【Report】3rd Break Talks “Creating an inclusive place” (Guest Speaker: Mr. Hidenori Hibi) (October 26, 2021)

On October 26th (Tuesday), S.C.P. Japan hosted its 3rd Break Talks with the theme of “Creating an inclusive place.” We invited Mr. Hidenori Hibi as a guest speaker, who is the founder of the voluntary organization, “Walking Soccer in the Silence” and is also a person with hearing impairment. He talked about hearing impairment, deaf soccer, and walking soccer. Furthermore, based on Mr. Hibi’s story, participants actively exchanged opinions regarding “what is inclusive?” and “how to create an inclusive place.”

At the beginning of the event Mr. Hibi explained, “Let’s take a reaction such as nodding while listening,” not only because he has a hearing impairment, but also because the speaker felt a little lonely without the reaction of the participants. It was also shared that the organizer would use a system called UDTalk to display and share subtitles on Zoom. Sign languages were also provided by volunteers.

What is hearing impairment?

In the first half of the guest talk, Mr. Hibi introduced what is hearing impairment using not only words but also illustrations.

Hearing-impaired people are those who are deaf or hard to hear. Mr. Hibi himself has congenital sensorineural deafness with a hearing loss of 105 dB (decibels). The speaker explained what is hearing impairment in layman’s terms so that participants could grasp its meaning and understand his own condition.

Mr. Hibi spent his childhood growing up in an environment where special needs classes were nonexistent. When he entered school, he was given the front row middle seat in class as a way of support from his school to adapt to his needs. However, he could not understand what the teachers were saying during most of his classes. Mr. Hibi was also exempted from doing presentations, which he felt lucky at that time. As he entered the real world he realized, “I had no experience of success or failure in speaking in public, and for the first time I experienced speaking in public at workplace, I found it difficult.” Mr. Hibi expressed his honest feelings to the participants, “I’m still very nervous as a guest of this online event.”

Regarding vocalization, he attended a “language class” from the first grade to the sixth grade of elementary school and learned how to vocalize from a speech therapist teacher. Even so, for example, when he says “jidosha” (car) and it does not get through to people well, he paraphrases it to “kuruma” (car).

Throughout his elementary, junior high and high school years, Mr. Hibi did not have the opportunity to learn sign language. In college, his chance encounter with a person with the same disability opened his doors to begin learning the sign language.

Deaf soccer

Deaf soccer, also known as “soundless soccer,” has very little sound during a match compared to other soccer matches. That is why Mr. Hibi emphasizes that one of the attractions of deaf soccer is that “referee judgment and players’ communication are based only on visible information.” For example, the defense line silently aligns the lines and sets an offside trap without talking to each other.

“Walking Soccer in the Silence” Activities

Mr. Hibi has been involved in soccer for many years and attended the Sports Managers College (SMC) satellite of the Japan Football Association in 2019. Soon after he planned an activity called “Walking Soccer in the Silence” and established this as a voluntary organization in January 2020. In Tokyo and Yokohama, he carries out walking soccer activities about once a month and online activities called “shuwaberi” every month.

【Walking Soccer in the Silence WEB site】https://wsits2020.com/

Walking soccer (walking football) is a sport that can be played regardless of gender or age, without worrying about the skill differences among beginners and experienced players. In the last 3 to 4 years, it has been attracting attention as an inclusive sport in Japan. (Japan Walking Football Federation https://jwfl.amebaownd.com/) 

Mr. Hibi decided to use walking soccer to create opportunities for each person to think about “communication that suits each individual” and take active communication spontaneously while having fun.

The “Walking Soccer in the Silence” activity in Tokyo has different rules of the match from other walking soccer activities. In the 1st and 2nd games, it is prohibited to make sounds and voices; however, in the final 3rd game, players are allowed to make sounds and voices. After experiencing the 1st game and 2nd game, in the 3rd game, each person will take the initiative to think, act (play) and communicate in multiple ways so that the players with hearing impairment will not be isolated. 

What is the communication that suits each person? “How can people who can’t hear, who can hear, and who are not good at speaking, communicate with each other?” These can be experienced through walking soccer in the silence. In addition, in activities in Yokohama, Mr. Hibi is also developing “inclusive walking soccer,” which will be played by a mixture of people with and without disabilities and ages.

What is an inclusive place?

After receiving the guest talk in the first half of the program, the second half was the time for participants to actively exchange opinions about “what is inclusive?” and “how can we create an inclusive place?”

Regarding the idea of providing an inclusive place, participants raised the issue of building a place where anyone can easily participate by expressing, “anyone is welcome.”

In addition, participants from various positions were able to give their opinions. One participant said that it is important to have a safe environment where people in need can ask for help.

Mr. Hibi also shared issues that happened during the activities. For instance, the participating children with disabilities seemed to have fun just because they were there, but the people around them sometimes tried to take care of the children too much.

Finally, Mr. Hibi said, “I find the word “inclusive” is not familiar for us. I think inclusive can be explained using another familiar word for us as “otagaisama” (it’s give-and-take).”

The 3rd BreakTalks ended with active participation.

Through these Break Talks, S.C.P.Japan will continue to introduce inspirational guests and their activities to create a place where people from diverse backgrounds can get together and learn. Our aim is to encourage discussions about achieving a more diverse and inclusive society.

