Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Liter of Tears (The TV Series)

This is the compilation of episode summaries.

This drama starts right before Aya is confronted with the illness, Spinocerebellar Degeneration, in which the nerve cells of areas necessary for the human body to move and balance – including the cerebellum, brain stem, and spinal cord – transform and eventually disappear.
The opening scene, something of a tribute to the first moments of Kurosawa Akira's Ikiru, juxtaposes MRI scans of an SCD brain with sequences of Aya, for one of the last times, playing a skilled game of basketball. Mizuno, who will become Aya's physician, describes the cellular structure of the brain in a very textbook fashion; this kind of discourse contrasts with the energetic, teenage thrill that Aya and her teammates experience in winning their basketball game. This kind of contrast will become an important theme in the dramatic ambience of this story: where do personal tragedies and empirical research interconnect? Mizuno's entire career has been an emotional tug of war between the sober view of scientific pathology and the emotional intimacy of his patient's inevitable deaths.
Ikeuchi Aya (Sawajiri Erika), a 15 year old girl, is the eldest daughter in a normal Japanese family. She lives with her reliable mother, Shioka, who works as a nutritionist, her father, Mizuo, the wacky owner of a tofu shop, her quiet younger brother, Hiroki, and two younger sisters, the sarcastic Ako and innocent Rika. On the day of her high school entrance exam, she left the house full of energy, but she missed her stop to get off the bus and walk to her high school because she fell asleep. She quickly got off and ran from the bus in the rain when she discovered she was late. She slipped, fell down and injured her knee. At that time, she met Haruto Aso, who was trying to skip the exam. He gave her a ride to school, the administrators allowed them to take the exam (despite the fact that Haruto was uninterested in taking it), which they both later passed.
The new semester began, Aya and Haruto were in the same class, and both were elected as the representative of their class. Aya also joined the basketball team, and was reunited with the boy who she was fond of from the male basketball team. Just as she was beginning to enjoy her high school days, Aya starts to experience some physical difficulties. She always dropped food from her chopsticks, could not estimate the distance of the objects in front of her, could not pour water into a cup without spilling it, and occasionally wobbled while walking. Her mother, Shioka, who was the only one to notice the physical changes in Aya, started to worry about what was going on.
One day, Aya is about to leave home as usual. When she starts to run, she trips over her own feet and falls. She couldn't protect herself with her arms while falling, causing her to land on her face - making her bleed heavily. This injury soon reveals the existence of Aya's fateful disease.
Shioka, because of her training as a health consultant, possesses a degree of observation that the other drama characters do not. What disturbed her about Aya's fall was that, as Aya fell forward, she did not instinctively throw out her hands to break the fall, as people normally would do. Hence, she landed hard on her chin, because her body did not automatically move to support her. Shioka relates this detail to Dr Mizuno who, with a decade of neurological experience, immediately suspects something terrible is wrong. He orders MRI scans to be conducted--the ones in fact we see in this episode's opening sequence--which provide unequivocal proof that Aya's brain is, in fact, dying. In a rather matter-of-fact manner, he tells Shioka to prepare for the worst: accept the cruelty of this disorder, and make preparations immediately. Aya will, inch by inch, lose control of her body, even as her mind remains intact and terrified.
Mizuno's brusque demeanour, as will be related in a later episode, is the culmination of having seen many young patients pass away over his career. In his mind, the only option for the future is to be fully aware of the seriousness of the present.


Aya's mother Shioka is thinking about what Dr. Mizuno, the neurologist doctor treating her daughter's illness, told her on the last visit as she goes to pick up Aya's medicine prescription from the hospital. She goes to see Dr. Mizuno to ask him for the MRI scans so she can see other doctors for a second opinion.
At school, Aya is enjoying herself with her friends Sugiura Mari and Matsumura Saki as they eat lunch and later talk about the school song. They ask Tomita-san, the girl who likes Haruto, to play the piano for their chorus but she only agrees when Haruto tells her to. Meanwhile, Shioka is researching Aya's illness and is finding out the effects the disease will have on Aya. In gym class, Aya is chosen to participate in next week's basketball game with Kita High and is encouraged by Kawamoto-senpai, her school crush.
Shioka is visiting other doctor's hoping to find a better explanation or a cure but to no avail. At home, the family is viewing the photo album and are acting happily as Aya tells them she is playing in a basketball game next week. Everyone agrees on showing their support for her.
In the Aso household, Dr. Aso is telling Haruto of his expectation for him to do well in the upcoming exams, but Haruto retreats into his room where he recalls a childhood memory of a conversation between him and his deceased older brother Keisuke on their camping/fishing trip.
At home, Shioka is a little startled when Ako finds her reading late at night. The next day, Aya is visiting a doctor about her injury and meets a little girl named Yuka. They play ball while Yuka is waiting for her dad's exam to finish. Aya feels strange when Yuka mentions her dad getting a similar injury on his chin. Aya leaves before she sees Yuka's father.
While leaving a patient's house, Shioka notices a book that fell out of her bag and goes off to do more research. In the park, Aya meets and talks with Haruto again when she drops by to see the stray puppy from last time.
Shioka comes home only to drive off again to meet with a doctor specialising in the spinocerebellar atrophy disease. Meanwhile, Ako asks Aya if she is diseased because she is losing weight without dieting. Shioka meets with Dr. Miyamoto Shintaro to talk about a possible cure or operation for Aya but again she finds no solution. She returns home to tell Mizuo about Aya's disease.
The next day, Shioka and Mizuo persuade everyone to go support Aya at her basketball match. At the game, Aya's parents try to put on brave faces as they watch Aya play. Haruto and his friends Onda Kouhei and Nakahara are also there watching. After the game, Aya walks with Kawamoto-senpai and is reminded of a past memory they shared.
Later at night, Aya returns to the park to feed the stray puppy but walks off when Haruto arrives with the same intention. He persuades her to adopt the puppy. Aya brings the puppy home and Haruto is invited to join the Ikeuchi's for dinner.
The next day, Shioka and Mizuo visit Dr. Mizuno together to talk about Aya's disease. At school, Aya is conducting the music lesson.
Later at the clinic, Aya is told by Dr. Mizuno that she will need to start rehabilitation. While Shioka continues talking to Dr. Mizuno, Aya helps Yuka with the taking the groceries to Yuka's father's room. On the way home, Aya questions her mother about her illness.


Aya is practicing in gym class and recalls asking her mother Shioka about her illness. At home, Shioka and Mizuo contemplate about letting Aya know the truth about her disease. At school, Aya is conducting the music lesson again.
At the clinic, Shioka asks Dr. Mizuno not to tell Aya of her disease just yet. In the school hallway, Aya gives Haruto a disc so he can practice the class song properly. She experiences blurriness in her vision again and drops her music sheets.
At home, the family is eating and Ako asks her father to go shopping with her on Sunday but he teasingly turns her down while Shioka tells Aya to let someone walk with her whenever she wants to go out.
After gym class, Kawamoto-senpai asks Aya to go on a date with him to shop for shoes. He buys her matching shoe laces. On their way, Aya fails to move out of the way and is knocked over when some kids are running her way.
Haruto is obligated to attend a memorial for his brother Keisuke at a family reunion and is defiant over a discussion he overhears regarding the future and university. He goes outside to listen to his MD and recalls another memory of his brother when his father, Dr. Aso, scolds him.
Meanwhile, Aya and Rika are playing with Ganmo, the stray pup now adopted, when Mizuo suggests going out as Ako gets upset because he refused to go shopping with her. Aya lies about going out with Mari and heads with a bunch of flowers to visit the hospital. She bumps into Dr. Aso and they talk a while.
Aya goes to visit Yuka and her father and questions Yuka's mother about her husband's illness. Aya decides to see Dr. Mizuno, who is off duty, and looks for him to talk elsewhere from the hospital.
In music class, Aya is spacing out and the class doesn't perform well. She drops her music sheets again. The class notice Haruto, the male class rep, is not there. Aya finds him in the biology club. Haruto upsets Aya as they talk.
At Jhunon hospital, Dr. Mizuno is looking after Yuka's father and recalls the voice of a former patient of his. At the Ikeuchi household, Mizuo finds Shioka in Aya's room frantically looking through her diary. Ako returns home to be ignored by her mother when she tries to show her award painting.
Aya is late and the family is worried. Ako gets irritated by the family constantly giving their attention to Aya and says something out of line to which Shioka slaps her. Aya is at school, looking up the illness of Yuka's father. Haruto happens to come by as Aya challenges his actions from his words earlier.
Haruto returns home to be questioned by his father over his relationship with Aya. Aya returns home, lying about her whereabouts. The next day, the class are practicing before the big vocal contest. Aya directs the class more confidently. Haruto approaches her challenging Aya's words from last night.
The family prepare to go see Aya perform when Dr. Mizuno makes a house visit. Shioka talks to him alone in the house as he tells her of a past experience with a former patient with the same illness. He tries to persuade Shioka to inform Aya of her disease.
Shioka joins an emotional Mizuo in watching Aya perform. After the contest, Haruto returns to the biology lab and recalls Aya's words from last night and decides to find out what she was looking at on the computer. At the clinic, Dr. Mizuno is about to tell Aya about her illness when she shocks them with her knowledge instead.


Aya and her parent's take a taxi home from the clinic as she recalls the truth about her illness. The three of them decide to hide it from the other children as Aya heads to her room in a daze. At dinner, Shioka goes to see Aya in her room. Aya tells her mother she will be strong as Shioka tries to give her hope. However, both break into tears. Shioka questions Mizuo whether it was a good idea to tell Aya the truth but Mizuo reassures her.
The next day, the other kids question Aya's behavior as the parents worry but Aya acts cheerfully instead. On the way to school, Aya contemplates how her world has changed forever. In class, Haruto stares at Aya as he remembers their last encounter in the biology lab when Tomita approaches him.
In gym class, Aya is feeling more physical difficulty and is replaced by Mari on the team. Shioka is visiting Dr. Mizuno again to update on Aya's condition. At night, Aya is writing in her diary about her illness.
The next day in class, Mari tells the other girls she is dating Kouhei Onda, Haruto's best friend, while they question Aya about asking Kawamoto-senpai to the fireworks display. He just so happens to come by to invite Aya for the occasion. Aya agrees. At home, Aya tells her mother about being asked out by Kawamoto-senpai and asks how she should reject him. Shioka encourages Aya to go. Ako catches Aya blushing as she looks at her calendar in their bedroom.
On the fireworks night, Shioka fixes up Aya's yukata as she heads out to meet Kawamoto-tachi. Ako goes too, but without a yukata. Aya and Kawamoto-senpai are dubbed the new 'basketball couple' as Haruto spots them from far behind. As they cross a street, Aya's body fail to move again and she falls forward, striking her head on the cement. She is taken to hospital immediately.
Dr. Mizuno talks to the Ikeuchi's about Aya's condition again. At home, the children, especially Ako, are becoming suspicious over Aya's behavior. Mizuo goes off privately and cries over the situation. In the hospital, Dr. Mizuno introduces Aya to Dr. Tanabe, her new rehabilitation doctor. Mizuno and Tanabe walk off talking about Aya knowing of her condition.
At school, the homeroom teacher tells the PE class about Aya being hospitalized as Mari and Saki decide to visit Aya. Kawamoto-senpai's friend tells him he chose the wrong girl to like. At home, Ako reluctantly agrees to help her fatherout at the store while Shioka goes to see Aya.
At the hospital, Aya's friends come to visit her and bring her gifts. As the classmates leave, they talk about Haruto not coming and Tomita reveals how Haruto lost his onii-san Keisuke. Later, Ako takes Ganmo the pup out for a walk and runs into Haruto.
Kawamoto-senpai decides to visit Aya in hospital and sees her during her rehabilitation session. Aya apologizes for causing trouble for him as Dr. Mizuno gives Aya permission to go out on her senpai's birthday. Senpai doesn't look very happy. Later, Aya is having more tests done on her condition. Haruto makes a surprise visit to see Aya at the hospital. The two go out on the roof to talk.
As Haruto leaves the hospital, he observes Dr. Mizuno and decides to do some research. At school, Haruto overhears how Kawamoto-senpai plans to dump Aya. Aya is preparing to go out on her date with Kawamoto-senpai as Haruto is heading to the hospital to see her. Dr. Tanabe tells him that Aya already left for her date. Haruto runs out after her.
Meanwhile, Aya is standing in the heavy rain outside the Zoo as Haruto arrives with an umbrella. He tells her that senpai won't be coming. She thanks him, and he brushes it off by talking about penguins instead.


In hospital, Aya is feeling down when Dr. Tanabe and Dr. Mizuno tell her she only needs two more injections before she can be released. Aya is pessimistic about any improvement. At school, Shioka is talking to the homeroom teacher about Aya's illness and as he promises the classes' support and guidance for Aya.
Shioka makes a quick visit to the gym and reminisces how Aya used to play so well. Haruto has a quick talk with her before Kawamoto-senpai and his friend walk past. Haruto mentions to Kawamoto-senpai how Aya waited so long in the rain for him.
Shioka is visiting Dr. Mizuno again as he suggest applying for the disability card for Aya. Shioka is against the idea but takes the form with her anyway. In the hospital room, Ako is helping to pack Aya's things for her. On the way out, Ako sees the way Aya is walking and feels something is very wrong. Aya is welcomed warmly back at home but even Ako who pretends to be normal feels indifferent.
Shioka promises to buy Hiroki a new pair of soccer shoes. When the kids leave, Shioka tries to tell Mizuo about applying for the disability card to Mizuo's outrage.
The next day, Aya is taking a taxi to school. Ako voices her concern over the situation but the parents play down the situation again. Meanwhile, Mari and Saki are waiting at the school gate for Aya. Haruto arrives just in time to watch Aya walk unsteadily past the gates.
In class, the homeroom teacher tells the class about Aya's condition and to help her out but Aya feels uncomfortable about it already. At Shioka's workplace, a patient's wife talks to her and shows Shioka her husband's disability card, making her think about getting it or not.
Back in class, the homeroom teacher appoints a new female class rep to which Tomita volunteers. Haruto tricks Kouhei into taking his place as male class rep, to Tomita's dismay. After class, Aya and her friends talk. As Haruto and his friends prepare to leave, Aya calls to him but stumbles. The others leave hurriedly to give them some privacy.
Aya finds comfort in talking to Haruto. The girls are late for basketball practice and Aya feels left out again. Kawamoto-senpai and his friend talk about finding a new girl. In the bio lab, Haruto researches Aya's suspected disease again.
Back at the tofu shop, Mizuo picks up Aya as Hiroki watches the shop. Aya is watching her friends depart as Kawamoto-senpai approaches her for a moment but leaves when he sees his friends. Aya is picked up by her father but notices the strange glances from her schoolmates.
At home, Aya explains she wants to walk to school instead. At the Aso household, Mrs. Aso tells Dr. Aso about Haruto studying and taking out books from Keisuke's room. Dr. Aso goes into Haruto's room only to find him asleep on a pile of books on his desk. Meanwhile, Aya is having trouble writing. Aya, as well as Mari and Saki who helps her, is late for class again and gets into trouble for it.
During PE, Haruto finds Aya in a classroom by herself watching her classmates when she suddenly faints and is sent to hospital. Shioka hurriedly arrives to see Aya while Haruto and the homeroom teacher wait outside her hospital room.
Dr. Mizuno leaves as Haruto goes to see him in his office to talk about Aya's condition. Haruto finds his dad waiting outside for him as they go off and talk about illnesses and being doctors. Dr. Aso tells Haruto to leave Aya be if he is just pitying her. Haruto refuses.
At home, Shioka and Mizuo are arguing loudly over what to do about Aya when Ako walks in on them, and she interrupts them and says, if they want to make such a point in hiding things from the children, then they should hide it completely. Aya manages to fall down the stairs just then. It is then that Shioka and Mizuo decide to tell the rest of the family the truth about Aya's illness. Hiroki and Rika are supportive but Ako finds it hard to believe and questions them.
At school, Aya is practicing shooting basketballs for the last time when Haruto interrupts her. She tells him to help her gather up all the balls on the court. On their way out, Aya asks Haruto to be on guard for her while she has some unfinished business to take care of. Kawamoto-senpai is walking across the bridge when he gets a phone call from Aya. Later, Aya and Haruto are walking slowly together.


Aya and her mother are walking Ganmo out somewhere as Aya thinks about her physical condition. People passing by are giving her strange glances as they see Hiroki in the distance and call out to him. Hiroki is practicing his soccer skills as Aya and her mother watch. Aya decides to help her brother by scribbling a pretend goal on the wall for him to aim at.
On their way home, Hiroki retrieves a runaway Ganmo but overhears some strange ladies talking about Aya behind her back. At the hospital, Aya is doing some leg exercises with Dr. Mizuno and Dr. Tanabe. Shioka still believes in the little bit of hope for Aya as Dr. Mizuno reads the diary Aya is keeping to see her handwriting and daily occurences. He is anxious when he reads something disturbing Aya wrote. At home, Mizuo is happy about his tofu business as the family have dinner together.
At school, Aya approaches Haruto as he is measuring the water in a tank. He takes her mind off her physical disability and makes her work with him in the bio lab. They don't realize that Tomita and her friend are observing them. Tomita's friend warns her that if she is not careful, Haruto will be stolen away by Aya. Tomita is in denial.
Back at home, Aya volunteers to watch the tofu shop while her father goes out. Mizuo is out trying to persuade a potential employer to try his tofu out. It turns out that this person is Onda-san, Kouhei's father. Kouhei comes out and introduces them and Onda-san is persuaded to try out Ikeuchi's tofu, but seemingly out of pity.
At the tofu shop, a customer comes by but serves herself after seeing Aya there. Ako arrives to help out. Meanwhile, Dr. Mizuno is researching more on spinocerebellar atrophy when Dr. Tanabe enters. Dr. Mizuno plans to see another doctor about Aya's condition.
Haruto and his friends Kouhei and Nakahara are in the bio lab when Tomita enters to scold Kouhei over his responsibility as male class rep. She asks Haruto if he needs help but he brushes it off. Nakahara and Kouhei ask Haruto if he can be a bit nicer to Tomita because she likes him.
On the way home from school, Haruto sees Aya catching the bus. Aya shows her disability card to the driver and is offered a seat by a lady. She reluctantly accepts but feels the cold glances.
Hiroki is chosen as forward for a soccer game and earns the admiration of his fellow players at the expense of another boy, Nakama-kun. Back at home, the family is celebrating for Hiroki as he tells Aya subtly that she does not need to come support him. In her room, Aya is sewing something on a shirt for Hiroki as Ako comes to talk and watch her.
Meanwhile, Mizuo is telling Shioka over the selling of his tofu to Onda-san out of pity but Shioka explains to him that it's alright. The next day, Aya and Ako are out shopping for Hiroki when a small boy asks Aya about her walking behavior. Hiroki's soccer mates and Nakama-kun recognize Aya as his sister. Later, while Hiroki is playing soccer alone, Nakama-kun and his friends from earlier bully Hiroki over Aya. Haruto watches as Hiroki's ball is kicked into the lake.
Hiroki returns home upset, and tells Aya not to come to the game. Haruto comes by the Ikeuchi house and returns the ball to Hiroki. On the way out, Haruto tells Hiroki to take care of the ball and his nee-chan more. Aya comes out to say thanks and goodbye to Haruto. The next day, Aya goes out with Mari and Saki.
After they leave, Shioka asks Ako to take something to Hiroki who is out on the soccer field. As she arrives at the field, Hiroki's soccer mates taunt him over Aya. Ako pushes Nakama-kun down and drags Hiroki back home and scolds him for not defending Aya. The family have an emotional talk.
Aya overhears everything, decides to go out by herself for a while and arrives home late for dinner. Aya tells Hiroki she can't go to his game because she has plans with Mari and Saki. Nevertheless, Aya gives Hiroki the present she bought him.
The next day, Aya is with Haruto in the bio lab when he questions her why she isn't attending Hiroki's game? Haruto tells her to go because Hiroki feels guilty about what happened already. Aya starts laughing when she sees something on Haruto's face.
At home, Hiroki prepares for his soccer match as Aya lays in bed. Ako asks her if she is still going out with Mari and Saki and Aya confirms. However, Ako tells her to look at what's on the table and Aya is persuaded to go support her brother at his game.


The Ikeuchi family is going to the temple to do some well-wishing. Aya recalls what she wrote in her diary about relying more on the help on others nowadays since the new year. Mizuo sets up a camera for a family photo. At home, the Ikeuchi's are eating and everybody seems to be quite happy and adjusted.
At school, Mari and Saki await Aya's arrival as they help her up the stairs with her wheelchair. Haruto arrives at the classroom noticing the wheelchair in the hallway. Aya feels happy to be amongst her friends. In class, Aya is thinking about the 'future path' and asks Haruto about what he will do in the bio lab. Haruto recalls the same words of his onii-san which Aya just spoke. Haruto tries to keep Aya in the bio lab instead of having her wait for her mother.
Haruto wheels Aya out in the hallway as she stops to hear the creaking sound of the wooden floor. She explains to him how much she likes this sound.
In history class, Aya is trying to keep up with the lesson at the slow expense of her fellow classmates. Haruto stares at Aya again as she tells the class to move on without her. Meanwhile, Shioka receives a call from the homeroom teacher for a meeting. They meet at school along with the principal (kyoto-sensei) to discuss how Aya is hindering the class's performance. She is uncomfortable when they mention sending her to a school better equipped for disabled children. Later, Shioka meets Aya and Haruto outside to take her home.
During the rehabilitation session, Aya is given weights for her legs so she can walk better. Shioka sees Dr. Mizuno who agrees it may be better to send her to a special disability school. Later, Dr. Mizuno is at a neurologist seminar taking lessons from Dr. Okazaki, a well-respected doctor/professor in neurology. They talk about the spinocerebellar atrophy disease.
At school, Aya hands in her 'future path' form to her homeroom teacher. In gym class, Mari and the others find out that Aya has quit the basketball club. An upset Mari runs out to confront Aya who was about to leave the school grounds just then.
Later, Shioka is visiting a disability school recommended by Dr. Mizuno. She is greeted by another girl with the same disease, and her mother. Asumi is a very lively girl despite her illness being more advanced. Asumi's mother and Shioka talk about Asumi's disease. Asumi delivers a moving speech to Shioka before she leaves.
In her room, Aya is looking at old pictures from school when her mother enters to talk with her. In class, Mari hands Aya her notes to copy and runs off with Saki. Haruto wheels Aya outside as Aya talks the fight she and Mari had. Shioka picks them up and invites a reluctant Haruto to dinner. Haruto is reluctant because Mizuo scares him.
At dinner, Haruto is sitting next to Mizuo and being offered a lot of food. Later, Haruto and Aya sit outside as he greets a grown up Ganmo. The nexy day, Saki is solely helping Aya up the stairs without Mari as Kouhei and Nakahara help take her wheelchair upstairs. Mari watches on. Aya finds Mari on the rooftop and they speak about the past. They make up as Mari wheels her out.
At home, Aya is alone with Rika when she finds information about the disability school in a drawer. At dinner, Aya is in a daze again over the situation. Aya later confronts her parents about them visiting the disability school. She tells them she wants to choose her own future and they all agree.
The next day, Shioka is having a PTA meeting as Ako wheels Aya through school. They go to support the basketball team and Aya is given a present from the team. At the PTA meeting, the parents of Aya's classmates are voicing their concern over the class's low performance because of Aya. Shioka begs for a little more time to give her daughter and Haruto passes by and overhears the whole discussion.


