Blade Runner Venus

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

Japan is a nation that, like any other, struggles with prejudices and fears.  Although one of the most uncomfortable stigmas in Japan is that against amputees, new efforts in Japan are focused on overcoming that negative image and allowing Japanese amputees freedom from prejudice and fear. 

There are an estimated 80,000 people in Japan using prosthetic limbs.  In particular, in Japan, an estimated 70,000 people are missing all or part of a leg. The top cause for amputation is diabetes, which accounts for about 40 percent of cases, followed by cancer and traffic accidents. National insurance pays 90 percent of the cost of a prosthetic, which must be custom made and carefully fitted and adjusted. In some parts of the country, however, it is difficult to find a prosthetic maker and amputees are forced to use crutches or wheelchairs. The more rural the area, the more likely it is that amputees face difficulties and discrimination

This month, a fashion show at the CP+ camera and photo-imaging convention in Yokohama Japan, has been receiving extensive TV and newspaper coverage worldwide.  The show featured amputee models and was the follow-up to 36 year old documentary photographer Takao Ochi’s ‘Amputee Venus’ photo-book which pictures the lives of eleven Japanese women with artificial legs who have rebuilt their lives and now excel at everything they do, including karate, motorcycle riding, running and football.

Some 7,000, including Paralympians, have been fitted for prostheses by Usui and his workshop, part of an organization set up in 1932 to help injured railroad workers.  Usui also founded a sports club to help amputees train for competition. 

One of the girls, Hitomi Onishi, who lost a leg fifteen years ago as a result of a medical procedure, is now Japan’s fastest 100 and 200 metre sprinter in the T42 paralympic committee category and has set her sights on competing at Rio next year.  The ‘Amputee Venus’ photobook and events have been surprisingly popular.  "I want to show that prostheses can be cool and sometimes even cute," said Yoko Sato, a 33-year-old, posing in a sassy red mini-dress that showed off a prosthetic leg painted with cherry blossoms and gilded Japanese fans.

Japan also has its own amputee football (soccer) league.

The Japanese Amputee Football Association, based in Tokyo, was started in April 2010 by Henrique Matsumora Dias, a Brazilian-Japanese soccer player who used to play for the Brazilian national amputee team. Finding that Japan did not have a national amputee soccer team, he decided to create one.  Through his connections at South Senju's railroad foundation, a clinic in Tokyo for people with disabilities, he was able to gather other amputees interested in forming a team. 

The league now has teams all over Japan and plays worldwide.  In fact, Japan was scheduled to host the 2012 Football Amputee World Cup, but the 3/11 Tokushima earthquake and tsunami caused the event’s cancellation.

The Japan Times


The New York Times