Finally, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Hibi for participating as our special guest speaker and the participants for joining us. We would also like to thank the volunteer staff and sign language interpreters who worked very hard to make this happen.

【Report】2nd Break Talks “Kodomo-Shokudo (Children’s Cafeteria)” (Guest Speaker: Mr. Yuhei Doi) (August 25, 2021)

On August 25th, S.C.P.Japan hosted its second Break Talks event. We invited Mr. Yuhei Doi as a speaker, who runs “Okuwa Kodomo Shokudo”, (a Kodomo-Shokudo is “a place to eat where children can go even by themselves for free or low-cost meals.”) in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture. While working at a children’s home (run by social care services), Mr. Doi started “Okuwa Kodomo Shokudo” two years ago and is currently the Volunteer Representative of the service.

The first half of the event was themed “Inclusive Society – from a viewpoint of a children’s cafeteria,” Mr. Doi introduced the service and talked about the issues he has faced through managing and operating. 

What is “Okuwa Kodomo Shokudo”?

Since January 2019, “Okuwa Kodomo Shokudo,” has been in operation for the residents in Okuwamachi, Kanazawa City. It is held once a month and about 50 children and adults get together. At the beginning, the community center was rented out to host the meals, but since March 2020 because of the pandemic, adjustments had been made to serve with lunch boxes.

“Okuwa Kodomo Shokudo” is not just about providing meals. There are various events and activities for children to enjoy, such as a latte art workshop. One event had a chiropractor visit to perform treatment and give parents some opportunities to relax. Children-friendly outdoor events are also planned, such as potato harvesting and camping – in order to involve the wider community and families.

“Okuwa Kodomo Shokudo” operates on the fee from the participants. It is free for children and 300 yen for adults. Therfore, participation of certain numbers of adults is needed in order to earn operating costs. At the moment, these fees are not enough to cover the expenses such as food, venue, insurance etc., and the deficit is being covered by donations. The biggest challenge is to secure funding and stabilize the management of the service.

What are the issues you find by running “Okuwa Kodomo Shokudo”?

Okuwamachi is a place where a large number of apartment blocks are and there are many single parent households living there, as well as others with various needs – like elderly people and people with disabilities. Due to a relatively rapid turnover of residents and isolation of certain households, the anonymity makes it difficult to see who needs help and where they are.

My own experience of growing up with a father with a mental health problem is one of the reasons why I tried to get involved in this movement. My day job is working at a children’s home, where I work with socially vulnerable young people. I know that there are also families who are facing difficult challenges right now, who are still in the community, but their lives are on the verge of collapsing – a mere step away from their children being placed in social care. Through the children’s cafeteria, I feel there must be something we can do to help these people, to prevent them from falling further.

As we run the cafeteria for a longer period, I feel the bond between the families who use the service is getting stronger. A lady noticed a child who hadn’t attended the cafeteria for a while, and she visited the child’s home to see what was going on. On another occasion, a family had been going through a hard time with their child struggling to go to school, so one of the participants recommended our cafeteria to the mother. After they joined, the child made friends with other children in the cafeteria and subsequently managed to go back to school. 

I am very much conscious that the children’s cafeteria is not just a place to provide meals. I would like it to be a place where we can give children an opportunity to experience a variety of things, a place for children to come to – if they are having difficulties going to school. It also makes me so happy to hear from our volunteers – whose children have already grown up, that they really enjoy cooking for and interacting with the families who come here.

As for our future activities, we are thinking of an outdoor workshop as well as opening a traditional styled candy store, as a way to have more direct contact with children. In addition, we would like to create a “food bank,” a free food distribution service for those who are in need, with food that would have otherwise been wasted.

In the second half, Ms. Shigenami – the Director of S.C.P. Japan, facilitated a discussion for Mr. Doi and the participants. Someone suggested Mr. Doi to work closely with schools and City Hall to advertise the service to a wider community. Mr. Doi responded that in Ishikawa Prefecture, the current regulation is that schools are unable to make an independent decision whether they should inform the community of the children’s cafeteria or not. The Prefectural Board of Education is responsible for this decision. They then discussed the importance of building a good relationship between schools and the service. Mr. Doi also explained that the family support section of City Hall distributes pamphlets that include information on the children’s cafeteria, but it has not reached all of those who are in need. They also discussed how to maximize “word of mouth” reviews from the participants and volunteers in order to promote the service further. They also talked about the possibility of asking for help from those who have direct contacts with the target households, such as the people who regularly collect money from them for services, etc.

Finally, Mr. Doi emphasized that the future of the socially vulnerable children can change for the better – with the right support. It is extremely important to keep believing in them, and never stop supporting them as we continue to pursue new initiatives.

Through these Break Talks, S.C.P.Japan will continue to introduce inspirational guests and their activities to create a place where people from diverse backgrounds can get together and learn. Our aim is to encourage discussions about achieving a more diverse and inclusive society.

We would like to thank all 22 participants and everyone who helped us organize this event. 

Finally, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Doi for participating as our special guest speaker. We would also like to thank the volunteer staff and sign language interpreters who worked very hard to make this happen.