After the basketball game, Ako wheels Aya back out to meet their mother with Mari and Saki. They see the parents from the PTA meeting leaving and feel a bit concerned of how it went. Shioka arrives and pretends everything is alright. At home, Rika is practicing her performance for her graduation show before dinner.
At the Aso household, Mrs. Aso and her husband are discussing the events at the PTA meeting as Haruto interrupts them discussing Aya's future at the school. Dr. Aso tells Haruto he wouldn't understand because he is still a kid.
Meanwhile, Shioka and Mizuo too discuss Aya's future at the school. Haruto watches on as Aya, to everyone's dismay, is having difficulties keeping up in English class again. In between classes, Mari and Saki wheel Aya through the hallway as they observe the new ichinen-sei (high school freshmen) arrive for an induction at Higashikou.
Aya is studying in the bio lab as Haruto looks on. He shows her some school pictures of class events and gives some encouraging words, surprising Aya. She questions her future at the school as Shioka interrupts them to ease the tension. At home, Shioka breaks the news to the family that she plans to quit her job to help Aya at school. Aya is against it as everyone is worried about the family's income.
Later, Mizuo discusses Shioka's decision to quit her job. In her room, Aya is writing in her diary as Ako starts to ask her something but decided against it and stops in mid-sentence. Meanwhile, Dr. Mizuno is visited by Dr. Aso as they talk about Aya and how she has affected everybody in terms of courage.
At school, Aya is helped by Mari again as two distant classmates help her with her wheelchair. Tomita and her friend look on irritably. Tomita runs after Haruto to question him about Aya. Haruto is serious about Tomita's remark; he shoves her against the wall and warns her.
Meanwhile, Mizuo is testing out a more advanced wheelchair for Aya but is worried about the expense. Later, Aya overhears her parents talk about Mizuo taking up another job to support the income. Aya is feeling guilty. The next day, Aya is helped up the stairs again by Mari but slips and falls backward onto Mari, worrying everyone. Aya is sitting in the nurse's office when Mari comes in to reassure her, but Aya notices Mari's injured hand and knows she won't be able to participate in this week's basketball game.
At home, Aya is thinking about school and her mother when Ako enters. Ako decided to ask the question she failed to earlier. The next day, Mari and Saki seem to lose their spirit in helping Aya. The class is silent when Aya enters. Aya leaves early as Mari and Saki return to class just in time for Tomita to stage a class discussion over Aya.
Aya overhears most of it from outside when Haruto challenges everybody's intentions - to the class's astonishment - and stands up for Aya, seemingly the only one to be loyal to her at this point when he notices her listening in from outside. Aya retrieves the book she had come back for and leaves as Haruto runs after her while the class is left speechless.
Haruto offers to carry Aya down stairs, and wheels her out onto the bridge when Aya bursts into tears. Haruto, who usually finds words of comfort, has none to give and sheds his own tears instead. Aya decides to say goodbye at that point.
Later, Aya and the family go to watch Rika perform at her graduation. When they come out Aya talks strangely, worrying the family, as she voices her decision on enrolling at the disability school. At school the next day, Aya gives a farewell speech to her class while Shioka waits outside the classroom. Everyone is too teary-eyed and weepy to continue studies. Haruto runs out after Aya and her family, followed by Mari, Saki and then the whole class.
Haruto calls out to Aya as the class assemble, and they slowly start to sing the 3/9 song to her that they had practiced for the vocal contest.


It's been a couple months and Aya is attending the disability school now. She is presented with a new automatic wheelchair and test-drives it. Aya feels better using it as it is more mobile. At home, Shioka and Mizuo talk.
Mizuo happens to pass a bicycle-riding Haruto on the way home from somewhere and makes him help in carrying a big bag of rice. Aya is surprised to see Haruto again. Mizuo embarrasses Haruto by singing the 3/9 song and drags him into the living room. They all have dinner together as Rika is presented with a gift.
Aya is also given a gift in the form of a new cell phone, so the family can contact her easier. Haruto immediately asks for her number but Mizuo intercepts as Haruto and Aya exchange amused glances over the table. Later outside, Aya and Haruto are talking as he pets Ganmo, and tries to get Aya's number again only to be rejected for the second time.
Bicycling on the way to school, Haruto observes the Higashikou basketball team doing their morning jog as the new spring arrives. Meanwhile, Aya is settling into her new school. Shioka leaves feeling saddened and teary-eyed as she walks out of the school grounds.
Later, Aya meets Asumi, the girl with the same illness that Shioka met before, for the first time and is surprised to hear she has the same disease, but she thinks Asumi is a very cute girl. At home, Mizuo tries to call Aya on her new cell phone for the first time but finds the number busy and wonders who in the world she could be talking to. Ako teases how Aya must be talking to Aso-kun right now and Mizuo tries to re-dial.
Dr. Aso returns home to overhear from the corridor Haruto talking on the phone with Aya. Aya finishes talking to Haruto and views her handwriting which seems to have gotten worse. Meanwhile, Shioka is talking to Dr. Mizuno again about Aya's condition.
The next day, Aya is in gym and is handed a ball when Asumi comes up to her to talk about their teacher and her boyfriend. Aya finds Asumi to be a sweet girl. She is walking up her classroom thinking how afraid she is of what's happening to her. Her physical mobility is increasingly difficult and she is moving very slowly at this stage.
The next day, Haruto is at the library with his friends when he sees Ako studying. He talks to her, pointing out mistakes she made in her homework. In the evening, Haruto is calling Aya on her cell phone again. He aranges a date with her to go to the aquarium. Asumi asks if he is her boyfriend but Aya claims he is just a school classmate.
Later, Dr. Aso comes into Haruto's room and talks to him about Aya again. He asks if they are dating but Haruto can not explain and his father tells him to think about the situation with Aya's illness. The next day, Haruto meets Aya at her school for their date and Asumi comes to see them off. On the way, Aya explains that Asumi has the same illness as her.
At the aquarium, Aya is having a good time viewing the marine creatures when Haruto momentarily leaves. Later outside, Haruto fixes a dolphin chain to Aya's phone, matching his own. He goes to buy drinks when Aya is approached by a woman and her daughter for directions. Aya starts to find difficulties in speech and decides to point instead of speaking. On the way home, Haruto and Aya misses the bus and Haruto tries to call a taxi for them, when it starts to rain heavily.
Meanwhile, the Ikeuchi family is worrying about Aya's whereabouts as Haruto and Aya are brought back home in a special disability taxi. Shioka momentarily yells at Haruto as he takes responsibility for what happened. Once back inside, Shioka says Aya will be fine and both parties apologize for what happened.
Shioka talks seriously to Haruto about Aya, who happens to be in the room next door listening in. Both, Haruto and Aya seem to be hurt by Shioka's wise words. Haruto heads home in the rain with an umbrella when Aya calls him on the cell phone to apologize. Her speech is getting worse. Aya tells him how she believes they seem to be living in different worlds and hangs up crying.
At Jhunon hospital, Aya's speech is being examined by Dr. Mizuno. Haruto is returning books to the library again and meets Ako. Ako goes outside to talk to Haruto about Aya again and how she is trying her best in her studies for her. Haruto says Ako is truly Aya's little sister.
On the way home, Haruto leaves his friends and runs to Aya. At the disability school, Aya is watering the plants when Haruto arrives, seeing her for the first time since their last phone conversation. Aya is trying her best to talk but becomes teary-eyed. Haruto speaks and confesses that he likes her. Aya thanks him.
Aya is parting ways with Asumi on her way to her classroom while Haruto is at home filling out the 'future path' form. At Aya's school, the Ikeuchi family is visiting her and surprise her with Ako wearing Aya's Higashikou uniform -- she had passed the entrance exam. Aya is very happy


Aya and her parents are making another visit to Dr. Mizuno where Aya is doing speech rehabilitation. Just a few moments later, Dr. Mizuno is discussing Aya's condition with her parents while she is doing walking exercises elsewhere. This is becoming increasingly difficult for her.
Later, Aya is at the disability school receiving her graduating diploma as Shioka and Mizuo walk behind her. Aya's teachers, Madoka and Takano-sensei come to talk with her and show Aya's parents her handwritten display work to them.
Elsewhere, Haruto is taking the college entrance exam. Meanwhile, Shioka is packing Aya's things into the car as Aya is looking back at the school she is now leaving. The year is now 2008, it's been three years since Aya was diagnosed with spinocerebellar atrophy disease. At home, everyone is welcoming Aya back. The family has rearranged her bed into the next room downstairs for convenience. Rika has also grown up a bit.
Later, Aya is writing in her diary and practicing her speech to herself. During rehabiliation, Aya is recalling her difficulties and feelings.
One evening, Aya and her family are having a large dinner with Mari, Saki, Nakahara, Kouhei and Haruto as guests. Aya congratulates Haruto on his successful exam results. Her schoolmates tell of what colleges they've applied or been accepted to as Aya quietly listens and watches everyone.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mizuno is in the science lab testing out mice in relation to the spinocerebellar atrophy disease. He slams his pen over his desk in frustration. During the day, Haruto is wheeling Aya through his college campus as Aya feels down at being unable to be 'normal', especially when she sees other couples, knowing she is unable to be like them with Haruto.
Later, Aya is doing rehabilitation again as Haruto watches by the door. Dr. Mizuno comes by and talks with him about Aya. Back at home, Shioka is in a hurry and finds Aya's diary, having accidentally thrown it down while grabbing her phone. Mizuo comes over to ask Shioka what's wrong?
In Jhunon hospital, Shioka comes by to pick up Aya who is with Dr. Mizuno. However Aya has something important to say to them. Later, Aya is back in the same hospital room she was in before as Ako accompanies her. Aya is feeling sad again.
Meanwhile, Shioka is visited by Takano-sensei as he tells her he is getting married to Madoka-sensei and has extended an invite for Aya to attend his wedding to the other teacher.
Haruto is on his way to visit Aya with some flowers and happens to meet his father Dr. Aso in the hallway. He nods and passes him by just as Shioka is there to meet and talk with Dr. Aso. They go outside to talk. Meanwhile, Haruto gives Aya the beautiful flowers and she is happy to have them. Dr. Aso continues talking to Shioka but he expresses his concern over Aya and Haruto's relationship, that it may hurt them both.
Back in the hospital room. Aya is expressing her feelings to Haruto who sits on the next bed and listens carefully. Shioka then happens to come by and tells Aya about Madoka-sensei's wedding invitation. She invites Haruto to come also and Haruto happily accepts, telling Aya he'll be able to rent a tuxedo.
Later, Aya is sitting in her wheelchair on the roof and watches as Haruto walks below with his friends from university. Aya is now back in the hospital room and needs to use the bathroom. As she tries to get into her wheelchair, she falls to the ground just as Haruto enters the room. Aya is telling him not to come near for she has accidentally wet herself on the floor.
Shioka and Ako happen to walk in right after that. Shioka begs a reluctant Haruto to leave as Ako is sent out to fetch something. Shioka comforts an upset and crying Aya as she helps her up. Haruto is standing in the hallway feeling helpless and leaves for class. Later, Aya is sitting on her bed spacing out as Shioka tries to control her tears while cleaning the floor.
At night, Aya is alone in her hospital bed. She manages to get to a nearby phone and tries to dial but she trembles too much and the phone rejects her call. Meanwhile back at home, Shioka is worried and decides to head to Jhunon hospital to check on Aya. Mizuo wants to come along but Ako stops him so Shioka leaves alone.
As she gets to the hospital, Shioka is frantically looking for Aya everywhere and finds her slumped forward near the pay phone. Aya expresses her feelings to her mother and begs for her to help her. Shioka puts on a brave face and wheels Aya back to her room and shows her, her study books, trying to give her courage. Mother and daughter have an emotional hug.
Later at night, Aya is practicing her writing again when she glimpses over at the dolphin necklace Haruto gave her. She decides to write him a letter. The next day is Madoka and Takano-sensei's wedding as Aya (who is wearing a pretty white dress) and her parents are there to congratulate them. Aya wishes her teachers to be happy.
A few moments later, Aya is chatting with her parents when Haruto arrives wearing a tuxedo to which Aya makes a comment. It's now time for the bride's bouquet to be thrown and Aya happens to catch it surprising her as Haruto looks on.
Later, Aya, Haruto and her parents are leaving the church grounds as Shioka and Mizuo leave Aya in Haruto's care. Aya manages to give him the [love] letter she wrote as the wedding bells happen to ring. Haruto turns to look at the church as Aya stares sadly at his back.
Later, Shioka and Mizuo are wheeling Aya back to her hospital room when Aya starts choking. Dr. Mizuno hurriedly comes to her aid. Meanwhile, Haruto is walking on the bridge when he remembers Aya's letter and decides to read it there. In Jhunon hospital, Aya is struggling to talk with her parents and Dr. Mizuno.
Haruto continues reading Aya's letter and his face turns more serious. Meanwhile, Aya starts to cry as she tells her parents about breaking up with Haruto. In the letter to Haruto, Aya thanks him for supporting her and always being by her side but also realizing that she has no future with him. Haruto is brought to tears as he nears the end of the letter. In the envelope, he finds the pink dolphin necklace he gave Aya returned to him.
In the hospital, Shioka asks Aya why she is giving up but Aya asks them if she could ever get married. There is no answer and Aya understands her position. Mizuo can't control his emotions and runs out of the room to cry outside.
Meanwhile, a heartbroken Haruto returns home as Dr. Aso asks him what's wrong. Haruto is holding Aya's letter and gazes sadly back at his father telling him that he, as always, was right. Shioka tries to reason with Aya but she pushes her away crying as Dr. Mizuno looks on saddened.


This powerful drama concludes in a final episode that chronicles the most serious decline in Aya's motor skills due to her condition.
Aya's ability to control a pen is deteriorating rapidly; she continues writing in her diary, but the process has become intensely cumbersome. However, Takano, a volunteer at Aya's school for the disabled, has been publishing excerpts of her work in various magazines, gradually attracting a wider audience, of which will number in the millions after Aya's death. Asô, at Aya's request, has broken off all contact--but he keeps her love letter, and symbolic dolphin pendent, in his desk where he studies in pursuit of a medical career.
The quick progress of Aya's sickness shocks Mizuno and his colleagues. Aware that she more and more resembles others who have succumbed to the disease, Aya acknowledges that every day, a large piece of her dies, in terms of the use of her body. Mizuno pursues his research goals, but the results have been insufficient. He struggles between a general sense of hopelessness against an indomitable illness, and the courageous example set by Aya, which inspires him to fight for a cure in his scientific work. Nonetheless, the general hospital community expresses concern that the time and money spent in looking for a cure might be better invested elsewhere.
Life for the Ikeuchi family continues--and they find many inventive strategies to include Aya in the family narrative. Rika draws pictures of the tôfu shop, and their shiba dog, Ganmo, to keep Aya company. But signs of Aya's rapid degeneration are everywhere: she needs a bib to eat, her speech is increasingly slurred, and her general mobility impaired. Nonetheless, the family strives to treasure every moment as unique and special. Ako's artistic talents have become considerable, and she has won a local competition for an oil portrait, based on the photograph taken in episode one. It is now hung in Aya's high school, where Ako studies hard in honour of her sister. The family, at Aya's request, make a brief visit to the school--where Aya experiences a rush of flashbacks which remind her of what she now considers her older, lost self. Hauntingly, Aya overhears a school choir practising the same song which she herself had conducted five years ago. Rather than pity the vast difference in her physical changes, Aya expresses thank you in her heart for the memories.
One day, admiring the blossoms in a potted plant given to her by Asô, Aya steps out of bed to go water the buds. But she collapses immediately: despite her intense efforts at rehabilitation therapy, she has lost all ability to walk. This is the moment that she has long dreaded, as she knows this will be a depressing marker in regards to the severity of her illness and its eventual outcome. Aya's friends and relatives respond in different ways to the harsh reality. Shioka tells Aya, "I'm strong enough to carry you!" but she expresses private frustration at her own uselessness. Asô's father stands outside Aya's room, but never enters. He sadly thinks about how cruel and anonymous fate is, and Aya's father gradually grows tired and no longer able to repress his emotions. Aya's own panic and fear intensify; she croaks out to her mom: "Kowai!" I'm scared. But, remembering her mother's encouragement to share her feelings, she says earnestly that writing will be her reason for living. As long she can write, she will survive and hope--through writing, she will find a reason to live. "Writing is evidence that I am still alive," she explains.
Asô overhears a group of medical students speaking awkwardly to Aya; and he politely rebukes them for not showing the kind of professional care that a real doctor most possess. (A theme of this drama is how society attempts to integrate, shun, or experiment with disabled persons. Asô, who has come out of his reclusive shell, now understands that art and compassion are as important as science and data.) Asô and Dr Mizuno have a personal discussion about the medical profession: a doctor must be detached, yet cannot help but feel the pain of his patient. That, for Dr Mizuno, has been the curse and blessing of his job: his patients, despite his best efforts, become part of his personal life, encouraging and inspiring him by their example, but breaking his heart with their death. Dr Mizuno recognises that, for Asô, Aya will always be a part of his future, both in love and in medicine. Mizuno paraphrases Aya when he says, "A doctor must never give up." Mizuno, in a gesture of one doctor to a future one, gives Asô a postcard addressed to Aya, written by a young high school girl who has the same disease.
Asô, despite Aya's request in the letter, pays one last visit to see her. He does not attempt to give her false hope or deny the horror of her condition; instead, he reads to her the postcard, to prove to Aya that her oft-stated wish--to help people--has been fulfilled in ways she could have never predicted. The postcard describes how Aya's words encouraged not to dwell on death, but to fight with all of her soul in the present moment. Aya uses all of her strength to push the bedcurtains aside and look on Asô once more. She says, "Even though I cannot walk . . . I've helped people. I've helped people!"
But the relentless cruelty of Aya's disease does not slow down. She is clearly nearing the point where any voluntary movement will become impossible. Thus Dr Mizuno, approving Aya's request, allows her to make a return home for Christmas. The family decides that, since this will most likely be the clan's last time together as one at home, that they will fill the time with as much love and joy as possible. In the spirit that marks the Ikeuchi family throughout the series, they chose joy over sorrow, to make a holiday of gratitude rather than regrets. In this way, Shioka reads a letter written by Aya, as she hands out gifts from her. Shioka explains, through Aya's writing, that each gift has a special symbolic value. In fact, every item includes a story addressed to each family member, which describes both Aya's sense of apology but also gratitude, in appreciation for the sacrifices unique to each of her siblings. This occasion will be the last time that they will spend together in such happiness.
Aya continues to become more and more incapacitated: in a moment foreshadowed in earlier episodes, she must now use a hiragana-card to spell out what she can non longer pronounce.
Asô and his father have their first honest, non-judgmental conversation, words which mark a very defining shift in their relationship. Asô's father acknowledges that he has transposed his regrets over his son's death onto Asô, and unfairly pushed him in his career options. Moreover, he also admits that his advice to avoid Aya had meant to be helpful. But he knows now that only Asô can truly understand what should be done in terms of his obvious love for Aya. No one can advise him. Asô recalls some of the nihilistic things he said to Aya when they first met.
To make amends, and to tell Aya how he now appreciates the true beauty of life more because of her, Asô visits Aya for the last filmed occasion. Snow is falling quietly, and the air is chilled. (The weather is now an objective correlative to the song 'Konayuki', or 'Powdered Snow' by Remioromen, which has consistently been Asô and Aya's special theme music throughout the series. The camera zooms in through the flurries to show Asô at Aya's bedside.)
Aya finds it too cumbersome to spell out words, so she points to her diaries, and asks Asô to read them aloud. While Asô recites passages from Aya's diary (actual passages in fact from the real-life Kitô Aya), Aya slowly falls asleep as a montage of memories fills her mind: of her meeting with Asô, of carefree school days, but also horrible moments, such as when she couldn't operate the phone to call her mother. When Asô reaches the word 'atashi' [feminine 'I'], the voicing shifts over to Aya, who narrates her own summary as to how society has treated her, and how she has treated herself, because of her disability. Asô finishes all of the diaries, sobbing, with Aya's line, "Kekkon dekiru?" "Will I be able to get married?" Aya then falls asleep exhausted: a dream of her playing basketball fills her with peace. In her dreams, she sees Asô, set in a deliberate reconsideration of a historical encounter earlier. In the factual encounter, Aya was struggling to make a basket, because her illness had robbed her of the ability to throw a ball effectively. Asô had to help her clean up the dozens of balls which had fallen short of their target, a sign of Aya's failing body. However, now in her dream near death, she can score each basket beautifully--and Asô looks on, lovingly.
The dream sequence, however, violently ends as an alarm bell sounds in the hospital ward. The timeline has accelerated five years, and Aya's condition is now very critical. Dr Mizuno attempts to revive her, but the true cruelty of the disease, the slowly encroaching moment of death, has finally come. The family screams out her name in the night.
A year later, Aya's parents are visiting her grave during o-Bon. They are surprised to find Dr Mizuno there, but he assures them of how incredibly important Aya had been to him both as a doctor and as a person. Indeed, most poignantly, it is Dr Mizuno--who throughout the series has been rather hardened and clinical due to his years of experience with this illness--that now offers the final and most heartfelt summary of Aya's specialness. He says, simply, "She was a great person." With those words, in the final scene, the camera pans to reveal a massive parade of people in funeral attire walking up the hillside--some sick, others healthy but all bearing roses to lay on Aya's gravemarker. Aya *is* a great person: her words live on. Aya didn't write for literary fame, to win acclaim or the Akutagawa Prize, or for money. She wrote, because as she said, "My writing is proof that I am alive." By documenting her own unique spirit, both its horrors and its bravery, Aya made such an extraordinary impact. Thus, the final scene proves how Kitô Aya's real-life diary can be understood as quantifiably apparent by the waves of human gratitude, real people, who have come to say, "Thank you, Aya."

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Book

My friend, Dahlia, brought this book at Kinokuniya Bookstore in Dubai.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aya's Real Photos

Diary of Aya Kitou

Chapter 1
14 Years Old (1976-77)
My Family

Mary Died

Today is my birthday. How big I've grown! I think I should thank Mom and Dad. I'm determined to get better grades and be much more healthier so that I won't disappoint them. That's part of the reason why I want to enjoy the prime of my life. I don't want to have anything to regret in the future. I'm going to a school camp the day after tomorrow. I must study hard to finish my homework, otherwise I won't feel free. Keep it up, Aya!

Tiger, the neighbors' fierce dog, bit Mary on the neck, and she died. Tiger is big, but Mary was very small. She went up to him wagging her short tail to show she was friendly.

"Mary, no! COME BACK!" I shouted desperately, but . . . She died without being able to cry out. That must have been so frustrating for her. If she hadn't been born a dog, she wouldn't have had to die so soon. Mary, I hope you'll be happy wherever you are!

Our new house is finished. The bug room on the east side of the second floor is like a castle for me and my younger sister, Ako. It has a white ceiling and the walls are brown veneer. The scenery through the windows is different from what I'm used to. I'm happy we have our own room, but a big room makes me feel a bit lonely. I wonder if I'll be able to sleep tonight?

Starting in a fresh mood!
1. I should wear T-shirts and pants (more comfortable for moving around in).
2. Daily tasks:
*Watering the garden
*Checking if there are any insects on the backs of the leaves of the tomato
plant I planted
*Checking for lice on the leaves of the chrysanthemums and getting rid of any I find at once
3. I mustn't neglect my studies!
4. Besides all these, I should record what happens everyday in my diary . . . without fail.
I order myself to do all these things.
Dad: 41 years old. He's a bit impetuous, but sweet.
Mom: 40 years old. I respect her, but she's tough when she goes right to the heart of the matter.
Me: 14 years old. At the start of adolescence. A delicate age. A crybaby, in short. Emotion incarnate. Simple girl. Loses temper easily, but also laughs easily.
Ako: 13 years old. I have a sense of rivalry with her in terms of both study and personality. But these days she has me under pressure.
Hiroki: 12 years old. A tough customer. Formidable. He's younger than me, but he sometimes seems more like an elder brother. He's also Koro the dog's foster father.
Kentaro: 11 years old. He has a rich imagination but can be careless.
Rika: 2 months old. She has Mom's curly hair and Dad's face (her eyes in particular, the hands of the clocl pointing to eight twenty). Very cute!

