Judit Kawaguchi

Words to Live by: Blind dancer Masatoshi Uchiumi

Interview by Judit Kawaguchi

Masatoshi Uchiumi,64, is a landlord in Tokyo’s trendy Jiyugaoka area. Divorced and living alone, six years ago he lost his eyesight due to an illness. Although he felt like giving up, he focused on widening his vision with lessons in karaoke, voice computer, haiku, English conversation and ballroom dancing. At the IFAC Cup Japan Blind Dance Championships 2006, the world’s first such competition for the blind, held in Tokyo on August 27th, he chassed up to the semi-finals. He says that with effort, for him things are always looking up.
Ready to dance!

Bad experiences make strong people. I was in my 20’s and already a manager dealing with big corporate clients’ claims. They were furious with our products and many refused to see me. I would sit silently in front of their company headquarters all night, just waiting for them to calm down and let me in. The job was awful and I did it for years without any complaints. I didn’t escape. That long struggle prepared me to deal with anything.

I find handicapped people too much of a challenge. I tried dating some but their victim consciousness was too much of a barrier.

The key to success is to find out how to excite people. A truly psyched up person is capable of amazing achievements. I was the second worst runner at school for four years straight. Then in the 5th grade, my mother offered me 1000 yen if won the 100 meter dash. I couldn’t sleep that night and ran straight to first place.

Getting blind was a real eye-opener. Once I lost my vision, the superficial things like sexy clothes and makeup, were all out of the sight and only kindness is left. I date wonderful people. My friends always tease me how some are so hot that the sidewalks are burning up as we walk, other times they warn me that the ladies scare the living daylight out of them. We have great laughs.

The boss should work hardest. I was 28 and had never cooked a meal yet. Still my dream was to own a restaurant so I quit my company job and opened a small joint. I watched the cooks and memorized how they prepared everything from sashimi to stews. I had about 50 employees over the years and I looked up to all of them.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I flew to Italy and stood in the Uffizi in front of Botticelli’s painting, The Birth of Venus, reconstructing it dot by dot, blink by blink. What a sight.

If one is blind, Japan is the place to be. It is so convenient here. Bathrooms are easy to use, trains are on time and arrive on different tracks, traffic lights and just about everything makes a sound.

Do not change your lifestyle if you get sick. I have been the new year-party organizer for the past 30 years. When I got blind, others thought they should help me but I am handling it just like before.

Singing is music to my eyes. I know over 200 songs by heart and as I get into each one, I feel as the characters in the song. Karaoke is a great escape.

I never give up, no matter what. In the first year at my English school I was so nervous that during class my whole body was shaking violently from the stress of not seeing or being able to read or write. One classmate recommended that I quit. But I stayed and still listen to English at least two hours a day.

Progress stops with welfare. I dislike the idea of welfare because it just makes people lazy and dependent. I’m always a fighting Tarzan, and a samurai dancer.

I’m always in good hands. Sometimes I have difficulty distinguishing the stairs from the train platforms. Last time I fell on the tracks people around me quickly pulled me out.

I am just a normal average guy but a bit more fun. I love the ladies but I keep falling for the same types over and over again. I can’t see why.

Being blind is like having a permanent jetlag without ever arriving anywhere. I still keep going.

Love is blind and that’s beautiful. I was 40 and she was 24. We were in love and when she got pregnant, we got married, even though her family was very much against our union. We have two children. I worked so hard all week and spent every weekend with her and the kids, going to amusement parks and hiking. I had no time off but I loved being with them. One day about 18 years ago she packed up the children and divorced me. She must have had her reasons.

A wife or husband should be a best friend first. A kind and funny person is the best partner.

Sunglasses keep us in the dark. People don’t notice that I am blind so I get yelled at and pushed around quite a bit. I often bump into walls and once I was thrown into one so hard that my left eyeball fell out of it socket and was dangling on the optic nerves. I had to hold it in my hand till I got to the hospital and the docs popped it back in.

Discrimination is good. I am still healthy enough so I can say this but maybe in a few years I will be dependent on others and change my mind. What’s next? I worry.

I am always out and about, happy to be alive. People tell me to stay at home and rest but I don’t see their point.

Judit Kawaguchi with the event’s MC
Watching the dancers, one would never imagine that one person in each pair is blind! Gorgeous moves and smooth steps!
Blind dancer Masatoshi Uchiumi
Blind dancer Masatoshi Uchiumi and his partner strike a pose
This Quote

Bad experiences make strong people. — Masatoshi Uchiumi