Staffs’ Thoughts on our Japan Trip


We thought it would be nice to hear what our staff of three have to say about the trip so we interviewed them! The questions and the staff’s initials are in bold.

Matthew Lynn is ML.
Scot Atkins is SA.
Wendy Dannels is WD.

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Class and their Pen Pals

Since we had so many individual experiences, it would be more fun asking what was their favorite moment with their pen pals from National Tsukuba University of Technology (NTUT)! Without any further ado..

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Greeting from Mt. Tsukuba

By: Cat Palm


We arrived in Tsukuba at 7 PM after a long day of trekking around in Tokyo. When we arrived, the town was dark. It was quite the contrast to what we were accustomed to seeing in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. In these cities, everything was bright, even at night, but Tsukuba had this sleepy feeling to it.

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Quick Peek of Our Moments


“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Don’t you always telling your family and friends stories about your travelling experiences? All of us do! For us, every moment in Japan is cherished in our hearts. Let us share our favorite memories with you!

Jonathan Cabrera: I have so much memories. My favorite memories when I had the chance to hang out with the the Japanese Deaf people and got a chance to use Japanese Sign Langauge.

Ethan Young: Wow I have a bunch! One of them was when I met a deaf person who have a job in Japan.

Justin Cha: My favorite memory in Japan was eating all these street foods!! YUMMYY!! My favorite street food was Takoyaki.

Megan Burgess: My favorite memory is when a few of us (David, Michael, Gianna and me) went to the Kyoto Tower one night in Kyoto. We had a few drinks and enjoyed the view from the tower. We ended up missing the bus on the way back to the hotel but took our time walking back. I truly felt like a local that night!!

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Christian Vergara: My favorite memory is when I study Deaf Japanese people’s behavior, I like to see what is comparison of Deaf American and Japanese Culture.

Michael Conrad: Well there’s 2 stories…. the time I had to fight a Japanese toilet and the time we missed the last bus back to the hotel…. For this entry, I’ll talk about the bus. A few friends and us got to explore Kyoto tower and taste sake for the first time. It was a lot of fun, and before we knew it the last bus had just left, we chased and tried to catch up but it was long gone. Soooooooo we ended up walking back to the hotel. It was too much fun and frankly not that long of a walk.

Peter Yeung:  My favorite memory is when we had free time exploring Tokyo by using the subway station.  We decided to go to Ikebukuro to see the biggest Pokemon Center inside the 2nd floor of the mall.  It was very amazing to see various pokemon dolls and saw many big figures, such as Pikachu, Mega Charizard, Mewtwo, and a few to name.  I wanted to buy all things, but I decided not.  I brought one or two survivors from that store and I enjoyed seeing them with me.  Seeing the biggest Pokemon store in Tokyo was checked off my dream checklist!  It is worth to go there!

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Mary Rose Weber:  My favorite memory is visited some historic places. We went to Osaka castle in the middle of the city. It was beautiful to view on top of the castle! We walked lots of stairs in Fushimi inari in Kyoto. There were lots of the fox sculptures. I was very enjoyed learning about Japanese history.

Gianna Heaviland: I had run into many Japanese people during my time in Japan. I loved that they were all extremely friendly and welcoming. My favorite moment was an encounter I had with an elderly couple at Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto. I was shopping for souvenirs before I had to meet with the group. A husband and wife approached me asking where I was from, why I was traveling in Japan, and if I spoke any Japanese. While it was hard to hear them and their accents, I still answered their questions. They only knew a little bit of English so the cashier of the shop had to interpret what I was speaking. I was surprised that this couple was willing to get to know me and speak what they knew to communicate. They even shook my hand! It made me reflect on how Americans don’t make much effort to talk to tourists or people they don’t know on a day-to-day basis.

Geraldine Dang: Visiting Japan was a dream come true for me since I was growing up, but I did not expect to experience such a wonderful mixture of feelings of  joy, admiration, and awesome! My favorite memory is when Margaret and I went to Harajuku and stopped by the cotton candy store and the street food places. We ate two big cotton candies, crepe, and  bubble tea, the flavors were so good,  delicious and tasted differently from what I had back home.The shopping trip was so joyful, we were surrounded by so many colors from the stores, the noise from the crowd, and the people immersing into the shopping like us! My group and I went to the cities in Tokyo and it made my eyes big and shiny from the admiration of the technology I saw in Tokyo!  It is a land of adventure and future inventions. Your mind is trying to absorb like a sponge all these new (at least new for me!) technology. I cannot help thinking about the majestic temple in Kyoto, you cannot help but to feel respectful, in awesome of such stunning architecture, and peaceful  nature surrounding the the temple. The stairs leading to the mountain where the temple is , is a fitness challenge,  I could not finish to go to the top!  Maybe it will be an excuse for me to go back to Japan to finish climbing those stairs!