Chapter 2
15 years Old (1977-78)
Illness Creeping Up

Signs of Something

Recently, I seem to be getting skinnier. I wonder if it's because I've been skipping meals to do all my homework and independent research? Even when I think of doing something I can't carry it out, and that gets me into trouble. I blame myself, but I can't make any progress. I'm just wasting energy. I want to put on a bit of weight. I'll try to take action starting tomorrow so that my plans won't be ruined.

It was drizzling. "I hate going to school holding an umbrella as well as carrying my heavy schoolbag and another bag." Just as I was thinking this, my knees suddenly seemed to collapse and I fell over on a narrow graveled road. I was only about 100 metres away from home.I banged my chin hard. I touched it gently and found my fingers were covered with blood. I picked up my bags and umbrella that were scattered on the road and retraced my steps back home.

"Have you forgotten something?" Mom called as she came out into the entrance hall. "You'd better hurry up or you'll be late! . . . Oh dear, what happened?"
All I did was cry. I couldn't say anything. Mom quickly wiped my blood face with a towel. There was some grit in the cut.
"I think this is a job for the doctor," said Mom. She quickly helped change out my wet clothes and firmly applied a plaster to the cut. Then we jumped into the car.

I had two stitches without any anesthesia. It was all a result of my clumsiness, so I tried to bear the pain with my teeth clenched. But, more important, I'm sorry, Mom-because of me you had to take a day off work.

Looking at my painful chin in the mirror, I wondered why I didn't put my arms forward to break my fall. Was it because my athletic ability is poor? I was pleased, however, that the cut was at the back of my chin. (If I had a scar in some more visible place, that future would be a closed book for me in terms of marriage.)

My physical education scores so far:
First grade at junior high-3
Second grade-2
Third grade-1

How disappointing! Lack of effort? I was hoping to gain a bit more strength with the circuit training during the summer holiday. But I failed. I didn't do it long enough. So I suppose it's not surprising. (Of course it isn't! = The mystery voice of my other self.)

This morning, the sunlight and a pleasant breeze were coming in through the yellow lace curtains on the kitchen window. I was crying.
"I wonder why it's only me that's so poor in athletic ability?"
In fact, we had a balance beam test today.
"But you're good at other subjects, so it's all right, isn't it?" Mom said, looking down. "In the future, you can make the most of your ability in your favorite subject. You're very good at English. So why don't you try and thoroughly master that? It's the international language, so I'm sure it'll be useful in the future. It doesn't matter if your score for PE is only 1 . . ."
I stopped crying. Mom made me realize that I still have some hope.

I'm becoming more and more weepy. And my body won't move the way I want it to. Am I getting a fluster because I'm lazy about doing my homework, which I could only finish if I spent five hours a day on it? No. Something inside my body seems to be going wrong.
I'm scared!
I have a feeling that tightens my heart.
I want to get more exercise.
I want to run with all my might.
I want to study.
I want to write neatly.

I think Paul Mauriat's Toccata is really nice. I've grown very fond of it. When I play it while I'm eating meals, the food tastes so good, it's like a dream.

Now, about Ako, one of my sisters. Up to now, I've only noticed the ill-natured of her character. But now I can see that she's actually very kind. Why do I think that? Well, I'm very slow when we walk to school in the morning, but she always stays with me. My brothers just walk on ahead and leave me behind. But when we were crossing a pedestrian bridge, Ako took my schoolbag off me and said, "Aya you'd better hold the handrail while you go up."

I'm pretty well out of the summer holiday mood now.
As I was going upstairs after clearing up the dinner things, Mom said, "Aya, can you come and sit down for a moment?" She looked very serious. I became tense, wondering what she was going to tell me off about.
"Aya," she said, "you seem to be walking with your upper body leaning forward and you're rolling to the right and left. Have you noticed that yourself? I've noticed you've been doing that for a while, and it's beginning to worry me. Shall we go to the hospital for a checkup?"
". . . Which hospital?" I asked after a pause.
"I'll find one that can give you a thorough examination. Leave it up to me. All right?"
My tears flowed nonstop. I really wanted to say, "Thank you, Mom. I'm sorry for causing you such anxiety." But I was stuck for words.

Since Mom has suggested I should go to a hospital, I've been wondering if there really is something wrong with me.
Is it because my athletic ability is so poor?
Is it because I stay up late?
Is it because I eat irregularly?
I couldn't help crying as I was asking myself those questions. I cried so much, my eyes hurt.
Seeing The Doctor
I go to the hospital in Nagoya with my mother. (Written by Aya in English).

We left at 9 a.m. Rika, my baby sister, wasn't feeling well, but she had to go to her nursery school anyway because I was going to the hospital . . . poor girl!

We arrived at Nagoya University Hospital at 11 a.m. We had to wait for about three hours. I tried to read a book, but I was feeling nervous. I couldn't concentrate as much as usual because I was feeling rather worried.
"I rang Professor Itsuro Sofue (now Director of Chubu National Hospital)," Mom said, "I'm sure you'll be all right."
But . . .
At last my name was called out. My heart was beating fast. Mom explained my problems to the doctor:
1. I fell over and cut my chin. (A normal person would put out their arms to break the fall, but my face hit the ground directly.)
2. The way I walk is unstable. (I can't bend my knees much.)
3. I've been losing weight
4. My movements are slow. (I've lost the ability to move quickly.)

Listening to her, I was amazed. Mom is always moving around so busily, but now I know that she's been observing me very carefully! She knew everything about me . . . That made me feel more secure. So, the things I've secretly been worried about have been conveyed to a doctor. My worries will be solved.

I sat on a round chair and looked at the doctor. He was wearing glasses. He had a gentle look and a warm smile, so I felt relieved. He asked me to close my eyes, stretch out both my hands and try to make my forefingers meet. Then I had to stand on one leg. Then I lay down on a bed and he stretched and bent my legs. He patted my knees with a hammer. I was totally under his thumb. Then the examination was over.
"Now let's take a CT scan," he said.
"Aya," said Mom, "it won't hurt you or anything. It's only a machine tat checks ur brain by cutting it in round slices."
"What! Cutting my brain in round slices?"
That's a very serious matter to the person being scanned! A big machine slowly came down from above. My head was completely covered. It was as if I was riding in space. A man in a white frock said, "Lie down still and don't move." I lay still just as I was told. Then I began to feel sleepy.

After the examination, we were kept waiting for a long time. Then we got some medicine and went home.
I have added one more order to my list:
I won't complain about taking medicine-even if it's enough to fill up my stomach-so long as it makes me better. Dr. Sofue at the prestigious Nagoya University Hospital, I beg you, please help to save the life of Aya, the budding beauty. You told me that I should only go and see you once a month because the hospital's far away and I have to go to school. Well, I'll definitely come and see you, and I will do whatever you tell me to do. So please make me better, I beg you!

Chapter 3
16 Years Old (1978-79)
The Start of Distress
The wheelchair
"Aya," said Mom, "we're going to buy you a vehicle!"
She started explaining slowly. "The corridor has a handrail, but it may be dangerous when you want to go across. From a stand position, you'll have to sit down, crawl across, and then stand up again. This may cause you some anxiety when you're in hurry. And you often all over when you're changing your position. You won't be able to go outside, either, even if you want to. But it would be different if you had an electric wheelchair. You could easily operate it despite the weakness of your arms, and you won't have any problems even on slopes. It can move at speed of 5 kilometres per hour - the same as walking. So there's no danger, and it's very easy to operate. I think it would be perfect for you. But that doesn't mean you should get lazy, you know. It's not good to start relying on a wheel chair. You'll have to try to move using your own efforts as well. You mustn't neglect that. Have you been training properly?"

I was so pleased with the thought that i could freely go out. My world suddenly seemed to get wider. I've always wanted to act at my own direction. Up to now at a bookstore, I've had to show someone a memo with the title of a book written on it and ask them to go and find it for me. Fancy being able to pick up any book with my own hands! It's like a dream.

Great! I'll master the operation of the wheel chair and go out in it before I enter the school for handicapped.

Two men from a car maker delivered my wheelchair. I watched them assemble it. The wheels are moved by a motor. It has two batteries installed next to each other down below the seat.
"Aya, you have a ride. All you have to do is hold this bar and move it in the direction you want to go."
I tried sitting in the wheelchair. I pushed the bar forward slightly and the wheelchair slowly moved forward. It only makes a slight wound when it moves and turns. I practiced hard, but after a while, the tears started to flow-that's my nature, and I hate it!
"What's the matter?" Mom asked.
"I'm just so happy because I can move around again freely after such a long time!" I answered. But I couldn't express my complicated feelings very well.
I'm determined to practice until I can to get a bookstore. When I looked out through window, it was raining.

I worked very hard, including wiping the kitchen floor and cleaning the toilet. I wanted to vent my energy on something. My study is making a little progress. (I smile in glee, finding that I still have the spirit to study.) Rika calls my wheelchair 'The Chair' and my father calls it 'The Car'. And that's what it is in Japanese-kurumaisu-'a car-chair'!

I still remember something that happened when I was in the first grade of high school. Rika was about to play around with some wheelchairs lined up the corridor of the hospital. Mom said to her, "You shouldn't play around with wheelchairs. It's an insult to those who can only get around but riding in one/

I read about the prisoners in the German concentration camp of Auschwitz in the book Man's Search for Meaning. The book's a record of their experiences. Somehow, as a disabled person, I empathize with them. My experience seems to resemble theirs in terms of gradually becoming numbed.
Friends of The Disabled
'Tanpopo no Kai' (The Dandelion Association) is a group of disabled people who got together somehow or other. They took me to a coffee shop called Baroque which has a harpsichord. When I said, "I'd like to come here again when it's being played," Yamaguchi-san smiled.

I dropped by Jun's house. She's deaf, but she actively communicates through sign language. Her facial expressions are very cute. I've learned a little sign language. I want to become better at it and become a close friend. Jun's mother gives an impression very similar to Mom's.
What I've Learned from My Friends
1. If I remain timid, thinking I'm disabled, I'll never be able to change myself!
2. Rather than seeking after what you've lost, improve what you've been left with.
3. Don't think you're smart or you'll only feel miserable.
Changing Schools, Life in A Dormitory
I arrived at the dormitory with a car full of household goods. The other students were also returning ready for the new term. The school has big rooms laid out like classrooms. Inside each one, there's an aisle running down the middle. It divides the room into left and right parts, on which there are tatami mats. Each student is provided with a cupboard and a fixed desk with a lamp. My new castle is the place nearest to the closet. Mom sorted out the things we'd taken to make my place comfortable.
"You won't need this yet," she said, "so I'll put it in the upper cabinet. But I'll put this near you because you often use it . . ."
The mothers of other students were also busily sorting things out. Nobody seemed interested in me. Whether that's good or bad . . .

"You should try and forget Higashi High School as soon as possible," Suzuki-sensei told me, "and become a student of Okayo (Aichi Prefectural Okazaki High School for the Physically Challenged.)"
So in order to 'forget as soon as possible', I removed my Higashi school badge and class badge and put the at the back of the drawer,

It's becoming really difficult now to move my legs forward. Holding desperately on to the handrail along the side of the corridor, I told myself "Don't be afraid, don't be afraid!" Tears came to my eyes as I thought, sadly, "I may perhaps . . . "

B-sensei's words flew over to me: "People are designed to be able to walk!"
I agree!
I empathize!
It's an unparalleled declaration of war!
"Climb Mt. Niitaka!" (the signal to start the attack on Pearl Harbor)

I fell over on the way to the classroom and started crying. A-sensei was just passing and assked me, "Are you sad?"
"I'm not sad," I replied, "just disappointed."
Why do people stand and walk on two legs? This is usually taken as a matter of course. The question came to me as I watched my friends walking briskly into the distance. Walking is really something . . .

I'm glad that I came here.
-Watching students playing baseball under the window . . .
-Watching students practicing sumo wrestling with the teachers . . .
But, getting accustomed to it is something else. I sometimes feel I'm in limbo. I've beun to accept the fact that I'm no longer a student of Higashi High. But I don't really feel that I'm a student of Okayo yet. If some stranger asked me, "Which school do you go to?", I wonder what I'd answer?
Emotional Turmoil
In the classroom, I said to A-sensei, "In my dream, when I stretched my back straight, I was able to walk briskly. You were pleased to see me doing that."
"Up to now," he said, "you've only had to think about your studies. But now you may be having a hard time with cleaning and other duties."
He then told me this:
"A child suffering from progressive muscular dystrophy wrote this poem:
God presented me with a handicap
Because He believed
I had the power to endure it
It somehow sounds like Hitler's words."
"Well," I replied, "I've actually had similar absurd thoughts, like 'I'm kind of mutation' or 'I'm only living here at the cost of many people.' And I've taken various viewpoints and thought many different things in order to comfort myself." After the rain, I could see a rainbow from the window. It formed a beautiful semicircle. I quickly climbed into my wheelchair to go outside.
"I envy someone who can ride in a wheelchair," said T-kun.
Hey, T-kun, I'll stick pins in your image!
I really wanted to say to him, "You're all right because you can walk." But I couldn't say it. The words might have ruined that beautiful rainbow.

Either Mom or Dad comes to collect me every Saturday. I stay at home overnight and then come back here on Sunday evening. I always have a fresh bruise somewhere on my body when I go home.
"Do you often fall over?" Mom asks me when she sees them.
"Well, because I'm so slow, I'm always pressed for time," I reply. "I ask the dormitory matron to wake me up at 4 a.m. and then I start studying. Otherwise I can't finish my daily duties . . . But the more I try to hurry, the stiffer my body gets, and I fall over."

With the motto "I must walk as much as I can!", I try not to use the wheelchair apart from when I go outside. But when I'm in a hurry or when I want to go to the library-which is located rather a long way away-=I use it to save time.

I'll accept commuting to school in the wheelchair! (To be honest, when I ride in it, I tend to think, 'I'm done for. I can't walk any more.' And that makes me feel more miserable.)

I met the matron in the corridor.
"Good morning," I said.
"Oh, Aya," she replied, "are you going in your wheelchair? It's comfy, isn't it?"

It was so frustrating to hear her say that. I had a chocking feeling and could hardly breathe.

What do you mean, 'comfy?' Do you think I like to ride in a wheelchair? No! What I want to do is walk. I'm very distressed that I can't walk. I suffer a lot from that fact! Do you think I ride in a wheelchair because I want to have an easy time?

I felt like pulling out my hair.

Mom's gray hairs are getting more conspicuous. Perhaps it's because my condition has taken a step backward.
Understanding The Disabled
Today we held a small Sports Day at school. The warm May sunshine felt so good. It was also Mother's Day and my younger sister's birthday. So it was a day for congratulations.

I rang Emi, my cousin who lives in Okazaki, to ask her to visit me. I wanted her to know how desperately I'm trying to live . . . Emi and I have been close since our childhood. We used to stay at each other's house during the summer or winter holidays and share the same futon. She looked so nice that nobody would have thought she was still a third grader at high school. She has big eyes with long eyelashes and she'd decorated her twisted hair with a gold hairpin. She was wearing a while blouse, a flared skirt, and red slip-on sandals with high heels. She came with Kaori, her younger sister, who is rather boyish and, in fact, is often mistaken for a boy.

There's a secret patch over clover in the corner of the playground. The three of us planted ourselves down and started to look for a four-leafed clover. I wanted to fine one as a present for Mom.
"I wonder if we can really find one?" Said Emi.
I replied what had been in my mind for some time. "A four-leafed clover is just a deformed version of a normal three-leafed one, right? Why should something deformed be lucky?"
Emi thought about this a little, and then said, "Because it's unique."
Perhaps she's right. It's not so easy to find happiness. I suppose that's why we feel happy and say "Good thing we tried to find one!" when someone eventually does.

I fell over this morning and hurt myself. It made me cry. I have to become much stronger. I don't know whether it was because I was in a hurry or just rushing. When I tried to move my legs forward, they wouldn't move, and so my body tumbled forward. I caught the handrail, but it didn't support me enough. Down I went with a thud.

When I was being carried on a stretcher along the corridor to the nurse's room, I caught a glimpse of the blue sky.
"Oh," I thought, "it's such a long time since I saw the blue sky lying on my back!"
And when I was lying on the bed in the nurse's room, I could see the sky through the windows again. The white clouds looked very beautiful as they drifted across the blue sky. Right, in the future, whenever I'm stuck, I'll look at the sky. In the Sukiyaki song, Kyu Sakamoto sang, "I look up as I walk along, so my tears won't fall . . ."
That's good, that's the spirit.

I slept well for about an hour. I felt much better, so I got up and went to the toilet (the Western-style one). In the toilet, it struck me that perhaps Auguste Rodin came up with the idea of creating The Thinker when he was sitting in a toilet.

I'm always defeated by the fact I move so slowly.

Yesterday, it was my turn to do library duty. I eventually got there after taking about 20 minutes using the corridor on the second floor. But there was nobody there. I was too late. Half crying, I borrowed Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton. I cried, even though I knew I could contact the dormitory using the interphone if I was shut in the library.

Today I got there at about 4 o'clock. The student on duty sent me away saying, "Please leave quickly! If you wanted to look for a book, you should have come earlier."

Resentment! I felt pitiful. I'm twice as slow as the others, so I don't have time to spare. It takes too much time to do ordinary things (e.g. washing). It's not a matter of lacking good ideas and intentions.

Today we went on an excursion to the zoo. I don't like zoos anymore.
-The sad face of an orangutan. (I've heard that orangutans are nervous animals that easily get neurotic.)
-A chimpanzee throwing stones.
-A pelican who can't even catch a fish
-A battered ostrich.
Looking at all those creatures I got tired and depressed.

I hate the duty roster system at the dormitory. But I suppose it can't be helped because without it group life couldn't operate . . . Because I'm slow, I'm always one or two steps behind everyone else for any activities we do together.

In order to cover up my slowness, I finished cleaning half the room before I went for the radio gymnastic exercises in the morning. But when I got back, the room leader suddenly said, "Aya, you can't clean the room, can you? So take care of the towels and disposal boxes in the toilet!" I was frustrated that I didn't argue back when she jumped to the conclusion that I couldn't do it.
'Forgive everything, bear the unbearable, endure the unendurable . . .' In some ways, the teachings of God distress me. It's that way of thinking that has made me weak.
If I could move my body faster, I'd have been happy to go and clean the toilet. But I couldn't clearly express my opinion. I left the room without saying anything (although I was thinking, "You rat!").

As soon as I went out, I felt bitter and I started crying., The matron was just passing and said, "Aya, you know you shouldn't cry while living in a community like this."
What can I do?

I went home. I cleaned the parakeet cage. When I was walking, I felt a slight pain in the inner side of my left hip joint. I sighed, thinking that now my important left leg is breaking down . . . I was horrified to see the unnatural movement of my left hand (the five fingers move individually when I open my hand or bend them). I also have a pain on the left side of my chest, in the joints of my arms, and in my right buttock. Perhaps I hit myself in the wrong place when I fell over. I should put a poultice on again.

My right leg and knee sting. Finally . . . In the bath, I stroke them, murmuring, "I banged my lower back and shoulders when I fell over. Poor body, damaged all over!"

From today, I'll try to walk for 10 minutes every day. Here I am challenging my self to see how far I can walk! At this rate, I won;t be able to maintain a human elevation of 1.2 meters (the height of my eyes when I'm standing) when I'm in the third grade of high school.

I asked one of the students to show me photos of the third grade school excursion. I wonder if I'll be able to join the excursion next year?

In order to understand that I'm a disabled person:
1. Giving up. I must know my limitations and admit that I have a physical handicap. I'll make an effort from that starting point
2. Forgetting my healthy past self. I can run in my dream. According to Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, I have an incredibly strong desire (that's only a matter of course).

Tomorrow's the day for our student dance performance. I'm still lacking full awareness of being disabled, so I've been trying to dance beautifully. Actually, I think that spirit is wrong. I've practiced hard, but it hasn't gone very well.
As I was coming back today, feeling wrecked, the wheelchair motor at a low speed began to sound as if it was suffering as well.
"Am I so heavy? I'm sorry. Keep at it!"
I felt responsible for my weight of 35 kilograms.

Am I in high spirits today? No way. I'm just doing my duties because it can't be helped. I went to take part in the radio gymnastic exercises, had a meal, did some washing, took out the rubbish, attended the roll call . . .
The matron said "It's busy in the morning, isn't it?"
I wished I could have answered calmly, "I'll be busy the whole life." But my face just froze.

I think it's only when people are walking that they can really think of themselves as being human. For example, a company presidents thinks about ways of making more money while walking back and forth in front of his desk. And maybe that's why lovers often talk about their future while walking along together?
Suzuki-sensei's eyes
Remind me of an elephant's eyes;
A guardian deity in India,
An elephant knows everything.
I love those gentle eyes.
I was in a daydream in the classroom. All by myself . . . I remember being told off by my teacher for running along the corridor and rattling my desk when I was at elementary school! I remember a boy having his bottom spanked for jumping out into corridor through the classroom windows. I couldn't do a practical joke like that. I only watched with a smile on my face. I should have done things like that while I could.

Jumping out through the window . . . No one was there. It was quiet. There was a windows and there I was.
"What the hell are you doing? That's dangerous."
The nurse's room had to help me again. A-sensei referred me as "a girl with self-injurious behavior." It was painful, but I had the satisfaction of going out through the window even if I had to crawl.
I won't do it again.

I was hoping that the movements of my body would get a bit better as it got warmer. But in fact they're getting worse. I was hoping to enter the hospital during the summer holiday to benefit again from some new medicine, so I went to see.

Cold words . . . I can't enter the hospital during summer holiday because they won't have any new medicine . . . I felt that I even medical science had given up on me! It was like being pushed off a cliff. Now I'm filled with a sense of despair. It's as though I've been hit on the back of the head with a hammer…
Chapter 4
17 Years Old (1979-80) -
"I can't even sing anymore . . ."

For my birthday, Mom and Dad gave me five lovely notebooks and letter sets. Ako gave me a sand-glass. Hiroki gave me a blod-tipped ballpoint pen with four colors. He said I shouldn't cry any more that I'm 17. Kentaro gave me a book titled Shiroi hito, Kiiroi hito (White People, Yellow People) written by Shusaku Endo.
My Wishes on Becoming 17 Years Old
I want to go to a bookstore and a record shot. It's difficult even in my wheelchair. I can't move my hands the way I want to, and I often make mistakes operating it.
If I could go to a bookstore, I'd buy Gone with the Wind and Anya Koro (A Dark Knight's Passing) by Naoya Shiga.
If I could go to a record shop, I'd buy an LP of Paul Mauriat's music.
I tumbled in the bathroom. I couldn't stay balanced on tiptoe (I may no longer be able to do that) and I fell down on my bottom with a thud. I wasn't hurt but I was scared. Yes, I'm scared.

I wonder if my disease can heal naturally? I'm now 17. I wonder how many more years I'll have to fight against it until God forgives me . . . I can't imagine myself at the same age as Mom is now (42). I couldn't imagine becoming a second grader at Higashi High, and now I'm afraid I may not be able to live till I'm 42. But I want to still be alive at that age!
I felt so happy thinking about going home for my first summer holiday from this school that I couldn't get to sleep. I'm sorry I can't enter the hospital again because they can't get any new medicine. But I think my new medicine in the future will be in tablet form rather than injections. I was told that they're making an effort to produce it, so all I can do is give up and wait.

