how to maintain it after the Games are over.

-Inspiration from new encounters

Mr. Katsumi Suzaki (77) of Ishigaki-higashi, Beppu, competed in the previous Tokyo Paralympics, and cannot wait for next year to arrive. His spine was injured in a traffic accident, and after only a year living in a wheelchair he competed in events including swimming and athletics. Encountering Western Paralympians who had found jobs inspired him. Reflecting, he stated that his new life began with the Tokyo Paralympics.

“The Paralympic Games have become a wonderful event that provides hope to those who watch them. I would like to see the athletes doing their best to show the results of their training.”

-Museum opening in March 2020

Dr. Yutaka Nakamura studied at a hospital in England where sports were used for rehabilitation, and brought the concept back to Japan. He worked towards the adoption of para sports, and in 1961 in Oita held the first sports competition for people with disabilities in Japan, before the Paralympics. Mr. Tatsuo Yamashita (60), president of Japan Sun Industries, plans to use the Paralympics next year as an opportunity to have more people learn about Dr. Nakamura’s efforts. The new Sun Museum will open on Japan Sun Industries’ grounds in March next year. The goal of the museum is to promote awareness of para sports and employment for people with disabilities.

In preparation for the Paralympic Torch Relay next year, ceremonies are being held to collect flames from every prefecture in Japan. Oita will hold its ceremonies from August 13 to 17 next year. Oita Prefecture’s Art, Culture, and Sports Promotion Section, which is acting as the secretariat for the prefecture’s executive committee, comments, “We would like to see many residents participate, as a leading prefecture in promoting para sports, and help make the Paralympics a success.”

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The original Japanese article was carried on OITA GODO NEWS COMPANY. Foreign Press Center Japan is responsible for the English translation. This article may not be distributed, reproduced, or publicly released without the permission of its copyright holders.

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