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2011年1月20日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 19
EDITORIAL: Train platform tragedy

Last Sunday evening, a blind man fell from the Japan Railway Yamanote Line platform at Mejiro Station in Tokyo and was killed by an incoming train.

The latest incident is not an unusual tragedy.

The victim was Miyoshi Takei, 42. His name may be familiar to readers of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

About three years ago, the evening edition of the paper ran a story about Takei's efforts to promote "blind tennis," a sport he invented for visually challenged people. Takei traveled around the world to get this sport officially recognized as a Paralympics event.

On the day of the fatal accident, Takei and his wife, who is also visually impaired, reportedly got on the train at Ueno Station to go home. They were supposed to get off at Otsuka Station but missed their stop.

The station after Otsuka is Ikebukuro, one of the busiest terminals in Tokyo. To catch a train there to take them back to Otsuka, the couple would have had to go down a staircase and then go up another to reach an adjacent platform.

Perhaps the couple decided to ride past Ikebukuro to the next station, Mejiro, which has only one platform.

After getting off the train, Takei reportedly walked across the platform, "reading" the textured paving blocks for the blind with the tip of his cane. But he tumbled off the platform at a spot where it narrowed, far from the ticket gate.

Unfortunately, it was Sunday evening, so there were few people who would have noticed a couple using canes.

Takei loved baseball ever since he was a child. But while he could pitch, he could never bat. He said he would have given anything to experience the exhilaration of his bat connecting with a pitch.

It was this dream that eventually led to his invention of "blind tennis." The sport uses balls that have bells inside. Players listen to the bells to discern where the ball is coming from.

We are left speechless by the tragedy that befell this man who was determined to enjoy sports and life just like the next person.

The Koe (Voice) section of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun recently ran a letter from a visually impaired reader who was considering not using a cane anymore because reckless bicycle riders had broken two of the user's canes in one year.

The letter lamented that many people ride their bicycles on the sidewalk as if they owned it, yelling at disabled people because of their slow movements.

Some thoughtless people leave their belongings on the textured paving blocks, rendering them useless for blind people. And while waiting for a train, visually impaired people are always in fear of being bumped off the platform and getting killed. There is something very wrong with our society that puts people with disabilities at risk.

The number of people--including those without disabilities--falling off train platforms is rising. Yet, train stations have been frustratingly slow in installing protective doors and fences on the platforms. Installation is now required by law at all new stations, but installation costs and various technical difficulties are holding up things at existing stations.

East Japan Railway Co. has finally given the green light to the installation of these safety features at its Yamanote Line stations, and work was done last year at Ebisu and Meguro stations. However, it will be seven more years before the project is completed at all 29 stations. We wish the company would go faster.

Some people feel a train station platform is more dangerous than a log bridge spanning the rapids. Safety features must be installed without delay.


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