Just before lunchtime, an old man came to the house.
"I'm from Heiankaku Wedding Hall," he said. "Can I talk to your mother?"
"My mother and father are both out," replied my brother.
Five minutes later, we had a second visitor, a small middle-aged woman.
"I'm from Heiankaku . . ."
"Oh, your colleague came a few times ago," I shouted from upstairs.
"Is that your grandmother?" asked the woman.
My brother, who was at the door, burst out laughing.
"She spoke very slowly," the woman said, "so I assumed she was . . ."
Give me a break! Am I a 17 year-old grandmother . . .?
At dinner, my sister told mom about this episode. I felt so miserable. It annoys me so much to be told I have a disability. It's clear I haven't really admitted yet that I'm disabled.

I helped Mom prepare dinner.
She said to me, "Could you mix the Chinese chives and meat to make some gyoza dumplings?"
Ugh! Making gyoza dumplings? Involuntarily, I made a face. (I hate gyoza.) Still, it was all right, because the main course was chirashi zushi (a kind of sushi with the ingredients chopped and scattered over a bed of vinegared rice) . . .

As I was breaking four eggs and putting them in the pan to make some scrambled eggs, I suddenly thought about I-sensei. When she wanted to cook some rice in the morning, she would wake up and switch on the rice cooker instead of using the timer. I admired her because she didn't rely on machines. When we were making breakfast at school camp, she noticed I was coughing (I'd choked on some tea). She came over and stroked my back. She was a very gentle teacher . . .

When I was cooling the rice for the sushi using an electric fan, I put the pot between my legs and got burn marks about two centimetres long inside both thighs. I thought they looked rather beautiful-a slightly reddish color.

The members of Tanpopo no Kai (the group of handicapped people) work during the day and then get together in the evening to produce a mimeographed copy of their magazine called Chikasui (Underground Water). When I rang the group and told them I was staying at home for summer holiday, they invited me to join them.
"Mom is it only bad girls who go out in the evening?"
"Well, I suppose it's all right as long as you're with good people," she replied. "But isn't it a bit dangerous to go out in the dark?"
At 8, Yamaguchi-san arrived in a car to pick me up.

Before I went out, I said to Dad "I'll be back soon."
He was lying on the sofa in the Japanese room watching television. He had had a drink with his dinner and his face was rather red. "Aya," he replied, "I'm rather worried about you going out in the evening. In the future I think you should only go out in the daytime."

I was so pleased to hear him say that. Actually it was a bit of surprise to hear advice from Dad. He doesn't usually interfere with his children. He puts on airs, but he's really a shy person. I prefer him when he's a bit drunk to he's sober.
Falling Over
In the past, when I wanted to hurry, I could. Now, even if I want to hurry, I can't. I'm afraid that in the future I may even lost all sense of hurry. Oh God, why did you give me this burden? No, I suppose everyone has some kind of burden. But why is it only me that has to be miserable?

The way I fell over today was really pathetic. When I take a bath, either Mom or Ako helps me take off my clothes in the changing room outside the bathroom. They run some hot water on the floor of the bathroom to warm it for me. Then I crawl across the tiles to get to the bathtub. Today, when I was trying to grab the edge of the bathtub so that I could get into a half-sitting posture, I fell on my bottom. I was unlucky because there was a plastic soap dish right under me. It broke into pieces and fragments got stuck in my buttocks. I cried out in a loud voice.
"What happened?" Cried Mom as she flew into the bathroom.

She was very surprised to see a red river of blood mixed with the hot water. She placed a towel firmly on my bottom and then poured a lot of hot water over the parts of me that were still dry. Then Mom and Ako held me. They quickly dried off my body and got me into my pajamas. Then Mom covered all the cuts on my buttocks with gauze patches.
"With cuts like that," she said, "I think we'd better go to the hospital."
It turned out to be a serious matter. I had to have two stitches at the hospital and didn't get back home till around 9 o'clock. I was so tired.

It was a sudden accident, but I realize what was happening at the time. There was no real reason for me to stumble and fall over, or for my hands to slip. I wonder why a nerve can stop functioning momentarily? I felt sorry toward Mom for what I'd done.

While Mom was busy sorting out my many types of medicine to divide them into doses, I just lay in bed. I had a slight stomachache.
But whatever your excuse was, Aya, your attitude was wrong.

Partly because I was tortured by many conscience, I felt like reading Okasan 2 (Mother 2), a collection of poems by Hachiro Sato. My hand reached out toward the bookshelf.
Asking My Self Some Questions
The summer holiday will soon be over. The only thing I've completed successfully during the holiday was looking after the parakeets. They come out on to my hands or shoulders and wait while their cage is cleaned. I give them some new water and feed, Then I put them back through the small door into the cage one by one. They;re so cute, They sometimes peck me, but it's not painful. I'm sure they're saying "Thank you"and I say, "You're welcome. I'm happy as long as you are happy." The whole thing takes about an hour as I talk to them. I get sweaty doing it, because I have to close all the windows so that they can't fly away . . .
Self-Reflection (Q&A)
"Aya, why don't you study much?"
-"I don't know"
"Don't you feel sorry for your parents who work so hard?"
-"Yes, I do. But I can't study"
"You're spoiled, yo know! Look at the outside world. There are many people out there who are trying very hard on their own. In fact, one year ago, you were . . ."
-"Don't say any more! After Motoko-sensei told me that life is not all study, I began getting lost."

So, after all, I have to face the end of the summer holiday without having done anything much at all. I'm scared about starting the new term!

I'm the one who's most aware of the changes (for the worse) in my condition. However, I don;t know if they;re getting only temporary or they mean I'm gradually getting worse.
I explained the changes to Dr. Yamamoto:
1. The movement of my hip joints is bad. They still move back and forth to a certain extent, but they will hardly open to the left or right. (I can't move my legs like a crab). And because my Achilles tendon is hard, it interferes with my efforts to move my legs forward.
2. It's getting difficult for me to pronounce the ba and ma columns of the kana syllabary.
Dr. Yamamoto encouraged me by saying that these things will get better, depending on how much I practice. She added that she;d give me some white tables to help soften my tendons.
I wanted to ask th truth about my disease, but of course I'm scared to know. I don't have to know that. It'll be all right as long as I can live know as well as I can.

"Aya," said Mom in a spirited way as we were going home in the car, "you changed to Okayo because you couldn't continue your life at Higashi High School. You're quite a serious case even there. You may be feeling you're not accepted at Okayo, either, and gradually start shrinking with fear. But don't worry. You received the gift of life. And you'll always have a place to live. If you have to spend your life at home, we'll refurbish your room for you so that it's nice and warm and bright with lots of sunshine."
I think Mom wanted to cheer me up because I was looking so miserable.
"It's not like that, Mom, I'm only thinking about how I should live today. I'm not looking for an easy place to live."
That's what I was shouting in my heart.

I went to the washroom to wash my crying face and looked at myself in the mirror.
"What a lifeless face I have!"
I remember saying to my sister in a cool kind of way that I could find some charm in my face even though it was ugly. But I couldn't say that with the face I have now.The few facial expressions I have left include crying, grinning, a serious look, and a sulky face. I can't keep up a vivid and bright expression even for an hour.

I can't even sing any more. The muscles around my mouth have a kind of tic. And because of the decrease in the strength of my abdominal muscles, I can only whisper like a mosquito.

I've been talking the white tables every day for one week now. My talking tempo has speeded up a bit and it's become easier to swallow food. The tension in my right leg has been eased slightly. However, I still have difficulty moving my legs forward and they're still painful.
Autumnal Events
The School Festival
Mom and my sisters came. Mom said she was in tears watching I-sensei dance on the stage.
"How come?" I asked.

"Maybe it was because she looked like she was trying so hard. At an ordinary high school, only the students perform, don't they? I was moved by a teacher performing earnestly together with the students. I think that's why my tears welled up. And there was also that boy who played monkey and walked around like someone suffering from cerebral palsy. But in fact he can't help but walk like that. Maybe because it was a perfect role for him ,everyone laughed. That made me cry even more."
It struck me then that I inherited my crybaby side from Mom.
"But Mom," I replied, "around April, when I saw S-chan falling over and laughing, I thought she was superhuman. I wondered if I could ever become that strong. But these days even I can laugh when I fall over. I think everyone laughed when they saw that boy's monkey costume rather than that at the way he walked.
The Undokai Athletic Meet
I never imagined a school for the handicapped would have an athletic meet. I was wondering how the students could possibly all parade around if they couldn't walk . . . (I totally forgot that some people can walk, and there are also wheelchairs.) There was a real sense of fulfillment in completing something by helping and cooperating with each other and by contributing things that were lacking.

The students in serious condition produced a creative dance performance themselves. When it was time for the autumn leaves to fall, stupid me got the wrong group and dropped them! However, I was dancing as hard as I could, just like a butterfly (at least in my heart . . .)

Because we were all serious cases, I thought it would be impossible to present a beautiful performance. But I was surprised when I watched the video in the library. What a beautiful show we put on! We can do it if we try.

One strong impression that remains was glancing up and seeing the fresh blue of the sky while I was dancing.

I think the biggest difference between this and the athletic meet I had at Higashi High is that I have changed from being an outsider to being someone who's involved. And I've changed my mind: now I realize that if I try hard enough I can do some of the things I thought I could never possibly do because of my serious condition.

The teachers encouraged me. They said things like, "Aya, you can do it if you try! The performance will be great," and "The dance warmed up thanks to you dropping the leaves!"

Dr. Yamamoto said a similar thing: "Little Aya, I think something in your mind has started changing because you're now aware that you're someone who's involved."

Suzuki-sensei came back from his long-term study and training course. He told me what he had studied while staying with children who have severe physical handicaps.
"Some are 10 years old, but their mental age is still the same as a one-year-old baby, so they won't respond to anything. They'll put anything in their mouth, even a stone or a lump of mud . . . Looking at those children, I realized there must be some kind of guidance suitable for babies. The point is we have to make endless efforts and have good techniques to give the appropriate guidance to each individual. Everyone's trying hard-those with a severe physical handicap, the teachers who guide them, and you and me, Aya. So, let's keep at it, shall we?"

Listening to his words, I felt rather ashamed and ungrateful. Up to now, I thought that I wouldn't be in so much pain if my intelligence's proportion to the inconvenience of my body . . .

When I was an elementary school student, I wanted to become a doctor. When I was a junior high school student, I thought of going to a university with a welfare faculty. Then when I was a student at Higashi High, I started thinking it would be nice to go on to a literature faculty. But even though I have changed my mind a lot, I have consistently had the feeling that I want to do some kind of work that is useful to other people.

I don't have any specific goals right now, but I wonder if I could provide meals or something like that for children who can't move? I'd like to help them understand the warmth of people by holding their hands. I wonder if I can at least be some use to someone?

A long time ago, Atchan said to me, "It might have been better if I wasn't born." I was so amazed to hear that. It was a comforting surprise because it blew away all the disgusting things that were deposited at the bottom of my heart along with many sighs. I had thought the same thing many times. But knowing that a child who can't even move doesn't have the chance to think that, I couldn't help feeling really sorry.

I can no longer return to my past. My mind and body are exhausted like a piece of old cotton cloth. Please help me, teachers!

I was tired out from crying, but I managed to answer a calculation table for commercial bookkeeping. My answer matched perfectly! I'm so happy. But it took me well over 55 minutes-that's not so good.
The Year End
I wrote my New Year's cards. I only knew a few of the postal codes-including 440 (for Toyohashi City) and two or three others. I came across various codes this year, partly because I got to know my teachers and friends at Tokayo. Japan is a huge country.

Everyone's busy doing the year-end cleaning, rice-cake making and shopping. What should I do?
"Aya, you're in good condition, aren't you?" Said Mom.
"Can you wipe the floor?"
Mom squeezed the wet rags for me and then placed them on the floor a certain distance apart.

I'm losing my excitement about the New Year. Why can't I feel refreshed and think about some New Year's resolutions? I cried out loud, feeling that I've gotten stuck somehow. My stock keeps falling.

A teacher at Higashi High once said, "What's important for solving a problem about modern Japanese is to grasp what the question is asking and follow it with an open mind. To become open-minded, you shouldn't have any preconceptions. For that purpose, you must read a lot of books. The more you read, the less you will have preconceptions."

Yes, I will read a lot of books and associate with the many characters in them. I've just realized that consideration for others and their feelings is also fostered through reading. From time to time, I stop talking when I decide I can't be understood however much I try. Too many times I've regretted that later, thinking that I should have done something different. That's why I keep getting depressed.

I decided to write my first calligraphy of the year. I took out a new thin writing brush and rubbed down an ink stick. It's difficult to do calligraphy without a model. Life without a mode is even more difficult.

After practicing for a while, I wrote a good copy: the character sunao (meek).
A Speech Disorder
I'm having difficulty pronouncing the ma, wa and ba columns of the kana syllabary, and also the syllable n. During the chemistry class, I was called on to reply. I knew the answer was mainasu (minus) but I couldn't pronounce it. My mouth can form the correct shape, but I can't utter a sound. Only air comes out. That's why I can't make my self understood.

These days, I often talk to myself. Up to now, I didn't like doing that because I thought it made me sound stupid, but I think I'll try more now. It's good for practice for my mouth. Whether there's anyone else there or not, I'm speaking . . .

I thought of running as a candidate for the position of Secretary of the Student Council. I entered the same race when I was in the fifth grade at elementary school. There'll be a public debate between the candidates, so I must do some speech training. Ah, there are so many things to do, including training and studying. I'm up to my neck in it. Good grief!

I remember having a big fight with one of my classmates during those elementary school days. One day, I went for a walk to the square with my dog Kuma. My classmate was there with her elder brother and their dog. The fight started because she set her dog on Kuma.
"Why did you do that?" I asked her.
"Because my brother told me to do it," she replied.
I got really mad and said, "So would you commit murder without a second thought if your brother told you to do it? He isn't always right, is he?" (It's the kind of logic I learned from Mom.)

But she wouldn't stop her dog. Then a big fight between us humans broke out. It was so fierce! It was so intense! I didn't stop even when my head was pushed into a ditch. My younger brother and sister backed me up.

Yes, with such power and such a sense of justice, Aya should definitely run for a position on the Student Council.

My speech disorder is becoming more conspicuous. When it comes to conversation, both parties now need lots of time and patience. I can't say, "Er, excuse me . . ." while trying to pass someone. I can't have a proper conversation unless both the person I'm trying to talk to and I prepare ourselves for listening and talking. I can't even express moments of pleasure by saying things like "The sky is beautiful. The clouds look like ice cream."
I get very frustrated.
I get annoyed.
I feel miserable.
I feel sad.
And, in the end, tears fall from my eyes.
One of the teachers stopped me today and said, "Aya, are you feeling frustrated?"
I went speechless. I suppose they must have concluded that from my questions, my essays, my drawings, etc. But damn it! How could they dismiss what's inside my heart simply as frustration?

From having a healthy body, I've turned into a disabled person and my life has greatly changed because of that. What's more, my disease is still advancing. Now I'm fighting against my self. I can't have any sense of satisfaction while I'm fighting. As I go through all this worrying I know everything won't be solved by asking someone to listen to me, but I just want them to try and understand how I feel, and support me, even if only a little. That's why I consult Suzuki-sensei, showing him my notebook that includes all my thoughts and worries. other teachers tell me that I should try to digest them inside my self. But I can't stand or even move because the load on my shoulders is too heavy.

"Do I look like a girl representing Frustration Incarnate?" I asked Mom.
"Everyone suffers from frustration," she answered. "It's better to be brave and say whatever you think on the spot. If you worry too much later about what was said to you, or the things that you did, they'll think you're always concerned about something/"
I know I don't respond quickly. I sometimes don't even admit to my self that I'm disabled. I'm in the depths of despair. But, strangely, I don't feel like dying, because I feel a time of fun will come some day in the future . . .

Jesus Christ said that living in this world is a divine test. Did he mean that while you're leaving you should be looking at yourself after death . . . ? I must read the Bible.
I can no longer use chopsticks very well. My right thumb doesn't stretch enough and the other fingers get stiff and won't move, so I can't hold things between my chopsticks. The way I eat now has evolved naturally. I've mastered my own way of eating.

The menu for this evening included rice, fried prawns, macaroni salad and soup. first of all, I threw the macaroni salad on to the rice. I do that with all the fine, small stuff. I can manage to hold a fried prawn because it's big, but I'm not particularly good with noodles (although I love udon).

I have to be careful about swallowing. I often choke, so i have to transport the food with good timing, move my mouht in a certain rhythm, hold my breath, and then swallow.

Chika, my classmate, can't use her left hand well, so she brings her mouth close to the container to eat. Teru-chan puts everything, such as the rice, the side dishes, and the ingredients of the miso soup on to her plate to eat them. I'm somewhere in between them. I can use my left hand, so I can hold a bowl. That means I can pretend to look like an ordinary person.

A long time ago, I read a book written by Kenji Suzuki, the TV announcer. In it he said that when two handicapped persons meet an 'arranged marriage' meeting, the first thing they should do is reveal their weaknesses. Is my way of eating a weakness?
"Am I conspicuous because I'm so slow?" I asked the head matron.
"Rather than saying that," she answered, "I feel sorry for you."
It was a rather shocking remark.
I feel sorry that again at Okayo I have to have other people doing everything for me. Handicapped people are classified into two categories: serious cases and light cases. I'm classified as a serious case.
Congratulations to Ako and Hiroki for graduating from junior high school. Now you have to face the high school entrance exams. Good luck!

Feeling like going out into the fields
To pick the fertile horsetail shoots.

The spring rain silently drizzles down.

This spring brings only loneliness.

I'm really concerned about my future. I've already turned my back on my life without being aware of it. What's happened to my hopes for the future? I can no longer think seriously about what I want to be in the future. Let it be. The waves of my fate have washed me away. I don't even know what kind of occupations left for me.
"There'll be another year," says Mom.
"I only have one year," I think.
I don't knowhow to bridge this gap in our way of thinking anymore.

The students who come to school every day from Aoi Tori Gakuen Medical Welfare Center - and those who have been living in the dormitory since they were young - are different to me. They don't have any hesitations and they seem to live their lives very smoothly.
"We don't mind a cheat, but at least be punctual!"
Because I'm always slow and late, R-sensei and the head matron tell me the same thing. But take the cleaning, for example: I'm slow, but I still want to do the cleaning properly. I can't cheat like that . . .

Matron I is very kind. She envelops me in a mother-like love. I like her very much because she makes me feel relaxed. She says she can't sleep well at night, so I think I'll give her a stuffed animal. Matron Y is the one who always hurries me along, repeating that I'm slow. But she watched me quietly the other day for about 10 minutes when I was crossing the 3-meter-wide corridor at the dormitory. Their kindness differs in quality.

I overheard mom talking to one of the matrons:
"I'll Aya with me when I die."
I didn't know she was thinking that deeply. I realized that was a mother's love.

I forgot to push button to start charging the Machine (my electric wheelchair), so it ceased to be a machine. I was in trouble. I pushed it up the slope with all my energy. I had a pain around my lower back. I took a brief break on the connecting corridor on the second floor. I could see something small moving on the hillside when I looked down at the ground. It was a puppy. It looked lonely.

Just then a teacher passed by. "Ah, dogs like nice scenery, too!"

It struck me then that the feelings you have toward something that doesn't speak vary depending on the person or your mood at that time.

What should I do after graduation? In the past two years, my disease has become much worse. mom says I should concentrate on getting thorough treatment by consulting Dr. Yamamoto. It's no longer a matter of whether I can motivate myself or not. It's not a time for expecting encouragement, either. I just have to carry on.

I put my feet under the kotatsu heated table and ate some snacks. Ako had left for me. "Keep it up, Aya!" she said to me.

Recently I've been feeling something strange. Sometimes my vision gets blurry and my brain starts to reel. The shape of my right foot has also changed. The joint of my big toe is protruding and the other toes are kind of flat. I feel disgusted thinking that this is my foot. Now I'm 149 centimeters tall and weigh 36 kilograms. I hope my foot won;t lose the strength to support my body.
Do you hear me, ugly foot?
"I'm getting worse and I can't walk any more," I said to matron G when she was helping me charge my wheel-chair. "There was a time when my disease was at a mild stage and I could walk. In that state, I could have taken care of the others at the dormitory. But I came here after I'd become quite helpless, and now other people have to help me. I really feel sorry about that . . ."

Toward the end, it was difficult to get the words out properly, but I managed not to cry.

Mom was crying.
"It was your fate that you got ill, and it was also our fate as parents to have a child like you. Aya, I'm sure you are having a hard time, but we're having an even harder time. So don't get sloppy about trivial things. You must live strongly!"

When I was going back to the dormitory to change my clothes and get ready for the PE lesson, some phlegm got stuck in my throat. I almost choked to death. I can't get any abdominal pressure and I don;t have much lung capacity, so I couldn't get rid of it. It was very painful. I definitely feel I'll die one day because of some trifling little thing like that.
A Third Grade High School Student
Thinking that my boarding school life will soon be coming to an end, I poked my nose into the Executive Committee to excess this year. I also worked hard for the Christmas party, eager to entertain everyone. I was so busy. But I was satisfied with myself this year because I did various activities for the sake of other people.
"I won;t let little things defeat me," said Mom, "so, Aya, you, too, will have to hang on for a prolonged war."
I was ashamed of myself for only thinking of the present. Spring will soon be over, As I put my hand out of the car window to catch the flower petals fluttering around, I could feel Mom's deep love. That gave me some peace of mind.
I'm more scared when I get up in the morning than when I go to sleep on my own. It takes me about an hour to fold up my futon and put on my uniform, another half an hour to go to the toilet, and then 40 minutes to eat breakfast. When my body isn't moving smoothly, it takes even longer. I don't even have time to look up at someone's face and say, 'Good morning.' I tend to look down all the time. This morning, I fell over again and got a nasty bang on my chin. I checked to see if it was bleeding. It wasn't, so I felt relieved. But I know that in several days I'l start feeling some pain, with bruises on my shoulders and arms.
I lost my center of balance in the bathtub and sank down bubbling into the water. Strangely, I didn't feel I might die. However, I saw a transparent world. I guess Heaven is like that . . .
I put my hand on my chest.
I can feel my heart beating.
My heart is working.
I'm pleased. I'm still alive!
The gums above my right front teeth are swollen. The nerves have died agian.
I went with the disabled group on an overnight trip. Many volunteers came along to look after us. Like a three-year-old infant in the rebellious phase, I had to keep saying, "I can do this by myselfm so I'll do it!" That stung my conscience. Etsuyo eats her food lying down. A girl who was passying by looked at her with a funny expression on her face. I'm glad I can eat sitting up. I began to think that we disabled people are all the same really, although our disabilities take different forms.
Rika, my four-year-old sister, was with us. She said a cruel thing:
"You aren't beautiful, Aya, you know, because you wobble."
I spouted out my tea involuntarily when I heard that. Young children are cruel because they say things in a straightforward way without considering whether someone may be hurt by what they say.
The School Excursion
I was thinking it would be very difficult for me to go on the school excursion. But it seems I can go after all. Mom will come with me and Dad will look after the house.
A Record of My Impressions
Pigeons and me: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

"Po-po-po" and "Kuru-kuru" the pigeons were cooing. At first they didn't come close to me (I think they were afraid of the wheelchair.) But when I held out some bird food, they came and perched on my shoulders, my arms, and my head. It struck me that both the pigeons and the people who dropped the bomb were very calculating types.