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Caitlin Kight: I have too many favorite memories and I have to pick one.. Or maybe two… My favorite memory is when we went to Takeshita Street in Tokyo, Japan and I have lot of fun and another one, on our first day of Japan, we stayed at the hotel and my roommates (Kali and Gianna) and I saw the Japanese toilet that have several features such as seat warmer, music, shower, and even bidet, which is a pretty precious term for a jet of water that gets fired at your tenderness. We were trying to figure out how those buttons work and I pushed one of the buttons, “bidet” and ended up that it was jet of water that fired out of the toilet toward to the mirror out of the room. I tried to made it stop so I just random pushed different buttons to get it stop. 

Kali Doubledee: Caitlin’s favorite moments above are also my favorite moments. Caitlin and I went on an exploration in busy Takeshita Street. Despiting Caitlin had a big backpack and other things on her back that kept hitting other people and items in stores, we had superb time! We discovered a wonderfully delicious, I repeat, DELICIOUS mozzarella sticks. I swear that food in Japan are coming from heaven of food.


Rapheal Lopez: I have too many favorite memories. I walked into the 711 store and looked for delicious candies that are colorful. It’s not enough space to walk around the aisle. it’s very interesting. I went to arcade game and all toys and odd things that are a little weird but usually for Japanese people. I played the craw crane machine to pick up the black balls but missed them. I noticed two teenagers expertly picking up the black balls without fails. I cannot believe that everything was wonderful for me to visit Japan.  

Margaret Peters: There are many amazing memories that I won’t forget about one of best thing in Today. I was waiting for my pen pal arrives to pick same time, my few classmates joined with me and me up. We took a walk for about twenty minutes for restaurant. We found the seat and he asked me if I am interested for beer so I said no thanks in Japanese. However, he actually brought the beer for me and I tried to explained to him about I didn’t want to drink a beer because I hate that. But I didn’t want to hurt his feeling because our group wants to respect them. After that, we talked a lot for almost four hours in Japanese Sign Language  and I didn’t even realized for that. It was a worth of my time.

Tiandre Turner: I am feeling nostalgic when I looked back to my memories in Japan. One of my favorite memories would be feeling awkward and surprised while I was eating when the whole class stared and smiled at me right out of blue. I looked so shocked with food in my mouth because Justin came out with a cake and then the class cheered and signed happy birthday to me. Afterwards, two dope gals, Cat K and Kali, got me two awesome gifts. That’s the moment I treasure the most.

Sarah LaMascus: One of my favorite memories from Japan was in Tokyo. We all had free time so I went with a few other people to the Pokemon Center and then we spent almost an hour looking for a Cat Cafe! We finally made it and it was super cute playing with all the cats but by now we were starving so we walked around and found this small underground curry restaurant that was sooo delicious! Then after stuffing ourselves with delicious curry, one person in our group, Tiandré, decided to find his own way home. We were getting a little worried because we were supposed to be back to the hotel in 15 minutes and it was 20 minutes away and we didn’t know where Tiandré was. Eventually we were close to the hotel and still worried about Tiandré when all of a sudden we see him across the street asking a police officer where our hotel was and then he starts running towards the hotel so we all start running! I can’t imagine what all of the locals thought seeing 10 foreigners running through the streets!!!

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In the end, the class made so many memories and laughed together. We want to thank you, Japan, for treating us wonderfully. Most of classmates are itching to visit Japan as soon as they can. See you later, Japan!

The Long Road to Disability Rights in Japan


It had been a while since our previous post! Don’t worry, we have more posts coming up for next several weeks. Exciting, right?! We would like to introduction the “special guest”, Shirasawa Mayumi. *applauds*


Shirasawa Mayumi

Shirasawa Mayumi, with her PhD in disability studies from Tsukuba University, has been involved with assisting Deaf and hard-of-hearing students at institutions of higher education since college. She is associate professor at Tsukuba University of Technology’s Research and Support Center on Higher Education for the Visually and Hearing Impaired. She is also currently conducting research at the Rochester Institute of Technology under a Nippon Foundation International Fellowship.

With the permission of Shirasawa Mayumi, we want to share her article, The Long Road to Disability Rights in Japan. Mainly, the article explained about the barriers Japanese people with disability faced and how did they attained the rights. There are some information about United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as well.


The Long Road to Disability Rights in Japan

On January 20, 2014, the government of Japan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a step many advocates considered long overdue. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006 and brought into force in May 2008, the CRPD bans all forms of discrimination on the basis of disability and requires the parties to the treaty to provide necessary accommodation to persons with disabilities. Although Japan signed the CRPD in September 2007, it spent more than six years subsequently laying the legal groundwork for ratification—even as South Korea, China, and dozens of other countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe officially joined the convention. Only after amending the Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities and passing the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities was Japan ready to become the 140th country to ratify the CRPD.

This qualifies as a giant leap for Japan. Yet media coverage has been sparse. The general public remains largely ignorant of the meaning of “prohibition of discrimination” under the CRPD and unaware of the kind of hurdles to participation the disabled face even today. In the following, I offer an overview of the convention and discuss what additional steps Japan must take to eliminate discrimination against these individuals.

Denial of Accommodation is Discrimination

The most significant aspect of the CRPD from the standpoint of its potential impact on our lives is the fact that it treats “denial of reasonable accommodation” as a form of discrimination.

