In the Olympic Village of the Tokyo 2020 Games, there is a booth where the smiles of the athletes are bursting. It is a nail salon that boosts the vitality of the game by providing attractive care to your fingertips. Every day, 30 to 40 players and coaches visit and decorate with “gold medal,” “Mt. Fuji,” and “Sakura.” One of the nail technicians is Tomita Akiko, who works with her own prosthesis, “I want to give power to everyone.”
“If you don’t do your best because of your disability, it’s rude to the healthy people who are doing their best.”
Tomita was born in Gifu prefecture. She learned Japanese drums from the age of four and was an active girl in everything. “It all started when I was in the first grade of elementary school because I couldn’t see the letters on the blackboard and felt something was wrong. When I was in the fourth grade of elementary school, I finally understood the name of the disease, uveitis / cataract.” Although she underwent surgery, her progress did not stop and her left eye was totally blind and her right eye was amblyopia. “When I was a kid, I was depressed because I couldn’t see it, and I thought it was meaningless to live.”
There was a time when I struggled with negative feelings, but I met at the age of 20. “A group of friends when I was in college started to take a positive view of my way of life. Everyone said,’I like Aki-chan, not whether I have bad eyesight,’ and the relationship of trust has been established. Because of that, she dared to play with the fact that she couldn’t see. If she didn’t do her best because of her disability, she would be rude to the healthy people who are doing their best, and she is willing to live with her own dreams.
At university, she got a qualification as a nursery teacher, a kindergarten teacher, and a certified babysitter, and after that she got a certified care worker and got a job at a facility for the elderly. When she took care of the elderly people’s nails, she felt that they were getting energized and became interested in beauty therapy.
At the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, she told her self “Efforts so far have not been wrong.”
On the other hand, she continued on playing Wadaiko, regardless of the condition of the eyes. “I am my companion because there was a Wadaiko. If you hit tontonton, the other party will also return tontonton. Music is a diversity tool, but Wadaiko is a sense even if you cannot see it, it’s a tool that you can play with and tells me about yourself.”
She devoted herself to Japanese drums and was named Natori when she was in junior high school. At the age of 26, she became a master. “What I can say is ‘continuation’. It’s the same as a player striving to devote their self to what they’re aiming for with conviction.” To become a master, she learns hundreds of folk songs. Also, “I can see the attitude of teaching disciples, so I felt that I would make further efforts to be a person who can continue to adore as a position to teach people.”
At the age of 26, the same time as the name of the instructor, she turned her left eye into a prosthesis. The disease in the right eye is also progressing, “and I am prepared to become totally blind. I have a limited amount of time to see. That’s why I want to take on challenges at a higher speed than people in the limited time. I strongly felt that I should go.”
For Ms. Tomita, who decided to live positively because of the progressive disease, the decision of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics was the emergence of a dream stage. “My grandfather was a former track and field athlete and was very much looking forward to the Tokyo 2020 Games, but he died of cancer six months after the decision was made. First, I was chosen to appear as an orchestra at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, and after that, my dreams came true with my work at the Holy Fire Runner and the nail salon in the Olympic Village.”
Then, on Tuesday, 24th August, 2021, the opening ceremony of the Paralympics was held. The scenery was firmly burned in the time left in the right eye. “I spilled tears during the opening ceremony. I’m glad I could see this scenery while I was still able to see it. And I’m sure I’ve worked hard so far. So, I thought that if I worked hard, my dreams would come true, and I was able to show that I could stand on the stage I longed for. And I grew up as a position to send power to as many people as possible. I swore that.“
“This is true diversity” that I felt in the Olympic Village
After the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, she works as a nail technician in the Olympic Village from July 13th (Tuesday) to September 8th (Wednesday) during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. “None of the Olympic athletes looked unpleasant just because I had a prosthesis. Rather, they said, ‘The eyes are nice,’ and they looked at my disability like a charm point. I’m sorry. It wasn’t the attitude I felt, but the people from overseas felt that diversity was progressing. When I touched their hand, many of them were athletes, so it was hard and strong, but it was a very warm.”
Nail art uses stickers because she doesn’t have enough eyesight to draw fine pictures on their nails. The most popular character is “Kin” meaning gold in Japanese. Japanese-style patterns such as cherry blossoms and Mt. Fuji are also appreciated. “There are some people who are the first nail artists in my life and some male players. I hope they will get excited by looking at their own nails. She said she won the first gold medal in the Philippines at the Olympics. She was nailed “gold” at the village.”
During the Paralympic Games, the atmosphere of the Olympic Village changed again. “I felt that the athletes were cheerful, especially those overseas didn’t think of me as a person with a disability. When I found out that I was a prosthesis, I said,’Are you there?’ And ‘I’m here!’ We show each other’s obstacles and enjoy a wonderful atmosphere. I felt that this is “WeThe15″, the real diversity, and this atmosphere is not only in the Olympic Village. I wish I could become normal all over the world.”
Through this Tokyo 2020 Games, Ms. Tomita’s outlook on life was further refined. “I’m convinced that people with disabilities can do beauty and entertainment activities as a normal job, and I want to take the lead in expanding the possibilities of that path. Someday, people with disabilities and healthy people I wish I could create a diversity environment that would eliminate words.” Using the power gained from Olympians and Paralympians, Ms. Tomita will convey the beauty of living.