I went round the Peace Memorial Museum a few minutes ago. It was dark inside. Only the exhibits are brightly lit, so it's filled with a weird and heave kind of atmosphere. There's a model on display showing the time of the bombing. A mother and a child in tattered clothes were escaping from something holding hands. All around them was red with fire. It was the same color as the blood plasmawhich oozes out after I fall over and cute myself.

"It's revolting!" Mom muttered behind me. She turned her face aside and said, "I shouldn't say that, should I? I should say 'I feel sorry for them,' because they didn't want to be like that."

I didn't think it was revolting. That was not everything about the bombing. That was not everything about the war. A simple child like me, who doesn't know anything about war, was pretending to be tough like that.

On display were the cranes folded by Sadako, who died of A-bomb sickness. They were made using a kind of transparent red wax paper.

I don't want to die! I want to live!
I felt as if I could hear Sadako's cries. But, what kind of disease is A-bomb sickness? There are people who still suffer from it after 35 years, so is it hereditary disease? I asked Mom, but she didn't know exactly.

There was a stuffed horse with keloids, tiles burned by heat rays, 1.8 litre sake bottles melted into limp shapes, some scorched black rice in an aluminum lunchbox, battered clothes people wore during the War, etc.

The reality of it all puts a merciless pressure on you. We didn't experience the War. But we can't turn away and pretend we don't know anything about it. Whether we like it or not, we have to admit that many people were killed by the bombing in Hiroshima, Japan. I think the best memorial for those who died is to vow that we will never let such a tragedy happen again.

After a while, I realized there were some elementary school children from Hiroshima inside the Museum. There were looking at the exhibits and me in my wheelchair with the same expression, as if they were looking at something horrible. I thought I shouldn't be concerned about other people's eyes.
"Perhaps a wheelchair and a wheelchair rider are unusual things to them."
Thinking like that, I could concentrate on the exhibits.

Suzuki-sensei callewd us and we went downstairs. I felt relieved to escape from the uncomfortable eyes and the heavy atmosphere.

Outside it had started drizzling. Mom tried to put a raincoat on me as I sat in my wheelchair. I tried to stop her, saying, "That's not cool." But nobody was saying anything, so I reluctantly did what she said. She placed a towel on my head as well.

The fresh greenery in the park was nice. The trees were all wet from the rain. They were shining under the cloudy sky. The fresh yellow-green leaves of the camphor trees looked beautiful against their black trunks. I wanted to sketch them.

We went deeper into the green trees and came to the Peace Bell. The rounded roof supported by four pillars represents the Universe. The dying lotus leaves in the pond surrounding the bell also seem to have a history.
"Anyone who wants to ring the bell, come over here," said one of the teachers.
I glanced over. Terada-san and Kasuya-kun rang it.

DONG . . . DONG . . .

The sound faded away into the distance with a lingering resonance.
"I'm listening to the sound of this bell wishing for 'peace' so I should do whatever I can, even though I won't ring the bell."
Thinking like that I closed my eyes and prayed.

Because of the rain, the water in the Ohta River was the color of earth. After the bomb was dropped, it was filled with wounded people. They were crying, "It's so hot, so hot!" Imagining the scene in my head was scarier than looking at the exhibits in the museum.

The pigeons came and perched on my shoulders and arms one after another. Their feet were soft and warm. They flocked around me pecking at the feed I was holding. There were loads of them. They're feral pigeons, so they're not particularly beautiful. I found one with bad legs. It was walking even though it was disabled one. I obstinately tried to feed only the disabled one. But I couldn't do it very well. There are so many pigeons in the park, I suppose it's only seriously disabled and couldn't walk, like me, perhaps it couldn't live. It struck me that I should be grateful that I was born as a person and can therefore stay alive.

Am I wishing for 'peace' because I'm person who can only live in a 'peaceful' world? That's a rather shameful wish.

After a while, I also felt like giving a piece of bird food to the other pigeons, not just to the one with bad legs. As I looked at the pigeons with their tottering steps picking up the feed, I thought about the sense of 'welfare' that we have in our human world.
Chapter 5
18 Years Old (1980-81)
Having Understood The Truth

I had rather a big shock today. Here's the conversation I had with four-year-old Rika:
"Aya, I want to be wobbly like you."
"But then you couldn't walk or run, and you'd find it boring," I replied, as cool as a cucumber. "We've had enough of this problem with me."
"All right,I don't want it, then," she said immediately.
This happened in the entrance hall. Mom was some-where in the house. I wonder what she thought when she overheard us?

Final High School Summer Holiday
I took a bath in the morning (to make my body more supple). Mom was busily moving around saying how hot it was. I felt sorry for her because I didn't feel hot at all, so I worked on math calculations until I was sweating.

After lunch, I got a toothache. I took advantage of being at home to cry.
"How old are you?" Said my brother. That's a favorite remark of his. He put some ice in a plastic bag for me. That cooled my cheek and I slept for two hours feeling comfortable.

When Mom came home, she applied some Shin Konjisui painkiller to my tooth. Then I played gomoku with my brother. He beat me, 8 games to 2. Ako comes home late because of her part-time work. At my request, we had cold tofu and sashimi for dinner.

In the evening, I fell down again. As I was standing up to switch off the bedroom light, I fell down . . . SLAP-BANG. I made a terrible noise and Mom came flying in.
"What happened? Aya, you have to use your brain and build on the things you've learned up to now. If you keep falling down like this, I won't even be able to go out to work with an easy mind."
As she was saying this, she attatched a long string to the chain hanging from the light. I must be more careful about what I do late at night.

I cleaned my room enthusiastically, thinking "Today's the day!" I was moving around on my knees, so the vacuum cleaner didn't suck up the dust very well. But I worked desperately at it. I felt so good afterwards.

Keiko came to visit me.
Like Aquatic plants
Floating on a pond,
Talking with my friend,
Just looking at each other,
About our innermost feelings.
My friend with her sparkling eyes
Tells me about her dreams.

Keiko talked a long about her future dreams. I felt this was how we would become adults.

Tomorrow's the day for me to enter the hospital again.
Second Hospital Stay
(Nagoya Health University Hospital)
This time, the main tasks will be checking the progress of my disease, having injections of a new medicine, and undergoing rehabilitation. The difference from the previous stay is that I've been asked not to go out alone (because of the danger of falling down).
When I went to the toilet, I glanced outside over the window-sill. I felt depressed when I saw the gray walls and black buildings.
"Why do you look so tired?" asked the nurse who was accompanying me.
My nystagmus (involuntary movement of the eyeballs to left and right) is becoming more conspicuous these days. I had an eye check in the room for brain wave tests. The doctor there has a bad leg, too. It struck me that I could work if only I had at least one part of my body that functioned properly.
"Why are you putting that cream on?" I asked.
"Because you're having checkup," the doctor replied.
That answer struck me as a bit off the mark. I wonder if he responds like that to ordinary people? Perhaps I look stupid because I have both a physical handicap and a speech disorder.
Dr. Yamamoto took me to Nagoya University Hospital in her car to carry out further tests. If I suddenly look right gazing forward, the red ball I can see
gets blurred, divided into two parts. This time I tried looking left all of a sudden. The degree of blur was less on the left. As I thought, the disorder of my right motor nerves is progressing more. In the car, I told Dr. Yamamoto that after the injection I don't feel sick like I used to and I was wondering if that meant the new medicine was no longer working on me. I also told her that although my Achilles tendon seemed to have softened, my speech disorder was getting worse.
"As for the speech disorder," she sad, "the best thing is to finish saying what you want to right up to the end, even though you may find it difficult to pronounce all the words. Ideally, people will get accustomed the way you speak."
1. Using a pair of crutches. (I almost fell over because I haven't got much strenght in my right hand).
2. Practicing standing up from a chair.
3. Though I was told I wouldn't be able to walk unless I could kneel, I felt dizzy and couldn't do it well.
4. Handiwork: knitting, making things, etc.
The 20th day in hospital. I had the second round of tests on my functions.
”There are no big changes," they told me.
I was shocked!
"But you haven't gotten any worse," they added.
That's no good! I have to get better-even if only a little.
I went to the Rehabilitation Room. There were many physically handicapped adults in there, but not many children. There was a man who wasparalyzed on one side as a result of a stroke. As he watched me gritting my teeth as I tried to kneel on a mat, he was wiping his tears away. With my eyes, I told him, "Look, I really can't afford to cry now. I'm in so much pain, I want to cry, but I'll save that until I can walk. You should keep at it too, OK?"
I feel uneasy and anxious about how much effort I'll have to make in order to be able to walk. When I returned to my room, I held some knitting needles-though rather than saying 'held', it would be more accurate to say 'grabbed.' Once I've grabbed them, I can't let them go again; my body gets stiff and I can't open my hand or clench my fist. It takes me up to 30 minutes to knit just one row.
I think I'll practice the kindergarten song Musunde, hiraite (Clench your fists, open them . . .), keeping it secret from the other patients in my room.
Ehenever the hospital director or the doctor in charge comes round, a lot of young interns follow them. Their conversation makes me feel sad:
Item 1. The computer route inside my cerebellum is broken, so the movements which ordinary people can do involuntarily are only possible after the instructions have been fed back once to my cerebrum.
Item 2. My occasional grinning is pathological.
The interns listen seriously to the director or the doctor in charge, but I feel rather bitter. It's not nice to have yourself talked about like that. I like the interns because it's fun when we talk about books or friends, but they become different during those visits when they peer at me with curiousity. However, they can't become good doctors unless they study hard, so I guess it can't be helped . . .
I can move busily around the hospital thanks to the splendid service of my wheelchair - when I go for rehabilitation, various tests, and treatment on my teeth. I've made friends with a lot of patients and nurses. K-san made some rice balls for me. The middle-aged man who gave me a melon invites me in the evening to watch TV with him. One intern nurse brought me an ice cream. he middle-aged woman in Room 800 arranged some flowers in a vase for me. I read a nursery tale with Mami-chan. I feel like they're all my relatives. When one middle-aged man was leaving hospital, he said to me, with tears in his eyes, "Aya, do your best till the last minute!" I really have c chance to meet a great variety of people. Everyone says "You're a good girl, Aya. I admire you." (But I feel embarrased because I don't think I'm a 'good girl' at all.) I've only been here for a short period, but I'll never forget you all.
As graduation day approaches, the topics in all the classes have focused on attitudes toward entering society with a handicap and possible places of employment. When I entered Higashi High, I studied with the goal of going on to a university. When I was a second grader at Okayo, I could still walk and thought I could find employment. But everything became impossible when I became a third grade student.
**-kun = ## Company
**-san = a vocational training school
Aya-Kito = staying at home . . .
That's the route fixed for me.
For the last two years, I've been taught to 'acknowledge being disabled and start from there.' I've had to suffer and fight a great deal. Every time some bright light came into my life, I had to experience a burst of heavy rain or a typhoon . . .followed by more fine days. I've reached graduation always carrying a feeling of instability. How much longer will I have to suffer and fight until I can find my life? I wonder if the disease gnawing away at my body will refuse to release me from agony until I die - as if it doesn't know the destination?

I wanted to be useful to society in some way, making the best use of the knowledge I've acquired from twelve years of school life and all the things I've learned from my teachers and friends. However small and weak my power might be, I'd have been so pleased to give something. I wanted to do something out of gratitude for all the kindness I've received from everyone. One thing I can dedicate to society is my body, for the sake of medical advance: I can ask for all my usable organs, such as kidneys and corneas, to be distributed to sick people . . .

Maybe that's all I can do?
At Home
I had a feeling of nostalgia as I unpacked all the belongings I used during my boarding school life. Now I feel like an old woman. Mom and Dad go out to work and my brothers and sisters are spending their regular lives, commuting to school and nursery school. If I'm the only one in the family leading an undisciplined life, I'll become a burden to them, so I should at least try to lead a planned life:
1. I'll address people properly: "Thank you," "Good morning," etc.
2. I'll try to speak words sharply and clearly.
3. I'll try to become a considerate grown-up.
4. Training. I'll gain some strength and help with the housework.
5. I'll find something to live for. I don't want to die while I still have things I must do.
6. I'll try to stick to the family routine (times for meals, baths, etc.)

Damn! Damn! I bang my head against pillow.

Everyday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., I stay here by my self. I'm unbearably lonely. I write my diary or some letters, I watch the TV program Tetsuko no heya (Tetsuko's Room), and I have some lunch. Then I wipe the floor, partly as a form of training. I'm leading a life which is free, but, in fact, it cannot freely be controlled.

I feel relieved when we all have dinner together, But then I feel lonely again when I go to bed, thinking that tomorrow will be just the same as today. Just as I was feeling like that, I toppled forward, even though I was in a sitting position. I broke the crown on my toot that I'd bothered to have put in.

"Aya, your voice has been getting smaller recently," Mom said to me. "Your lung capacity's decreasing, so I think you should train to speak out more. Why don't you sing loudly during the daytime? Nobody will laugh at you. And when you ask everyone to come together, call us so loudly we'll all be surprised! Why don;t you practice a bit now?"

I sat on the floor with my back straight and cried out, "Hey!" My pitch was very high and we both burst out laughing. I tried again : "Hey!" My brothers and sisters came running downstairs, all shouting, "What's going on?"

I did it!

"From now on," Mom explained, "Aya will shout 'Hey!' whenever we want everyone to come together for something. Well, now you're all here, how about some dessert?"

We all laughed at the humorous way Mom spoke and then we ate some bananas.
Third Stay in The Hospital
"I'll rely on Dr. Yamamoto."
I want to get my body repaired at the hospital. I can only live properly if I have good health . . . I wonder if I can be sure - somehow or other - of being able to do at least my own things when I reach 20? Doctor, please help me! I'm trying to encourage myself by saying that I don't have time to be wimpy. But I can't stop my disease from progressing, however much I try . . .

"You're not a student this time," said Dr. Yamamoto, "so you can take your time and stay at the hospital until you get better. Then you must do your best to stay alive. As long you're alive, I'm sure some good medicine will be developed. Up to now, neurology in Japan has lagged behind other countries, but recently it's been advancing at an incredible speed. Leukemia was a fatal disease up until a few years ago, but today some people are cured. Little Aya, I'm studying hard with the hope of being able to cure patients like you."
I couldn't stop crying. But today they were tears of hapiness.
"Thank you, Dr. Yamamoto. You haven't given up on me. I was so worried you mnight give up on me because I haven't recovered, even though I've stayed in the hospital twice and used the new medicine."
I Nodded my head strongly in assent. I couldn't speak properly. My face was steaked with tears.
Mom had her back to me. Her shoulders were shaking.
I feel so happy and so grateful for having been able to meet Dr. Yamamoto. Whenever I;m weak physically and mentally and feeling deeply discouraged, she comes to my rescue. Even when she has many patients waiting in the Outpatients' Department, she listens to me carefully without taking any lunch. She gives me hope. She gives me light. Her words-"As long as I'm a doctor, I won't turn my back on you"-were so reassuring!

Already three months have passed since my graduation. I received a letter from one of my classmates. She had found a job working at a company. She told me she was getting used to being there and was trying hard. As for me, after three months, I'm leading a hospital life again-in order to start over by repairing the damage to my body . . .

I started off my day by singing Bata ga saita (The Roses are Blossoming) in the toilet. I played the harmonica to increase my lung capacity. It had a very nice sound. It sounded as if it was blowing everything away-including all the bad things and death. I'll play it again without worrying about upsetting the neighbours.

On the way to Rehabilitation, I dropped by the toilet. As I was trying to sit down, I felt heavily on my buttocks into the toilet bowl and wet the back of my sweat pants. I didn't have time to change, so I went straight to rehabilitation. When I was doing my walking training, Y-sensei took hold of the rubber part at the back of my sweatpants. Discovering it was wet, he went away and left me as I was. Aya was left all alone at the parallel bars! Regarding it as 'independent training', I put a protector on my right foot to keep my ankle at 90 degrees, put some urethane between fingers, and started walking. I held firmly on to the parallel bars, Toodle, toddle . . .
Y-sensei watched me. "Put your legs forward a little more quickly," he told me.

I wanted to say, "It's awkward, you know, because my legs, the upper part of my body, and my hips won't moving forward together. If I get tense trying to do something about it, my legs get left behind and that's why I fall over." But I was rather diffident becuase I felt uncomfortable about my sweatpants. I said nothing and tried to do it many times by myself.
The Mirror
I had my hair cut today. But I didn’t want to look in the mirror. I don’t like looking at myself with a demure expression. As for my complacent smile and the face with my eyes shut tight that I always show to other people, they’re not worth looking at. However, there’s a big wall-mirror in the Rehabilitation Room. O-sensei said I should look at myself in it to correct what’s wrong with my posture. In my head, I have an image of myself as an ordinary healthy girl. But I didn’t look so beautiful in the mirror. My backbone’s bent and the upper part of my body leans forward. There’s nothing I can do but admit that facts are facts. However much I try, I still can’t completely throw away the hope that I can escape my disability. I want to acquire at least one fact-that thanks to my strict rehabilitation. I’ve become able to do something I couldn’t do before.

I took on the challenge of conquering my body with willpower. But I failed. My face went white and I felt sick. I gave up. I realized that I was digging my own grave.
“Be careful not to overdo it.”

I fell over today in the toilet and hit my head badly. There was no bump, but I had terrible headache. I thought I was dying.

There was a flash of lightning outside and we started hearing thunder. I went to the public phone in the corridor in my wheelchair and rang home. Mom answered.
“Aya, I’m looking forward to Sunday,” she said. “We only have three days to go. What do you want me to bring? I’ll do your washing for you. Can you hear thunder there?”
“Hmm, yeah,” I answered coolly.
“Now I could die”, I thought.
A theft
I do my washing myself once a week, Today, as usual, I put my dirty clothes in a canvas bag and my purse in the back pocket of the wheelchair. Then off I went. I took the elevator from the eighth floor to the first floor I read a book in the lobby while I was waiting for my turn.

A middle-aged woman called me.
"Right, it's my turn," I thought. I put my hand in the pocket to get my purse. It wasn't there! I checked several times, but I couldn't find it. I was sure I had put it there. I was very upset.
"What's the matter?" asked a man who was also waiting.
"I seem to have forgotten my purse, so please go ahead before me," I said and left.

I never expected that kind of thing to happen, so I didn't bother to keep an eye on the back of my wheelchair. I lost Y400 and my purse. I'm sorry, Mom.

Suzuki-sensei and Tsuzuki-sensei from the school for the handicapped came to visit me. It's four months since I graduated. I was pleased to see that they haven't changed at all.
"Please lie on my bed," I said.
"Well, I don't really like lying on a hospital bed. Do I look tired?"
"No, but if your body odor is on my futon. I'll feel secure and sleep well!"
There were both at a loss as to what to say. They had an indescribable expression on their faces!

Ako visited me. I went out with her in the wheelchair. The sun shone so strongly I could hardly open my eyes. I want my skin to be darker. I'm too white.

Wonders will never cease! The tsukutsukuboshi cicadas (Meimuna Opealifera) were already buzzing. Wait a minute, summer's disappearing!

Ako seems to be suffering a lot because she lacks motivation. Perhaps she can't find what she's looking for. I can understand how she feels, but I'm a bit worried about her. On the spiritual plane, she's more independent than me. It seems that I'm the one who has the last ability to become independent of our parents.

The middle-aged owner of an electric appliances store who had had a stroke bought me a hime-yuri star lily at the flower shop on the 1st floor of the hospital. He can only use one hand, so he passed his purse to the woman at the shop and asked her to talk 250 yen from it. Then he gave me the flower saying, "Let's hope it blooms!" His gentle face looked radiant.
Like a mother kissing her baby's cheek,
I kiss the bud of the lily
That's just about to bloom,
Wishing it to be gentle and charming.
A Pronouncement
• I've gained some strength since the start of my hospital stay.
• I can now make two return journeys holding on to the parallel bars, but it's still impossible to do practical walking while holding onto something.
• Regarding my speech, people often have to ask me to repeat myself. I was hoping to use writing as only the final tool of communication, but I have had to use it a few times.
• My meals have been changed from ordinary food to chopped stuff.
Today was my last day in the hospital. I did my final washing at the risk of my life. I got up at 4:30 and went down to the room. There was nobody there. It was lucky I could use the machine right away. But when I had to move the washing from the spin drum to the drier, I couldn't do it unless I was in a standing position. Normally someone helps me.
"Mom, help me!" I shouted in my heart, but there was nothing I could do. I realized I will have to face this kind of thing many times in the future.
"Your disease won't get any better, Little Aya," Dr. Yamamoto told me, "and it could get worse. But in order to slow down its progress, you must train yourself to stimulate your brain."

That was a very tough and painful thing to hear. But thanks for telling me the truth, anyway. How should I live in the future? The choice of paths I can take has been narrowed down. It seems very demanding. But I'm determined to live my life facing forward, even if I have to crawl. I shouldn't shrink from it.

Dr. Yamamoto also kindly said, "Don't let a cold develop. Please ring the hospital immediately if you have trouble breathing or have a temperature. Keep stretching your Achilles tendon and do lots of deep breathing excercises. I hope you'll keep moving around as much as you can."

Thank you Dr. Yamamoto, all the nurses, and the other patients. I think I may need your support again some day. I hope you'll look after me then in the same way.
Chapter 6
19 Years Old (1981-82)
"I May Not Last Much Longer..”

Ako gave me a shirt to congratulate me on leaving the hospital.

I was determined to keep at it again today, but all I did was eat, brush my teeth, go to the toilet, and sleep. That's how the day went by.

I had my hair cut in the evening. It was trimmed short and prickly. I can't take care of it myself, so who cares whether I have curls or not? Thinking carefully, I understand Mom's consideration very well; she said that the time needed for combing should be reduced. When I looked in the mirror, I realized I now have the same hairstyle as Dr. Yamamoto.
If I recover from my disease, if I become able to walk like I used to, if I become able to talk without feeling any inconvenience, if I become able to eat using chopsticks well . . .

Thinking like that is only a dream. I shouldn't let thoughts like that into my head.

As a disabled person, I'll have to live my whole life bearing the burden on my shoulders. But I'll fight against it, even if I'm in pain . . . That's how I've made up my mind to think . . .

Since Dr. Yamamoto told me my disease won't get better, I have prepared myself to burn to the full and then disappear all at once, hoping for a short life.

Mom. I'm sorry that I've made you worry so much and that I can't repay you at all. My brothers and sisters,please forgive me: not only could I not do anything worthy of an elder sister, but I've also taken away your mother's attention.

I know I'll be thrashing around for a several months to come. That's my life.

Oh, what on earth should I do?

I've moved from the upstairs room I've been using for a long time to the 6-mat Japanese room downstairs on the 1st floor. It's closer to the kitchen, the bath, and the toilet.It also faces the corridor the family passes along most. If the large windows is opened, I can see the garden, and Kuro, our dog, is always there looking at me.

Kuro had four puppies! They can't see anything yet, but they're good at finding their mother's nipples. Kuro looks great as a mother. And this morning, the buds of the lilies opened. I'll name the female puppy Lily!
In the evening, I received a camera seminar. My brother came to my room with his chemistry homework and his new camera. I guess he stayed with me because he thought I might be feeling lonely by myself. What a kind boy he is!

For more than two hours, he happily explained to me all about his camera. Then he went back to his room without doing any homework.
"Tomorrow," he said, "I'll get up at fice o'clock and remove any sharp stones from the playground for the puppies."

But surely he'll have to do his homework, won't he? Kuro's puppies, I don't think he'll have time to remove the stones from your playground. Sorry about that.