Reasonable accommodation refers to adaptations and modifications to guarantee opportunities for participation and access to services that persons with disabilities would otherwise be denied owing to their disability. Section 2 of the CRPD defines the concept as follows:

“Reasonable accommodation” means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Examples include arranging for sign language interpreters at local lectures, adding audio commentary to television shows and movies, and installing ramps at the entrances to department stores and restaurants. Failure to make such accommodations is considered discrimination under the convention. Look around you and you will see that there are still countless instances in which individuals with disabilities are unable to take part in our society on an equal basis.

Improving Support on University Campuses

As someone who has spent many years supporting higher education for people with disabilities, I am keenly aware of the barriers such students face on campus. Deaf and hard of hearing students have no way to hear emergency alarms or announcements made over the loud speaker system, not to mention the content of classroom lectures and discussions. Blind students often have no access to the content of textbooks and other printed materials and have difficulty commuting and moving between classrooms. The campus is home to students with a wide range of disabilities, from orthopedic impairments that may confine them to wheelchairs to developmental and internal disorders, and each of these students has a different set of needs.

Japan’s ratification of the CRPD means that henceforth schools will be expected to provide reasonable accommodation based on individual needs, including sign language interpreters or text transcribers for the Deaf or hard of hearing and transcription of materials into Braille or audio format for the blind or visually impaired. The CRPD is significant because it goes beyond idealistic rhetoric and mandates concrete action, stipulating that parties must “take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided.”

Japan’s Efforts to Date

What actions has the Japanese government taken thus far to promote the principle of reasonable accommodation?

When the Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities was amended in August 2011, a provision was added stating that “necessary and reasonable accommodation shall be made” to remove social barriers (Article 4, paragraph 2). Although the wording is somewhat vague, a provision for reasonable accommodation—the core concept of the CRPD—made its way into domestic law for the first time.

This was followed in June 2013 by passage of the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities. Article 7, paragraph 2, of this law stipulates that “administrative organs, etc., shall make necessary and reasonable accommodation for the removal of social barriers.” Private entities, meanwhile, must “endeavor to make necessary and reasonable accommodation for the removal of social barriers” (Article 8, paragraph 2).

Meanwhile, separate provisions in the Act on Employment Promotion etc. of Persons with Disabilities explicitly require private businesses to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities. Under this law, business owners “must make necessary improvements to facilities, assign assistance providers, and take any other necessary measures” to “ensure treatment equal to that of nondisabled workers.”

Both laws are scheduled to come into force on April 1, 2016. Hopes are high that this will bring major changes to the lives of persons with disabilities in Japan, who have hitherto been denied many of the accommodations they sought. But even now, less than two years before the effective date of the legislation, the Japanese public is largely ignorant of its existence. Measures to familiarize the public with the laws’ gist and the changes they mandate are urgently needed.

Learning from a Leader in Disabled Rights

The United States has consistently been a world leader in the rights of the disabled. A full 41 years ago it legislated reasonable accommodation in “any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.(*1) It expanded and extended these protections to the private sector 24 years ago under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.(*2) Also noteworthy is the pioneering role played by the US federal government, which has led the way in promoting equal opportunity by actively hiring persons with disabilities and blocking the adoption of IT equipment and systems that are not universally accessible.

Admittedly, Japan and the United States differ fundamentally in terms of their social environment and their concepts of law. Nevertheless, given that the United States has decades of experience enforcing laws that Japan enacted only last year, we should learn what we can from its example. Meanwhile, the trend toward universal access and equal rights for the disabled is rapidly gaining momentum in Europe, particularly in such countries such as Denmark and Sweden, as well as in Hong Kong, South Korea, and other parts of Asia. Japan must accelerate its efforts if it is to keep pace with the international community.

There are high hopes for a dramatic improvement in conditions for the disabled in Japan now that the government has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Japan now faces the urgent task of implementing the concrete steps set forth in the convention through legal and other measures. In two years the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities will take effect. I hope the day will soon come when we can say that the lives of persons with disabilities have truly changed.


(Originally written in Japanese on July 11, 2014. Title photo: Then Foreign Minister Kōmura Masahiko signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in September 2007. © Jiji.)


(*1) ^ As public institutions and most colleges and universities receive federal assistance, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act had a far-reaching impact and laid the groundwork for subsequent civil rights legislation regarding persons with disabilities. Among other things, it requires that those covered by the law ensure access to programs and services to qualified individuals with disabilities, provide reasonable accommodation to disabled employees, and ensure accessibility when constructing new facilities or renovating existing ones.

(*2) ^ The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits disability-based discrimination in various social settings. The law is divided into four major areas, addressing all services and facilities that are available to the general public: employment, covering job recruitment, employment, and promotion by employers having 15 or more workers; public services and public transportation, which includes all programs and services provided at the state and local levels, such as public schools, courts of law, and healthcare; public accommodations and commercial facilities, referring to operations by private businesses and nonprofit organizations; and telecommunications, such as relaying of telephone calls and television subtitles.