I feel loved in the warmth of my home. But I can't express my love to everyone. I can't speak and I can't make any actions to express it . . . The best I can do is smile in response to their love.
*I should go to bed early and get up early.
*I should brush my teeth quickly.
*I should not be late for meals.
*I should do my training every day without forgetting.
*And I will make an effort to respond to everyone's love.
Self Training

- Standing up 10 times
- Raising bottom 10 times
- Rolling and sitting up 10 times, leaning to right and left
- Raising arms for 5 minutes
- Standing up holding onto something for 5 minutes
- Breathing in and out deeply 3 times, blowing my harmonica, and again breathing in and out deeply 3 times (When I blow the harmonica, I can get a good sound if I pinch my nose so that my breath doesn't leak out)
- Knitting and making kimekomi quilt balls to train my hands
- Reciting picture books to improve my speech . . .
Late Autumn
Suddenly I noticed the cicadas have stopped singing. They've passed the baton on to the bell crickets. It's getting chilly both in the morning and evening. I can't help feeling that my stamina and my energy are both deteriorating.
Is it all right for me to stay alive?
If you die, you won't leave anything behind.
Love-what a sad person I am relying only on that! Mom, is it really all right for an ugly person like me to be living in this world? Mom, I'm sure you can find something shining brightly in me. Teach me. Guide me.
Looking at the canna reeds
Bloomin in the garden,
I miss you
Early this morning, I was woken up by the yelping of the puppies as they played with each other. The early morning sunlight was streaming in through the window. Lying in my futon, I watched them for a while. They've really grown up quickly. They were only yelping until recently, but now they can also growl like mature dogs. That could also be said about me . . .
I smiled a bitter smile when I thought that.

I want to go to a florist to buy a pink rose.
I want to go to a cake shop; I'll decide when I look through the window whether I want a cream puff or a shortcake.
I want to go to the liquor store; I'll say to the chunky middle-aged man with the reddish face, "Can I have a bottle of Akadama Honey Wine?" I want to give it to my brother.

My wish has come true: I was presented with a copy of Totto-chan written by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. But leaving the enjoyment of that till later, I started on my kimekomi craft work. I have to cute the kimono cloth into several pieces of the same shape. Then I paste them on to a round woodenball with glue. I can't use a pair of scissors well, and it's also difficult for me to fix the cloth with pins, so I only make slow progress. I'm really serious when I cut the cloth because I won't be able to complete it properly if I get the measurements wrong.

As I was about to go to sleep at night, I heard the door being knocked. (I remember a scene like this in a book written by Shinichi Hoshi.) As I said, "Come in!"m the door opened quietly and in came a young little girl . . .Yes, it was Rika.
"Aya, I have something to talk aboutm" she said in an unusually serious manner. "Tomorrow I'm going to nursery school. I won't be able at home, so you'll have to be a good girl, all right? Don't fall over. We'll play together when I come home, all right?"
That made me cry.

I think you inwardly digest your mother's affection and it is changed into love towards other people.

When I gave peanuts to the birds, the are them happily. But as soon as I opened the wirte netting over the entrance to clean their cage, the birds suddenly flew out and disappeared. They could only fly away like that because they didn't know that they may not be able to live in the wild and that there are scary enemies out there. Please come back when you realize that . . .

Feeling sad, I wrote some letters to my teachers and friends.
"Please buy me a spiral-bound notebook like sketchbook," I asked Mom "I don't feel like writing my diary in an ordinary close-ruled notebook."
"What?" she replied. "Aren't you being a bit selfish saying you can only write your diary depending on your mood. It might be different story when your condition is bad, but right now you should think that you must write something anyway."
I learned something else from Mom's way of life. She was right. If she said, "I can't get into the mood for preparing dinner," I'd starve.

Rika visited me when I was lying down - -I was coming down with a cold. She sat beside my pillow and started drawing a picture of rabbbits on the pillow cover using a maker pen - a big rabbit and a small rabbit standing next to each other. She also drew three or four circles between them. I think she intended them to be flowers.
"Aya," she said, "I thought you might be lonely sleeping alone during the night. So please make these your friends."
Her tenderness again made me cry.

I read an article in today's morning paper about a disasbled person in an electric wheelchair who has done a correspondence course for twenty years so that he could acquire a clock repair qualification.

I don't develop anything. My body has stopped its emotional growth.

I wonder if there's any kind of job I could do? (My brother says there isn't, and I half agree with him.) But I don't think everything is impossible.

All I cando right now is write and do kimekomi craftwork. Even if I can't have a job, I can at least help Mom by wiping the floor, folding up the washing, etc.

Today I was intending to make some more kimekomi quilt balls, but I ended up playing with my sister instead. During that time, Mom cleaned my room.
"Leaving the dirty stuff as it is - that's what animals do," she said.

I really appreciated what she did. All the hairs stuck in the carpet (over the tatami mats) had beautifully disappeared. But it became a bit too clean - I couldn't feel relaxed.

I wanted to know how Mom felt when she was cleaning my room. She had to spend half her day looking after her troublesome child . . .

"Poor Aya!" Said Ako.
"What's fun for you, Ako?" I asked.
"What's fun for you, Aya?" she replied.
"Nothing," I answered.
"Poor Aya!" she said.

Today I was training on the mezzanine floor. I practiced holding the rocking chair and letting go with both hands.

I wasn't very stable and I could only stand for about fice minutes, but that's how I'm trying. Yet why can't I do it better?

My brother also said, "Poor Aya!" It was already dark outside and the bright TV screen was reflecting dimly white on his face.
I want to go somewhere spacious.
I don't like being crapmped any more.
I feel so much pressure.
I can't go out because it's cold outside.
I keep thinking about death, so I'm scared.
I can't move . . . I'm beaten.
I want to live!
I can't move, I can't make money, I can't do anything useful to other people.
But I want to live.
I want to be understood . . .

Rika spread some jam thickly on a piece of bread. It dribbled onto the floor while she was eating. "What a waste!" I thought. But Mom just wiped out the jam, saying, "Too bad!" Where does this difference in attitude come from?

When I failed trying to stand up from the chair, I squashed the orange in my pocket. Feeling like Mom, I was able to think, "Too bad!"
Cruel Words
At last I've been 'referred to.'

Mom and I had gone to the hospital for an examination. I almost fell over int he toilet and Mom was supporting me. I was desperately holding onto her.

Beside me, a woman in her 30s wearing clothes with a red check pattern whispered to her little boy: "Unless you're good, you'll become like her.

Her comment made me feel very sad and miserable.

Mom cheered me up by saying, "Well, if she raises her child by saying things like that, when she grows older and has troubles with her own body, she may realize her teaching was wrong and the fact that she wasn't a good mother has come back to haunt her."

I guess I'll have to face this kind of incident more frequently in the future. When young children encounter someone different from themselves, they get interested and stare. It can't be helped. But it was the first time I've been treated by an adult as raw material for child discipline. Thatwas rough on me.

My family reckoned I must feel lonely being all by myself during the day, so they got me a cat. It's quickly become attached to me. It comes into my futon or inside the kotatsu with me. And it sits on my knees. It's very cute. When Rika holds it, she hugs it tightly;it doesn't like that and tries to escapes from her. Then she pulls its tail and tries to put it on her own knees, no matter how much effort it takes. It refuses more and more. Then Rika gets angry. In the end, she hits it. I tell her off, saying she shouldn't hit it. I tell her off, saying she shouldn't hit it. Rika glares at me and then starts hitting me.

"Don't you dare!" I say, pretending to be angry with her.
Rika jeers at me, saying, "Aya's angry, Aya's angry!"
"If you say so.:
I told Mom.

I'm 19 years and 5 months old; RIka is 5 years and 7 months old.

I'm living the life of an old woman: no youth, no energy to live, nothing to live for, no goals to work toward . . . All I have is my deteriorating body. Why do I have to be alive? On the contrary, I want to live. The only things I enjoy are eating, reading and writing. I wonder what other 19-years-old enjoy?

When I had my last medical examination, I was told to enter the hospital again after the New Year. I'm scared because I'monly getting worse and there's no sign of recovery. WhenI think about that, I can't help crying. Thrashing about in the darkness . . . Is that my life? Damn! Showing my defiance, saying "What's wrong with being 19 years old?" or "What's wrong with being 20 y ears old?" won't lead anywwhere.

When I cry everyone gets depressed. When I cry, I get stuffed-up nose and a headache and I feel tired. So why do I cry? I have nothing to aim to finish-neither a job nor a hobby. Unable to love anyone or stand on my own . . . I'm wailing.

I look at my tear-filled face int he mirror.
Aya, why do you cry?

I had instant rament noodles for lunch today - -known for the slogan 'Just add hot water and it's ready in three minutes.' Because I can't sip soup well, I choke easily. It's very painful, you know. If I choked and couldn't breathe when nobody was with me, it could be fatal.

Chika-chan, my senior at boarding school, had polio. She drooled a lot, but she could drink trea from a teacup. Ikeguchi-kun used a straw. Why can't I drink without dripping? Maybe it's because the muscles I use to swallow has weakened. Today I concentrated on my mouth. Like drinking sake from a small cup, I tried to sip it little by little. I didn't choke, so I was happy.

There's another thing I felt happy about. Up to now, I coudln't do something that to most people is a matter of course. It's embarrassing to write this, butbecause I often couldn't get to the toilet in time, I had to keep changing my underwear. I realized the caouse of the problem: I only started moving after nature called, but I couldn't move fast enough. So I decided I should go to the toilet regularly at fixed times. And it worked! - now I can manage without any accidents! I'm so happy, I want to tell someone. But it's not the kind of thing you can tell to everyone, so I'm secretly enjoying my success.
Class Reunion
Five teachers from the boarding school, as well as 17 students and their parents, gathered at the restaurant called Inaka. I was happy to see everyone looking well. Before the dishes were served, everyone stood on the veranda chatting in the warm sunlight. I was the only one sitting.

Suzuki-sensei came over and sat down cross-legged beside me. Our eye level became the same. He gave me a handkerchief, saying it was a souvenir from Singapore. As usual his eyes were gentle like those of an elephant. Yo-chan gave me a book she'd bought using the wages from her job - Cherry-chan to Einstein boya (Cherry and the Young Einstein) by Teruko Ohashi. We ate to our hearts' content and laughed happily.
"It's been a while since we ate a full-course Japanese meal and saw everyone, isn't it?" Mom said later."We can enjoy a lot of good things if we're alive, can't we?"
"Yes, we can," I answered.

If someone only says one or two words a day, can you say that they are really leading a life as a member of society? . . . I'm becoming that kind of person.
If someone can't do anything by themselves, and has to have other people look after them inorder to live, can you say they are leading a social life? . . . I'm that person.

I want to be useful to other people. --> I will at least try to do my own things so that I won't disturb other people. --> I can't live unless I have someone to look after me. --> I'll become a greater burden on other people . . .

That's the story of my life!

It's snowing. Even with the electric heater on full (oil heaters irritate my throat, so only in my room there'san electric heater) and warming my self in the kotatsu, I feel chilled to the bone.

I started reading Hashi no nai kawa (The River with No Bridge) by Sue Sumii at the New Year. I finished five volumes at a stretch. I easily get totally absorbed. It's a bad habit. I even skipped training to read it. The air was cold when I went out into the corridor. I felt a chill. I put on a short padded jacket in an attempt to avoid getting a cold. But I sensed danger because my body's so stiff. I've decided to eat my meals in my room while it's cold. I feel lonely when someone brings me my food and I eat it all on my own, but sometimes my brothers and sisters come and eat with me.

To tell the truth, I don't like sleeping and eating in the same place.
A Traffic Accident
ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT . . . Ako was injured and entered hospital. On her way home on her bicycle, she was hit by a car that didn't stop where it was supposed to. She was taken to hospital by ambulance. Will she be all right? I don't know what to do. I can only pray for her . . .

Mom came back from the hospital. Ako has broken two bones in her right leg. She'll have to have an operation once the swelling goes down. Mom said Ako was crying as she did her best to endure the pain, and kept saying, "Mom, I'm sorry about this."

"It was a good thing that she didn't hurt her head. I was really relieved," Mom said quietly. She looked smaller somehow or other.
"Please take me to see her," I said.
"I'll take you when her operation's over and she starts smilingm" Mom replied. "If you start crying, it may make her injury hurt more. So you'll have to wait for a while."

Oh I feel like flying to Ako and saying, "Ako-chan, hang in there!"

My brother dropped by the hospital on his way back from school, but he didn't tell me how she was. Is she that seriously hurt? I really want to eat some sweetened adzuki beans, but I'll be patient until Ako gets better. Hang in there, Ako-chan!

Is Mom all right? She doesn't seem to be sleeping much.
"Mom, I'm anxious about Ako, but I can't do anything," I said.
"Please don't fall over and hurt your self," she replied.
"That's the best thing you can do to help."

It seemed to me a rather passive way to help, but I nodded. Then I said, "Yes, I can see that. I know I won't be able to see Ako until I stop crying. But I'll try hard not to cry, so please take me to see her."

Rika suddenly said, "Ah, I want to die!"
I go serious just hearing the word 'die'. Even when I threatened her by saying "It'll hurt you know," she said,
"That's OK." When I said, in haste, "You won't be able to go on any picnics," she finally said, "I don't like the sound of that. I won't die then."

She wasnt seriously saying that, of course, but I was kind of seirously trying to stop her.

A breeze is blowing-you can feel the arrival of spring. Even the grass shoots are growing rapidly. I can't scretch my left Achilles tendon very well, and it's difficult to sit-maybe because I didn't do much exercise during the cold das. I've also developed a phobia about going to the toilet. I often get stiff shoulders and feel uncofortable because I don't sweat, even when it's hot. My tounge's movement's poor and I can't even lick a soft ice cream. I guess that's part of the reason I'm having difficulty speaking.

Yamaguchi-san's brother brought a new car. He invited me out for a drive. That was really unexpected!

It was a beautiful spring day. The shepherd's purses, Chinese milk vetch, dandelions, and early clovers were all beautiful. I wanted to make a ring of flowers, but I couldn't do it by myself. I felt embarrassed to ask a man, so I didn't. I found one clover which was sticking out over a ditch. Worried it might fall in, I peered over at it. But it was all right because it had a big root. I felt it must be strong as long as it has that support.

We dropped by Yamaguchi-san's house on the way back. He played his electric guitar. It was a very powerful sound. He said he's deeply into guitar-playing now. He wants to have more equipment, but, he said, "The money comes first, and everything else follows."

In my case, "A sound body comes first, and everything else follows."

That's more difficult than money.
"Mom, I Can't Walk Any More."
A baby sits when it;'s around eight months old, crawls when it's ten months old, and walks when it's over one year old. I used to walk, then I gradually went back to crawling, and now I'm sitting most of the tim1! I'm degenerating. And some day, I suppose, I'll be bedridden . . .

Is it only a matter of me being patient? One year ago, I could stand, I could talk and I could laugh. Now, I can't walk, however much I try, however much I grit my teeth and try to hold on with a frown.
'Mom, I can't walk anymore,' I wrote on a piece of paper, restraining my tears. 'I can't stand even if I hold on to something.'
I opened the door slightly and gave it to her. I closed the door again quickly because I didn't want her to see my face, and I knew it would be painful to see Mom's face.

I crawled three meters to the toilet. The corridor was chilly. The soles of my feet are soft like a normal palm of the hand. But my palms and knees are hard like a normal sole of the foot. Crawling's not a nice thing to do, but it can't be helped. It's the only way I can move around . . .

I felt somebody behind me. I stopped and looked back . . . There was Mom crawling behind me, without saying anything . . .Her tears were falling to the floor . . . All my suppressed emotions suddenly burst out and I started crying.

Mom held me tightly and let me cry as I wished. Her knees were soaking wet with my tears, and her tears wet my hair.
"Aya, we're sad, but we'll keep going, OK? I am with you. Now, let's go back to your room before your bottom gets cold. I'm strong enough to carry you on my back. Even if we have an earthquake or a fire, I'll help you first. Don't worry and sleep tight. There's no need to think about unnecessary things."
Then she carried me back to my room in her arms.

I've become a person who can do nothing but weep and whimper. The lump of an inferiority complex is growing inside my brain. I think it's a product of being disabled. But I'm still alive. I'm continuing to breathe in order to live - because I can't die, and nothing can be done about me. That's a dreadful way to say it. When I cry, I get wrinkles on my eyebrows and my face becomes ugly. To improve my face when I look in the mirror, I try to grin even though there's nothing funny.
Let's Live

I want to inhale the blue sky with all my might;
A refreshing cool mint breeze will gently caress my cheeks.
Scattered white clouds reflected in your clear crystal eyes.
I've been dreaming of this wonderful moment . . .

I want to jump up toward the blue sky with all my might;
A robe of cobalt blue feathers will gently envelop me.
Without thinking I am ugly,
Earnestly believing that I may be useful somewhere.

Where do you think I should go?
Always crying by myself,
My notebook is my friend;
Answers it cannot give me,
But my spirit is lifted when I write.

I am asking for a helping hand,
But I can neither reach out nor touch;
My voice only echoes, yelping into darkness.
Evolution from monkey to human took an incredibly long time,
But degeneration is so fast . . .
I dislike being alone during the daytime. Afraid I may no longer be able to talk, I read picture books aloud and do vocal exercises. Today I did deep breathing give times and streched my neck ten times.

Mom says that I shouldn't try to do too much even when I'm on my own. She thinks it's dangerous. She's always worried until she comes home and sees me. Although those words would make my life ven more passive, I can see they're reasonable because in fact I do fall over - my lips get swollen and I break my teeth.

Worried about me being alone, Jun-chan and her mother sometimes come to see me. The middle aged woman from next door also pops in to see what's happening. But my heart's not satisfied. It's very hard to live through each day without any purpose. I can only think about odds and ends in my head, but I can'tdo anything. How long will this life go on? . . . Mom, I'm in pain. Please help me . . .

Now that it's also dangerous for me to take a bath on my own, either Mom or Ako comes in with me, wearing shorts. Ako washes my hair and my back. I can't raise my right arm any more. It seems my shoulder joints have stiffened up.
Message to Dr. Yamamoto
You said "Vakye what's left rather than what's lost."
The light will shine some day, and the green buds will appear . . .
Have hope, look toward the future, and stand up, keep going don't give up . . .
Those are the passwords!
"Nothing will come back even if you grieve over it,"
said the doctor I trust. "Develop what's left more than what's lost."
I'll try to keep going.
I swear I won't get depressed . . .
It's started to rain.
I envy the changeable nature of the weather . . .
But people can't live being so changeable, can they?

-The contents are irresponsible
-My mind's sloppy
-My writing's shaky
Nothing's any good, you idiot!
So what would you say is left for me?

I had a dream that my family went on a trip to a place that you couldn't go to in a wheelchair.
"Have a nice time," I could say with a smile. "I'll be waiting for you here at home."
I think things like that may become more frequent. I want to be ready for when they become reality.
People often say that the beginning of the rainy season is a bad time for sick people. And in my case I'm getting
worse and worse as if I'm falling down the stairs.
-I have diarrhea, my body feels dull. Dehydrated?
-My hips are unsteady.
-It's difficult to swallow.
-I fall over and my lips bleed.
-It's difficult to read characters and see other objects. Everything is out of focus.

I was contacted about the festival they're holding at the boarding school, but I don't have any energy at all to go.
My disease has developed too far.
The days when I don't write at all have been increasing.
I can't use a ballpoint pen well . . . I want to think it's because I haven't been writing much.
I may not last much longer . . .
Chapter 7
20 Years Old (1982-83)
"I don't want to be beaten . . ."

A Fall in The Toilet
Mom brought back some cakes, but I didn't have the energy to eat them. I've been lying down almost all day.
Thinking that was not so good, I tried doing some sit-ups on my futon. I could only manage one.
The summer holiday's starting tomorrow. Mom's telling my brothers and sisters to discuss what they will do
so that they won't all go out at the same time. That's reassuring. I'm sorry to be such a burdon. I'll make
an effort to get better, so please forgive me.

When I go to the toilet, either Mom or Ako comes with me. They help me to pull down my pants and sit on the
toilet. Then they wait for me outside. One day, I swayed to one side and fell down with a thud. I don't know
how it was cut, but my finger was bleeding. I lost consciousness.
The next thing I knew, I was in bed. I could see the blurred faces of Mom, my sisters and my brothers. Then
again I fell into sleep. I could vaguely hear Mom's voice somewhere in the distance saying, "You were just
unsteady because your blood pressure was low. Don't worry about it and sleep well."

A stable iron toilet seat weighing more than seven kilos has been installed. The family chose it at the shop
selling special equipment for the disabled in Nagoya. At the same time, they got a bead mat for me (to help
avoid bedsores) and a sheet to prevent the mattress getting dirty.
Also a small desk with short legs (with writing tools, notebooks, letter paper, and so on) was put within my
reach. On top of it there's a bell wich produces a loud sound when it's rung.
Now I spend most of the day sleeping. I'm scared of food going down my respiratory tract by mistake because
I can't swallow well, so I can only eat a small amount three times a day. I eat so slowly that lunchtime
comes round just one hour after breakfast.
My whole day is taken up by eating, sleeping and evacuating. What's more, someone has to help me do all
those . . .
I think my life has finally reached the point where it's just one step before it will impossible to stay at
I've decided to stop thinking on and on about my disease.
Looking for a hospital
Today, Mom and I went to Nagoya Health University Hospital. I lay on the passenger seat with the back lowered.
I mostly dozed till we arrived at the hospital.
"I'll push them to let you stay here," said Mom, "so don't worry. I know the heat's bothering you, but you'll
just have to be patient till the weather gets cooler. Aya you have a lot of fight left in you. I'm sure you'll
get better."
But I felt that this time I might not last: I have neither the stamina nor the motivation. I don't even have
the strength to think, so I couldn't possibly put up a fight. I don't want to be beaten by my disease, but the
demon of ill-health is too strong.
As I lay on the ward trolley, Mom was negotiating with an outpatient nurse, trying to keep me from overhearing:
"We can't possibly wait in the waiting room as long as we usually have to. She's so weak. Please treat her
as an emergency patient and give her a medical examination quickly. If the other patients are unhappy about it,
I'll gladly explain her condition to each one of them and ask for their approval."
The nurse disappeared inside the consultation area, saying "I'll ask Dr. Yamamoto." Moments later, Dr. Yamamoto
herself appeared. She took hold of my hand and said, "Ah, long time no see, Little Aya. I've been waiting for
Oh, this will keep me going . . .
It would be a pity to die now . . .
If only I could write again, I wouldn't have anything to regret . . .
Saved by Dr. Yamamoto yet again . . .
Tears filled my eyes. Mom was crying, too.
After the consultation, Dr. Yamamoto said she would introduce us to Akita Hospital in Chiryu City where she goes
twice a month for medical examinations.
I felt relieved when she said, "Little Aya, I think you should enter the hospital as soon as things have been
prepared for you. Please wait just a little. I want you to be where I can keep an eye on you."
My upper lip was bent when I fell over, and now it won't meet with my lower lip. I handed the doctor a memo that
I'd written at home:
'It's difficult for me to swallow, so please give me some medicine to relieve the tension in my throat.'
After the examination, Mom drove me home. I vibrated in the car for two hours.
"You have to gain stamina," Mom said. "Tell us anything - anything you want to eat or anything you may be able
to eat. Do you want something now?"
"Yes, I'd like you to bake me a cake," I answered.
"Uh-oh," replied Mom. "Ako's better at baking cakes than I am. Ako, Aya would like you to bake her a cake!"
"Then I'll make you one first thing in the morning," said Ako, all smiles. "Please look forward to that."
I was exhausted and went to bed immediately.

Mom visited Akita Hospital by herself. Befor she left, she told me that she'd check what kind of hospital it
was and talk with the doctors in detail. She also told my sister to ask me what I would need, sort out some
things for me, and put them in a box.
Hospital admission and a caregiver
I've finally entered Akita Hospital. I was feeling nervous because I'm not familiar with it.

A little old lady came to look after me.
"I'm Aya," I said in a small voice. "Nice to meet you."
Mom explained to her in detail about my condition, what I could't do, and so on. But it's really difficult
to get her to fully understand.
My speech disorder's getting worse, so I asked Mom to buy a magic blackboard. I probably say some words that
other people can't understand.
The movement of my tongue's bad, so the food overflows my mouth. My way of eating looks filthy. It's a
pitiful sight.
'What am I living for?'
From Aya's diary

I feel miserable for being unable to communicate well.

I'm the one who should take the most sensible attitude. But I don't feel very confident . . .

Mom, what am I living for?

I felt dizzy. I had a tearful face. But I closed my eyes and stayed still.

There's a pigeon's nest on the branch of the tree outside the window. A chick is growing up in it. I'm
happy about that.

My little old lady helped me get into my wheelchair and took me to Building #1. Then what? I used the
Western-style toilet to relieve myself.

During rehabilitation, I tend to close my eyes when I stand holding the bar. I can't easily open them again.
I know I shouldn't be scared, but my body gets stiff because I feel I might fall over.

I should properly grasp the things I can do now and put them into practice. Then I won't have to suffer so
much mental agony that I can't get to sleep at night . . .
I can't convey my desires quickly, so I sometimes can't get to the toilet in time. Mom suggested that I should
use a urinary drainage bag during the night. The reason for that is that the caregiver gets tired if her sleep
is disturbed.
I started crying, saying, "I don't like that idea because I know when I want to urinate. I'll try to tell you
in plenty of time, so please don't do that."
"All right, all right," said the little old lady gently. "Don't cry. You won't have to have one."
That made me cry even more.
In the morning , I met the Hospital Director in the corridor.
"Good morning, Little Aya. How are you doing?"
I smiled and tried to say "O-HA-YO" (Good morning) with pouted lips. By the time I got it out, he was already
a long way down the corridor. He must be very busy.

My tearful face is taking root - that's no good.
At night, my arms and legs got tense and stiff. The little old lady got up and gave me a massage.

Because I couldn't easily express myself, I lost my temper and cried. I'm the one who should be blamed for not
being able to communicate well. There was no reason for me to get angry with the little old lady. I'm sorry.

It's nice weather today. I want to stand up. I want to talk.

My little old lady praised me, saying, "Your handwriting's a bit better. You're eating a little quicker now, too,
and you're not dropping your food."
I feel there's something to live for if I improve even a little, and I get more relaxed. I must live considering
how other people feel. I made a promise to Dr. Yamamoto that I'll try to be able to ride in my wheelchair by
myself by the next time I see her.

I saw the blue sky. It's been a long time. It was so transparent, I felt I could be sucked up into it.

My pronunciation of the 'na' and 'da' columns is not very clear. It's also hard for me to say the 'ka', 'sa',
'ta' and 'ha' columns. I wonder how many words there are left that I can actually say? I'll have to overcome this
somehow or other.
Gather up your fighting spirit or the disease will defeat you!

My little old lady bought me an 'okonomiyaki' savory pancake for lunch. We had half each. I also had some
'o-shiruko' adzuki bean porrige with rice-flour dumplings.

I was running a fever and had no energy to talk. I felt very heavy. I lay in bed all day. My little old lady
looked into my face with a worried expression on her face.
Aunt Kasumi took me to the coffee shop inside the hospital. She helped me drink lemon soda with a spoon, one
spoonful at a time. I had given up on the coffee shop, thinking I'd never be able to go there as long as I
lived, so that made me so happy.

My little old lady's hands are rough and cracked now. They look so painful. It's because she has to keep on
washing my nappies due to my failures during the night. I'm sorry.

The Chunichi Dragons won the baseball league pennant! For some reason, we had a bonus of sweet red bean rice
and a cup-steamed egg custard for dinner. I wonder if the Hospital Director or the head chef is a Chunichi fan?

I wanted to stand up, but when I tried, I swayed like a swing and almost fell over. I was scared. My little
old lady helped me.
In the morning, I nearly choked. I was scared again. Unless I take care eating things - however tasty they
may be - it could prove fatal.

When my little old lady took me to the toilet, we saw a vase full to overflowing with beautiful cosmos flowers.
We winked at each other and stole one bud. We put it in the vase in our room.

"Little Aya, you're depending on your caregiver too much," Dr Yamamoto scolded me. "You must find what you can do
by yourself and do it."
I was happily thinking I was OK If I simply stayed out of bed for a long time, but I was wrong. Starting today,
I'll practice fastening my buttons.

I could walk! Leaning on my little old lady, I asked her to take me to the park. I wanted to play with some
dirt; I felt like putting the soles of my feet on the soil. I asked her to put my feet down softly on the
ground from the footrest of the wheelchair. The soil was so comfortably cool!

I desperately practiced fastening my buttons and rolling over and standing on my knees for rehabilitation. My
little old lady was impressed with what I was doing and helped me. She also bought me a pair of sweatpants and
a jacket. I must keep at it more . . .

I want to go home over the New Year. I wonder if I can make myself understood? I'm worried about how I can
communicate with everyone if they can't understand what I'm saying. But I still want to go home.
The bud of the cosmos has opened.

My little old lady cried while she was watching me training. "You did a good job!" she said.
"Why don't you watch Aya once?" she said to Mom one day. "She's working very hard, you know."
But Mom replied, "It hurts me too much to watch her." Then she said to me, "Aya, you've done very well. We
want you to come home for the New Year."
I moved my bowels carelessly.
"I'm so sorry," I said to my little old lady.
"Oh, helping you is my duty," she replied. "It can't be helped."
Still, I didn't know how to feel.

I had some ham for lunch. I hadn't tasted ham for a long time. It reminded me of the past.
I wonder how i can show my gratitude to my little old lady? I can't buy her anything because I don't have
any money. It will be nice if I get better soon and can look after her. Please wait till then!
Striving to live for the present
In another ten years . . . I'm to scared to think about that.

I have no choice but to live today as earnestly as I can.
Living is all I can do now.
I'm young but I can't move . . .
Dilemma and impatience.
But I'm a patient, so I have to focus on recuperation.

You, one person,
Advise me not to write too much.
Appreciating that,
I put my hands together in thanks.
Thinking on my sickbed . . .
(At this point Aya's handwriting becomes illegible.)

I understand that menstruation - the indication that you're a real woman - stopped if you grew weak from
illness. I also thought that it was a sign of recovery if it started again after six months.

Glancing up from my sickroom,
I saw the blue sky;
It gave me a ray of hope.
A - RI - GA - TO
I can't lead my live without my little old lady or without depending on someone - for everything, including
turning over in bed, dealing with my bowel functions, putting on my clothes, taking off my clothes, eating,
sitting up . . . Mom has to work and look after my brothers and sisters. She's not just a mother to me. My
little old lady is spending her life only for me. She cooks noodles and 'mochi' rice-cakes (my favorites) for me.
She encourages me to eat more - even if just a little - and get better as soon as possible so that I can go
home. Her daughter-in-law sometimes brings in dishes she has cooked herself and serves me. Her grandchildren
come and take my photo. Her whole family really looks after me.
I can hardly talk. All I can say is "A-RI-GA-TO" (Thank you). But I want to convey my happy feelings to them
using lots more words.

Each person has unspeakable distress.
When I remember the past,
Annoyingly, I cry;
The reality of today
Is too cruel, too severe,
And doesn't even offer me a dream;
Imagining the future
Brings me yet another kind of tears.

Chapter 8
21 Years Old (1983-84)
"For as long as she is alive" by Shioka Kito (Aya's Mother)

"Mrs. Kito, please come over here quickly!"
I received the call from the hospital at my workspace. In a panic I rushed to the hospital as fast as I could;
I can hardly remember how I did it.
I pushed my way through the doctor and the crowd of nurses who were gathered around Aya's bed . . .
"What's the matter?" I cried out.
Aya was breathing as if she had hiccups, but she smiled when she saw me.
I hugged her at once, thinking, "Thank God, she's alive!"
The doctor told me that a patient in the same room had noticed that Aya was in agony because she couldn't get rid
of some phlegm stuck in her throat. The patient told a nurse. They administered emergergency treatment and her life
was saved.

'I wonder how I can show my gratitude?'
From Aya's diary

Due to a variety of minor things, such as developing a fever and faulty swallowing. Aya's condition has gradually
deteriorated. It's just as if she's going down stairs one at a time.
Starting around that time, her writing became very distorted and almost illegible. However, her spirit of wanting
to write in order to live didn't decline at all; she continued writing in her sketchbook holding a felt-tip pen
with all the strength she could muster in a hand wich wouldn't move as she wished.
Today, she can't even do that. However, I am sure that she is still writing in her heart, while desperately
fighting against the demon of ill-health.

Chapter 9
"Can I . . . get married?"
Little Aya's admission to the hospital

Aya stayed in Ward 4A at Nagoya University Hospital. She was very popular with the nurses. Although she was
a high school student, her childlike face gave her an angelic look. She obediently followed everyone's
instructions, hoping to get better, even if only a little. She planned and practiced various exercises for
her hands and legs. It was impossible not to be fond of her. The new remedy had a slight effect, but it
didn't reduce her daily inconveniences. The nurses complained to me, saying "Dr. Yamamoto, Little Aya is
working so hard. Why can't you do something to help her?" I felt a loss.
Around that time, word was going around that the professor at the hospital was an authority on spinocerebellar
degeneration. Many patients came to our hospital from all over the country. Aya and U-kun, a boy one year
younger than her, were young and cheerful patients. But some of the patients were bedridden, only getting
up to go to the toilet in a wheelchair. Sharp-eyed Aya mentioned the names of the seriously ill patients
to me and asked, "Will I be like them soon?"
I knew Aya had various dreams for her future. During my rounds, she would carefully check my reactions as
she told me about them. I had begun feeling that it was about time to tell her properly about her disease.
So I answered, "It will be a long time from now, Little Aya, but yes, you'll be like that eventually."
I explained to her in detail what would happen to her as time passed: her swaying would gradually increase;
eventually, it would be difficult to walk; her speach would become unclear and would not be understood;
and writing and using her hands for any kind of handiwork would become dificult.
For several days after that, she was very depressed. But soon she started asking me positive questions
again: "Dr. Yamamoto how much longer will I be able to walk?" or "Do you think I could manage this kind
of work?" I felt sorry for her, but I thought it was good that I had explained everything.
In fact, after that, our mental bond became stronger. We could talk openly about the very serious symptoms
of the disease, and knowing in advance what would come next made it easier to decide what to do next.
Her stay at the hospital that time couldn't do much to improve her condition. However, I believe she left
the hospital understanding what was most important for the long life under medical treatment that she would
have to face.

Changing to a school for the handicapped

Aya's high school requested that she leave the school because she was causing trouble for the whole class.
It was just what we had feared would happen. Bitterly disappointed, Aya's mother told me that her classmates
were helping her go up and down the stairs when she moved to another classroom and saying. "It's no
trouble, Aya!" We'll help you in the same way in the future."
I felt brighter when I heard that her classmates were supporting her.
Her mother told me that she was going to ask the school to let her daughter stay.
"If the teachers have any questions about Little Aya's disease," I said to her, "I'll be happy to explain.
Or I could go with you to the school."
But her mother replied that she would prefer to go by herself. She went to the school many times, despite
her busy work schedule, and made a strong appeal to the school authorities for Aya to stay there. In the
end, however, it was decided that Aya would move to a school for the handicapped. The grounds of that school
are designed so that the students can freely move around in wheelchairs. It also has a rehabilitation
facility where they can study while having treatment. But I think it was a big shock for Aya's mother who,
supported by many of Aya's classmates, had been fighting against the move. When she told me in a sad voice
that Aya was going to move, I felt a lump in my throat.
I suppose that the high school administrators did not know how to deal with Aya. Their conclusion was that
if there was a school designed for children like her, why shouldn't Aya go there? But I wonder if causing
trouble was the only effect Aya had on the school. From what I heard, the desire to care for a disabled
friend was emerging very naturally among her classmates. They could learn a lot from the serious attitude
of a friend who was trying so hard to live. I was very disappointed with those evolved in her education.
They didn't even inquire about er disease. They just did things by the book. Today, the issue of bullying
is talked about a great deal, but I believe there was no hint of a dark shadow over Aya's classmates.
Much later, when Aya entered the hospital again, I remember her saying to me happily, "Please give me
permission to go out because I'm going to meet my high school friends."
Hospital life at Nagoya Health University Hospital
In April, 1980, I finished my doctoral thesis at Nagoya University. I moved to take up a new post at Nagoya
Health University Hospital - now called Fujita Health University Hospital - in Toyoake, Aichi Prefecture.
By then Aya required the use of an electric wheelchair, and she could only travel to the hospital by car.
Because Toyoake was closer to her home than Nagoya, she moved to the same hospital where I was now posted.
As I examined Aya in the consulting room at the new hospital, I compared her condition to the day when I
had first met her in Nagoya. Her cheeks had been much fuller then, and I had been able to understand
what she said much better. Even though she had claimed she was swaying, she was walking quite
normally to other person's eyes . . . After just five years, however, she needed someone to push her around
in a wheelchair, she couldn't utter words quickly even though she tried hard, she could only speak by twisting
and streching her thin neck, and her way of speaking was hard to understand for someone not accustomed to
it . . . I was shocked by her deterioration.
After leaving the school for the handicapped, Aya stayed at home while the other members of her family were
out at work or school. She had lunch on her own and looked after herself. Her mother was worried about
possible accidents while the others were out; Aya often fell over inside the house even if she was holding
on to something. In fact, every time she came to the Outpatients' Department, she had injuries from falls
which had caused internal bleeding on her face, arms and legs. There were more of them than before and they
were becoming more serious.
She entered the internal medicine ward on the eighths floor of Building #2 of the hospital in order to have
treatment and rehabilitation for the second time. She was the first spinocerebellar degeneration patient
in that ward.
There were seven or eight other patients there that I was in charge of, plus some others, all with heart
or blood disorders. Many of the nurses were young and some of them were younger than Aya. I had gotten
into the habit of calling her 'Little Aya'. It sounded funny to hear the nurses who were younger than her
calling her 'Little Aya' as well. But it shows the affection everyone had for her.
Aya operated her wheelchair herself. She washed her face using her disabled hands, went to the toilet, and
cleaned the table for meals. She went for rehabilitation without fail, and read books sitting on a chair
or on her bed during the daytime. She got interested in handicrafts and the origami that the other patients
in her ward were teaching each other. But she was distressed at not being able to do as she wanted. The
head nurse was touched when she quietly watched her at those times.
More than anyone else in the same part of the hospital, it was the older patients who were moved by Aya.
They were paralyzed on one side because they had had strokes - their blood vessels had suddenly become
restricted or broken. They couldn't move their hands and legs as they wished. They got very annoyed and
sometimes skipped rehabilitation sessions. Some of them had almost lost their desire not only for
exercising but for life itself. However, when they saw the serious efforts made by Aya, who could have
been their granddaughter, they were encouraged to do their own training again. They started bending and
stretching their arms and legs on their beds.
Bo th their families and the nurses were pleased. As their doctor, I couldn't ask for more. I had explained
the benefits of rehabilitation over and over every time I made a round of visits. I had tried to say
various things to motivate them. But I realized that what I said had less effect than the way Aya looked
as she pushed herself as hard as she could in her wheelchair.

"Can I . . . get married?" by Hiroko Yamamoto


I had a call from Aya's mother one Wednesday afternoon in late September. It was around the time of day when the
outpatients waiting to be examined and those who were undergoing an examination were all beginning to get a little
tired of having to spend such a long time in the hospital. She told me she was preparing to publish Aya's diary,
wich had been written over a long period. She wanted to ask me, as her doctor, about the disease Aya had suffered
from and also about my association with her.
While advising Aya to keep her notes in a diary and organize them into a book, I was concerned about the fact that
there wasn't much I could do to help her. So I was relieved and very pleased to hear that publication was getting
under way. Aya is no longer able to get up by herself and is now bedridden. She has to rely on someone to help her
eat and do everything for her.
Her mother said she wanted to complete the book as quickly as possible for the sake of such a daughter. I felt a
lump in my throat when I heard her mother's way of talking. I granted her request. At the same time, I thought
that looking back would be a good chance for me to put everything together; my encounter with Aya was also deeply
connected with my own growth as a doctor.
You may find what I have to say about Aya's incurable disease - spinocerebellar degeneration - a little difficult
to follow. But I hope you will read it carefully because it is important to understand her way of live.

What is spinocerebellar degeneration?

A human brain has about 14 billion nerve cells, supported by more then ten times that number of cells. The nerve
cells are classified into many groups. Some function when you are exercising and others work when you are observing,
hearing, or feeling something. As long as a person is alive, many groups of nerve cells are working.
The nerve cells inside the cerebellum in the brain, the brain stem, and the spinal cord are required for the body
to maintain balance reflexively, and to achieve quich and smooth movements. Spinocerebellar degeneration is a
disease in wich those nerve cells gradually change and then finally disappear. We haven't yet discovered why they
behave like that. According to nationwide statistics there are just over 1000 patients suffering from the disease
in Japan. However, it is said that the real number of patients is two or three times that figure.
The most frequent symptom of the disease at the early stage is when you feel your body is swaying. At first you
may think it's because you are tired or have anemia. But it gradually develops to the stage where you can't walk
straight. People may start asking if you're drunk. Other early symptoms can include: dimmed vision, double vision,
or things appearing to shake; difficulty in speaking because you can't get your tongue around certain sounds;
difficulty urinating and the sensation of residual urine even after you've been to the toilet; feeling faint
when you stand up because your blood pressure suddenly drops; etc.
How the disease progresses

The swaying increases, and you need some kind of support when you are walking. If it gets much worse, you
cannot stand by yourself with your legs together. Pronunciation gradually becomes unclear and your speaking rhythm
deteriorates, so people cannot understand what you are saying. The movements of your hands and fingers can't be
controlled as you wish. That means you have difficulty writing and nobody can read what you write. You can't use
chopsticks when eating, and you can't carry food properly to your mouth, even with a spoon. And even if someone
helps you to eat, it takes time to swallow, and you may sometimes choke and spray grains of boiled rice everywhere.

This symptoms progress little by little until you finally become bedridden. Then there are various dangers:
bedsores can get infected; you may develop pneumonia because food gets into the trachea due to the failure of
swallowing; urine is left in the bladder, and an increase of bacilli leads to cystitis or pyelitis.
As a result of all or some of these symptoms a patient usually dies in five to ten years.

Is there no remedy?

Today there is no remedy available. The cause of the disease is still unknown, so we are groping in the dark
regarding proper treatment. There is a medicine that can temporarily prevent the disease from advancing or slightly
slow down the speed of its advance. It has been drawing a lot of attention, but it hasn't been used for very long
and we need to take a long-term view of its efficacy.
But thanks to the remarkable advances in genetic engineering in recent years, it is surely only a question of
time before it will be possible to determine the chromosome in which there is a gene that causes the disease -
if the disease is hereditary. Then it may be possible to replace that gene with a healthy gene. I sincerely hope
that the sad voices of the spinocerebellar degeneration patients and thair families will be fully added to the
debate over the rights and wrongs of gene manipulation.
But that is for the future. The most effective guidance for the time being is for patients to continue exercising
and training. They must try to maintain the strength of the muscles in their whole body, and look after themselves
as well as they can.

How do you explain about the disease to patients?

It is not difficult for medical specialists to diagnose the disease. However, they tend to agonize over how they
should explain it to the patients and their families. Some doctors prefer not to tell the patients that there is
no chance of them getting better. Instead, they encourage their patients with words like, "Don't worry, you will
be cured." However, they know that the patient's condition will gradually get worse, and it's impossible for them
to recover. They may explain this to the patient's family to a certain degree. Other doctors give up in despair
and all they do is tell the patients and thair families that it's a very serious disease for which there is no cure.
What I say to patients is this: "It is very difficult to cure this disease. There is also the possibility it will
slowly get worse. However, today various types of remedy are being developed." Then I explain in detail how many
more years the patient will probably be able to walk, and how long they will be able to sit and move their hands
and legs.
Patients and their families tend to be temporarily shocked by the news. But they soon recover their normal spirit
and start planning their new life and how to spend their social life while coping with the disease. Some patients,
however, visit various hospitals hoping to get more reassuring words about a cure. They never come back to me as
outpatients. That discourages me, because I start worrying I couldn't make myself understood properly. I have to
conclude that to begin with we didn't have a good rapport.
I guess those patients and their families who stay with me have thoughts similar to mine as their doctor. Little
Aya Kito (referring to a grown woman like this may sound strange, but to me she is still 'Little Aya') and her
mother were among them.

First meeting with Little Aya

I had just returned from a three-year stay in the United States. I was working in the 4th Study Room of the 1st
Department of Internal Medicine at Nagoya University Hospital (now the Department of Neurology) with Professor
Itsuro Sofue. I was helping to analyze nationwide data on sinocerebellar degeneration. I also wrote the
professor's findings about the outpatients in their case records.
One Monday, a junior high school girl with a short bob was brought to the examination room by her mother. In
recent years, the number of specialists who examine nervous diseases in pediatric departments has increased.
So it was unusual for a child to come for a consultation at the Department of Neurology. I learned later that
Aya's mother was a nurse working for a health center in Toyohashi. She had discovered that the professor was the
leader of 'the research team on sinocerebellar degeneration, a disease specified by the Ministry of Health and
Welfare.' That explained why Aya had bothered to come all the way to our Department of Internal Medicine as
an outpatient. It had been her mother's decision.
On the medical chart of the girl who sat in the middle of that bright consulting room in the early afternoon
was written 'Aya Kito, 14 years old.' Her small round face with eyes wide open gave the impression that she
was a bright girl. Her eyes looked worried as she glanced in turns at the professor and her mother as they talked.
After the first examination, the professor diagnosed spinocerebellar degeneration. He explained to Aya's mother
about the disease. He gave instructions on how to get a CT scan for Aya to check the inside of her brain, a
center of gravity oscillation test, and an eyball motion test. Those tests would provide a better analysis of
the symptoms. He asked Aya to come back as an outpatient about once a month to check her condition.
I was impressed with the positive attitude of both Aya and her mother despite the great anxiety pressing down
on them. I felt a strong affinity with them. Soon I came to have my own outpatients in a different consulting
room, so I no longer had the chance of seeing Aya being examined. But we often went to the hospital on the same
day and met each other in the corridor.
Aya's mother grasped the progress of the disease very well. She sometimes told me in a sad voice that Aya's
swaying was increasing and she had stumbled, or that her writing had become more disordered. Sometimes she
also reported happily that Aya was doing well at school, was getting good grades, and had had an internal school
report praising her good attitude, so she could enter a public high school. She also told me Aya had passed the
3rd level of the Practical English Proficiency Test. I kind of championed Aya who was doing her best to fight
against her disease. "The third level of the Practical English Proficiency Test is quite difficult, you know,"
I said proudly to my colleagues, as if she was my own daughter.
One day, around the time when the cherry blossoms in Tsurumai Park were budding and the light pink petals
were started to emerge, Aya's smiling face appeared round the corner of the curtain of my consulting room.
"Dr. Yamamoto," she said, "I passed the entrance exam!"
As I replied "Congratulations and good luck!", I couldn't help wishing that her disease would at least not
develop too far before her high school graduation. That also encouraged me to press on with my research on a
possible remedy that was being developed.
The high school that Aya entered was located in Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture. It was oriented toward
preparation for university entrance examinations. Her lively high school life began. But soon Aya's balance
worsened. She could no longer commute to school an a crowded bus every morning. Even though her mother was
busy as a nurse, she took Aya to school by car every day. Aya sometimes fell over in her school days and
came to the Outpatients' Department with cuts on her knees or a lump on her forehead. Her mother's face
darkened momentarily as she told me that Aya's scores at school seemed to be getting worse little by little.
But immediately after that she smiled cheerfully and said, "But because her writing is so slow during tests,
she runs out of time. So it can't be helped, can it?"
In fact, Aya couldn't take notes properly. She also had to change classrooms for different lessons, and was
always late for classes because her movements were so slow. Her high school apparently regarded that as
a big problem. However, her classmates helped her a lot, carrying her textbooks or holding her hand when
they saw her desperately trying to walk. I can imagine how grateful she was, but also how frustrated she
must have felt about her disabled body. However, she was always smiling and her big eyes were active in her
face as it gradually went thinner and smaller.
It was decided she should enter the hospital during her summer holiday in order to try out the new medicine.
"Can I . . . get married?"
The examination and treatment of patients is not the only role of a university hospital. It also has to
carry out research and educate medical students, teaching them how to become good doctors. After studying
about diseases in a general way, the students are divided into small groups of six or seven. They make a
round of visits to a different department every one or two weeks to examine the patients. They read the
relevant textbooks and receive guidance from the doctor in charge of the patients. This is the curriculum
called 'porikuri' (polyclinic). Two groups often have to remain in the hospital at night, and sometimes
even sleep over in the special 'porikuri' rooms: the students of the surgery-oriented departments, who
have to observe operations, and those of the obstetrics department, who also have to attend the birth of
I feel sorry for the patients who cooperate in this curriculum, but I always ask them because I think it
is an important way to foster good doctors. The patients all kindly agree. When the visits are repeated,
patients get used to them. They even acquire better knowledge by glancing at the textbooks carried by the
students and listening to what the doctor explains to them. Reversing roles, the patients sometimes even
teach things to the students in the next group that comes around - which is no laughing matter.
Aya was in the same age group as the students. I was a little concerned about her state of mind, but I
wanted the students to get some understanding of her disease. I made up my mind to ask for her cooperation.
She nodded with a wet little smile.
Three students, two young men and a young woman, were responsible for Aya. They carefully examined her
and studied hard about her disease. Though their visits finished after one week, one of the men sometimes
went to see Aya in the evening while he was studying in a different department. He was blessed with good
health and came from the kind of family in which it was only natural to study medicine. I could imagine
he was shocked to learn about Aya's circumstances: entering a high school aiming at university study, and
then having to move to a school for the handicapped because of her disease. And he knew that the disease
was 'slow but progressive.' I was pleased to hear that he found time to visit Aya not just because of his
interest in the disease but because of his kindness. It suggested to me he would make a good doctor.
One day, I was walking along the corridor after finishing my round of ward visits. Aya suddenly came out
of her ward in her wheelchair, just as if she had been waiting for me. She stopped beside a fire hydrant
on the dimly-lit wall and asked me a question out of the blue:
"Dr. Yamamoto, can I . . . get married?"
I automatically answered, "No, Little Aya, you can't."
Then I thought for a moment. Why had she asked that question? Maybe there was someone she liked . . .
could it be that medical student who had been visiting her? Thinking I should listen to her carefully,
I crouched down and looked into her face as she sat there in her wheelchair. I was shocked to see the
look of surprise in her eyes. She had clearly been startled by my firm reply.
Aya was in a state where she had to struggle even over small things, and she knew that her disease was
gradually getting worse. I had assumed that she would never even think about marriage in general, let
alone think about whether she could get married or not.
Now I realized, however, that reality was different: she had become taller, her breasts had developed,
and she was having her period regularly. It always bothered her because it made her sway more. I'd
watched Aya grow from a young girl into a woman. So why did I assume that she would never think about
getting married and having a family? I felt ashamed of myself. I had decided on that dogmatically. Even
though we had been deeply associated with each other for so long, I hadn't fully understood her.
That made me reflect on my conduct. It was the biggest shock that I had ever had from one of my patients.
I will never forget Aya's large, shivering eyes and surprised expression at that moment.
I suppose my answer had caught her off her guard.
"Why can't I?" she asked. "Is it because my children would have the same disease?"
"Well, you need someone to get married to," I answered as cheerfully as possible. "First of all, you'll
have to find someone who fully understands your condition and will agree to marry you. Do you have anyone
in mind?"
It was a very cruel answer. But I didn't want to give her a vague reply that would encourage her to
cherish an illusion that would soon be dashed.
I was moved to tears as she shook her head and said, "No."
I don't know which came first - her face becoming hazy because of my tears or her eyes filling with tears.
For a while, I couldn't move.
For several days after this incident, I could still hear her voice asking, "Dr. Yamamoto, can I . . . get
The student who had visited her from time to time gradually stopped going to see her. I suppose he got
too busy. Perhaps partly because of that, Aya committed herself to rehabilitation as if nothing in
particular had happened. And she seemed cheerful in her ward.
Around the end of her stay in the hospital, Aya began to suffer from orthostatic hypotension. She would
get a headache and feel nausea whenever she got up. Then one of the patients in the same room died
suddenly. That made Aya's anxiety about dying stronger. She spent several days looking very depressed.
Again I explained to her what would happen to her as the disease progressed, but I said it was a long
time before she would have to face death herself. She nodded. Little by little, she became cheerful
However, she started needing other people to look after her. She moved to a hospital that permitted a
caregiver to stay with her. I sometimes go there to see patients in my special field. Later she moved
to a hospital closer to her home in Toyohashi.
Although I haven't seen her mother for more than two years, she keeps me updated on Aya's condition. She
consults me and a young doctor from my university who has been sent to the hospital where Aya is staying
now. So I have a good grasp of how she is doing. I hear she is loved by everyone wherever she goes, and
her caregiver looks after her with warmth and compassion.
Whenever my patients with this disease start getting discouraged, I encourage them by talking about Aya.
Recently, I've been thinking that in fact I am the one who has been encouraged by her most of all.

Hiroko Yamamoto
Assistant Professot,
(Now Professor)
Department of Neurology,
Fujita Health University Hospital

Afterword by Shioka Kito (Aya's mother)

When we went to Nagoya University Hospital for a consultation, the doctor told us the name of Aya's disease.
He explained to us how her physical abilities would gradually be lost as the disease progressed and that there
was no cure. Like any parent, I prayed that at least my child would turn out to be an exception, that the
progress of the disease would stop where it was, and that some kind of miracle would happen.
My daughter believed absolutely that she would be cured. I was very confused and I found it hard to come to
terms with the situation. As her parents, how should we look after her? I realized that we would have to face
our future firmly, walking together with her and supporting her as a solid pillar.
Some people who acquire a partial disability, such as the loss of an arm or a leg, can use their other healthy
parts to compensate. But in the case of spinocerebellar degeneration, the patients whole body loses its
locomotive power. All the large motor functions, such as sitting and walking, are gradually lost; so, too,
are the fine motor functions, such as writing and using chopsticks. The whole process requires a long battle
against the handicap. And the tactics have to changed according to the patients condition.
Constantly threatened by the progress of her disease and under the pressure of anxiety and fear, Aya refused
to accept the inevitable or to give up. She continued to make an effort. But finally she became bedridden.
Today she can hardly speak and cannot even wipe away her tears. I wonder what ond how she thinks about herself
inside her clear brain? But there is no way to understand that now. She has been deprived of the ability even
to express her feelings.
In the sixth year of her illness, when she became unable to cope with daily life by herself, she wrote "What
am I living for?" in her notebook (page 162). She asked me the same question. She had tried so hard to keep
going and had fought as hard as she could. But the end result was that her life was moving ever further away
from the life she wanted to live. She seemed to be reproaching herself, saying "My life is worthless," "I have
nothing to live for," and "I'm just a burden."
She never did or said anything to criticize others, such as "Why is it only me who has become like this?" or
"I wish you had never had me." That made it all the more difficult for me to answer her.
The major events in her life - such as the outbreak of her illness, her move from Toyohashi Higashi High School
to Aichi Prefectural Okazaki High School for the Physically Chalanged, her graduation, when she became unable
to walk, and finding a caregiver - were always obstructed in some way. That made Aya depressed.
We groped along digging in a pitch-dark tunnel together as we tried to heal her bloody, damaged body. But then
we found we had to face another obstacle. We have come this far, somehow or other, hoping to find a brighter
path where we could say: "Oh, this is what we've been looking for!" But the reality of the terminal station
we have now reached has turned out to be too cruel.
I cried together with Aya when she cried. I joined her in her sadness as I helped her to get up whenever she
fell over. And when she became unable to move and had to crawl along the cold corridor, I followed behind her,
crawling at the same pace.
I couldn't take the commendable attitude of never showing my tears in front of the children. Because I
understood Aya's agony and pain very well, I thought that was only a natural way to show myself as a mother.
But from the position of being a grown-up and a parent, I didn't differentiate her from her healthy brothers
and sisters.
Regarding the words 'It can't be helped because she's ill,' I often insisted she should carry out things
properly except those that were really impossible for a disabled person. The difference from the others was
only that she had an extra burden on her shoulders due to her illness. And I had to share that burden.
Aya said that because of that burden her life had gone off the rails. But I bought her various books about
other people's battles against disease. I made her read them, telling her that this was her life, too. I
didn't want her to become narrow-minded, thinking that she was the only unhappy person in the world.
I tried to encourage her by saying, "Aya, you've tried as hard as you could with everything and that really
surprises everyone. I think you've been leading a much more decent life than your mother, who has been living
very nonchalantly without any physical defects. That's why you have friends who still visit you and say
there are a lot of things they can learn from you. That's wonderful!"
I decided to make these words to reply to her question, "What am I living for?" I started to organize her
notebooks which spell out the way she has lived through her life of bitter struggle. Hoping to
produce a book that would provide Aya with some comfort and give her something to live for, I consulted
Dr. Hiroko Yamamoto, Assistant Professor of Fujita Health University. She kindly agreed to cooperate.
Aya herself says, "I haven't lead a decent life that I can tell other people about. I'm embarrassed because
I always cry. It's been a life full of regrets, constantly telling myself I should have done lots of things."
Aya's brothers and sisters
Aya's brothers and her sister Ako were junior high school students when it was decided that Aya would move to
a school for the physically handicapped.
"There's no hope of Aya recovering from her illness," I told them. "It will only get worse. In a few years,
I think her condition will be such that we won't be able to take our eyes off her. But I will look after her
mostly, so I hope you will plan your futures firmly and take care of your own health."
They listened to me quietly and seriously.
Ako, who is just one year younger than Aya, was proud of her hair which reached down to her shoulders. But
suddenly she had cut it short a few days later.
"Why did you do that?" I asked her.
"Well," she replied, "I just wanted to change my image."
Observing how her behavior gradually changed after that, I felt that she had decided on her own way of living
or had resolved to do something.
When she shared a room with Aya, they often argued. There seemed to be a sense of rivalry between them over
everything. That made me worry. I couldn't understand why they couldn't get along better. But now that Aya
has become bedridden after her life in a wheelchair, Ako is acting like her elder sister. She has become her
main advisor and gives her a great deal of mental support.
Unlike Aya, she was able to graduate from Higashi High School. Now she is studying at Aichi Prefectural
College of Nursing & Health. She is hoping to work beside Aya in the future.
The elder of Aya's two brothers has grown up as a man who doesn't play any role directly connected with Aya.
But he calls from time to time and says, "Are you all right, Mom? Don't strain yourself."
I say, "Why don't you go and see your sister? That would make her happy."
But he only replies, "Well, I will some time . . . Please tell her I'm doing fine and she should keep at it."
It may be partly because he, too, felt a strong surge of emotion when he see Aya crying the last time he went
to see her.
He has been working as a policeman in Mie Prefecture for almost two years now. He expressed his sympathy for
his sister by quietly leaving his postal savings book - in which he had saved money little by little - saying,
"Please use this for Aya."
How will Aya's brothers and sisters get along with their ailing sister when they grow up? Looking back, I
realize that apart from being unable to do enough for Aya, I have rather neglected our other children. I
sometimes hear about families in which people ignore their brothers and sisters. That kind of thing worries
me as I get older.
I have never said that they should plan to help with Aya's care in the future. But it seems that they are
naturally tightening their bonds to look after themselves after I go. That makes me feel very happy.
Medical treatment
At the first hospital, patients like Aya with a disease of the cerebellum, which controls the body's motor
functions, were treated in the Neurology Department. In the early stage of her illness, we felt a sense of
security because it was part of Nagoya University Hospital. We commuted a long way feeling relaxed, without
ever regarding it as a hassle. But, as Aya's disease progressed, she became unable to move around on her own.
For various reasons, the hospital refuses to allow her to stay.
The more serious a patient's illness gets, the better is it for them to stay and receive treatment at a
hospital with a comprehensive medical system and facilities. But the present medical system doesn't allow
that. Hospitals like that have a policy of providing 24-hour care, so personal caregivers are not permitted
to stay there. But how far is 'nursing' care provided by the hospital? Who is responsible for the part outside
the 'medical' care? There is now other way but for the family to commute every day to compensate for that. If
you can't do that , the patient cannot remain at the hospital and must move to a private hospital. However,
there are not many places available for special diseases like Aya's.
Thanks to an introduction from Dr. Yamamoto, Aya was treated for two years at Akita Hospital in Chiryu City.
This was located a long way from our home, so her contact with the family was greatly reduced. Going to see
her once a week was the best we could do, and we had to rely on a caregiver to look after her on the other
There seemed to be no end in sight for her life in the hospital. We wanted to bring her closer to us, so we
started looking for a suitable hospital in Toyohashi. First we made a telephone inquiries to various
hospitals. When we found one that we felt might accept her, we visited it and explained the details of her
case. We were moved from hospital to hospital. Then she spent around one year at N. hospital in Toyohashi.
I knew there was nothing to worry about as long as they clearly understood Aya's condition. But, to be
honest, as her mother I worried a lot every time she moved to a new hospital. Would she be all right?
If she got phlegm stuch in her throat or her body went stiff, she might suffocate and die. I wondered if they
could provide the appropriate emergency treatment if that happened. Luckily, the woman doctor in charge of
Aya had been taught by Dr. Yamamoto. I felt relived when I heard the two doctors sometimes met each other
at the university hospital.
In june this year, she moved to Koseikai Hospital in Toyohashi for the third time. She is still there today.
At the beginning, she could hardly eat due to the stiffness of her body. It may have been the result of the
tension and fatigue caused by moving from hospital to hospital.
"Next time you become unable to breathe properly," a doctor in the Department of Surgery told her, "we'll
give you a tracheotomy." He also kindly explained to Aya by writing in her notebook. He wrote: "You'll be
all right. Don't worry. If you get better, we'll immediately close it up again." I have been reassured by
the efficient cooperation between the Departments of Internal Medicine and Surgery and help from the
rehabilitation doctors.
I can only visit Aya in the evening on weekdays or on Sundays, so I can't meet with her doctor. But a
nurse always informs me of the day when her doctor will be on duty. I can contact the doctor to discuss any
worries we have and Aya's questions that she has written in her notebook. The doctor makes every effort to
answer our questions. I trust him, I thank him and I respect him. He provides Aya with peace of mind and
Aya smiles. Aya loves taking a bath. Receiving the news that she will soon get the chance to take one gives
her something to look forward to
One of the worries that Aya and I had was the problem of finding a caregiver. It would easily be solved if
I stopped working and looked after her. But my husband and I had financial problems: we had to raise our
other children; and we had taken out a mortgage on the new house assuming that we would both be working.
I couldn't afford to give up my job.
There was no alternative but to find a caregiver. Aya is a patient with a very serious illness. She can't
look after her everyday life at all and her speech is difficult to understand. She can only communicate by
pointing at a board of Japanese syllables, and her fingers move very slowly. She has to drag her finger
across the board until she eventually reaches the syllable she wants. It takes a lot of patience to wait for
her to spell out a message. Eating a meal takes her at least two hours. So looking after Aya demands a great
deal of effort.
The first caregiver we found was a 70-year-old woman. She treated Aya tenderly, as if she was her own
granddaughter. Aya could communicate better with her than she could with me. Just by watching the movement
of Aya's mouth, she would say, "Yes, yes, I understand." I was the one who had to ask, "What did she just
say?" Watching her looking after Aya so efficiently, I was very grateful that we had found such a good person
and also for her valuable work.
But we had a hard time after Aya was moved to N. hospital in Toyohashi. I can't remember how many times we
had to change caregivers that year. When I ask one who had stayed with her for a longish period, "Aren't
you having a hard time with Aya?", she replied, "If I gave up at this level, I wouldn't be fulfilling my
duties." But another caregiver who kept saying, "I'm having a really hard time; it's so hard and hopeless,"
didn't stay long.
The problem was the timing of a replacement. The Chairman of the Association of Caregivers had told us that
the family must look after the patient until the next caregiver is found. I would suddenly get a call from
the association at my workspace. We were in a disadvantageous position because Aya was difficult to care for
and it was certain that some caregivers would soon get tired and give up. But what could we do?
I offered to stay overnight once or twice a month instead to let the caregiver take a rest. That was the
best I could do. I often went to the hospital with some reluctance, wondering if the caregiver would say
that she wanted to leave. When I asked the hospital for their cooperation in asking the association to find
a replacement, they said there was nothing they could do if the association said there was no one available.
All they could do was ring them to ask for a caregiver the first time.
Dr. T. called me and said, "Mrs. Kito, you won't find a good caregiver like that anywhere else, you know.
You should cooperate with her as much as you can so that she will stay for a long time. Aya is a difficult
patient, so no one else would want to come and look after her."
That sounded to me like a kind of threat. How could he say words like that - which would drive a weak person
into an awkward position - at the same time as he was saying the hospital had nothing to do with the
association? Not only did the hospital never say, "Let's think about this issue together," it was even
refusing to help us. That suggested he was in no position to meddle in our affairs.
I went to the association several times to explain the situation and ask for their understanding. I don't
know whether it really had a labor shortage or it was just that nobody wanted to help Aya because the rumor
was gong around that she was a difficult case. But I didn't want my child, who had no hope of getting better,
to have to worry about anything apart from her disease.
I started looking for a different hospital. I rang Koseikai Hospital at my last hope and had an interview
with the general manager. I explained in detail Aya's condition, why we wanted to change hospitals, our
family situation, etc. The hospital accepted her immediately. The general manager afficiently arranged a room
for her and contacted the H. Association of Caregivers (different from the previous one). My eyes filled
with tears of relief and gratitude.
A patinet's treatment is always the first consideration, but each patient's background situation is different,
and that can disturb their recovery. It's a matter of course that the patient's family should do their best
to stand on their own feet without totally relying on other people. But those who are involved in providing
medical services have their own position, and they should alo put their energy into supporting the patients
and their families, aiming for each patient's return to society. It's not an exaggeration to say that after
all Aya was able to enter a hospital that had that kind of policy and she could concentrate on receiving
medical treatment.
I also realized that the personality of the caregiver who shares the patient's life around the clock can have
a great effect on the patient.
One day, for the first time, Aya complained about a caregiver: "Mom, this caregiver's threatening me . . .
She keeps saying she'll leave me alone . . . I get hungry during the night because she lets me only eat two
or three mouthfuls of food . . . She says my disease can't be cured, anyway."
It took Aya a long time to tell me these things, desperately moving her stiff fingers over the syllable board.
That caregiver had never showed that kind of attitude to me when I met her at the hospital. But I had been
wondering why Aya's stiffness had suddenly become worse and why she seemed to be losing her energy day by day.
It had reached the point where she had to have nasal feeding (by inserting a tube into the esophagus through
the nose). We knew Aya couldn't hope for longevity. We knew we may lose the fight against the progress of her
disease. But that didn't mean Aya had to endure a bed of thorns every day.
I mustered up the courage to say to the nurse, "Aya is not a girl who says anything willful or demands too
much. She's a tenderhearted girl with delicate feelings. She apologizes when she has to wake the caregiver
up during the night. Please understand that for her to complain like this means that the situation must have
gone beyond what she can endure."
Several days later, the caregiver was replaced with a younger woman. Aya was rather tense for two or three
days because she couldn't get used to the new situation, but her stiffness almost disappeared. Eating still
takes a long time, but the new caregiver says to her, "Aya, eating is your job, you know!" Helped to eat by
the caregiver, Aya's cheeks have filled out again. The caregiver also sometimes does her make-up for her,
which provides a lot of satisfaction to her feminine sensibility.
The same caregiver continues to look after Aya today. She provides variety and joy to Aya's daily life by
helping her to sit on the bed and ride in a wheelchair. A lot of laughter can now be heared coming from her
A hospital is really only a temporary kind of home, but it's where Aya now has to live permanently. I think
she regards her caregiver, who shares that life with her, as a substitute mother or a member of the family.
I can see it in her happy smile when the caregiver returns after she has been out on some business for a few
This life of suffering, in which no flowers are about to bloom and Aya is unable to enjoy as much happiness
as everyone else, will continue. But I pray that even the small pleasures she can experience now will last
at least one more day under the warm protection given her by the doctors, the hospital staff, and her caregiver.
Since the idea of publishing Aya's diary was reported in a newspaper, she has been encouraged by many people.
She has been contacted by her former teachers and visited by Okamoto-sensei. She has had the chance to meet
her old friends again. Many days of joy have returned. I can only say how really grateful I am to everyone.
Postscript by Shioka Kito (Aya's mother)
25 years and 10 month . . . Aya's short life eventually came to an end.

She suddenly fell into a coma and stopped breathing. Even at that critical moment, her heart continued to beat
desperately, as if it was crying out, "I'm hanging in! I won't give up!"
Although an artificial respirator was being used to keep her alive, her face bore a calm expression, as if she
was sleeping comfortably. I wanted her to open her eyes wide and smile at us. I wanted us to talk together with
our eyes, even for just one more time.
"Aya, please look at me! Can you feel Mom's warmth?"
Even though we knew there was no hope, we've managed to overcome so many hardships in the past . . . It seemes
too cruel to end like this . . . It's so sad! . . . If you're leaving us soon, Aya, you should say goodbye to
us . . . Aya, can you understand what I'm saying?
But she did not respond to our words or our touch.
Your sisters, your brothers and Dad and I are all here. But we can only watch you. There's nothing we can do to
help you . . . If only we could relieve you of even a little of your pain . . . Our bodies are twisted with
sadness . . .

Aya's blood pressure started going down. Her heartbeat got slower as if it's energy was fading away. I was
trying to tell myself that the time was approaching to part from Aya in this world. I was wondering what kind
of state she would want to be in when she ended her life.
We switched on her favorite radio cassette deck beside her pillow.
It was around midnight.
Surrounded by her parents, her sisters and her brothers, listening to classical music with the volume turned
down so that it wouldn't disturb anyone in the other rooms . . .

The ripple mark on the electrocardiogram suddenly became a straight line.

I remembered the words Aya had said before her condition deteriorated:
"It would be so nice to fade away like falling asleep on a beautiful carped of flowers listening to my favorite

Aya passed away at 00:55 an May 23rd, 1988.

'Arigato' (Thank you)
From Aya's diary


"One Litre of Tears, A Young Girl's Fight for Life (Aya's Diary)" 1リットルの涙. Translated by Yoko Toyozaki and Stuart Varnam-Atkin. ICHIRITTORU NO NAMIDA by Aya Kito. Copyright © 1986 by Aya Kito. All rights reserved. Originally published in Japan by FA Publishing Co., Tokyo. English translation rights arranged with FA Publishing Co., Japan.

Mr. Budi Tan Naga