December 5, 2012

121025_s_d3t0024JEN hosted an exchange between Shingo Kunieda, two-time gold medalist in wheelchair tennis at the Paralympics, and the children of Ishinomaki. Mr. Kunieda asked to see how areas were damaged by the disaster, and so JEN took him to the “Rehabilitation Fureai Marché”—a temporary shopping arcade to enhance opportunities for regional rehabilitation—where he spoke with local residents. After seeing the Ishinomori Comic Museum, which is scheduled to reopen at the end of November, they traveled to Kawaguchi, where debris has been temporarily piled up, the Ishinomaki fish market, where the ground level had sunk more than one meter due to the earthquake, and Minamihama, where one can still see the scars left by the tsunami. JEN then took him to a tennis club in Ishinomaki, where he met local elementary and high school students, answered their questions about his Olympic experience and his medals, and gave them lessons. Another event was held at the Kama Elementary School, where he was greeted by nearly 500 students.

In his message to the children, he emphasized the importance of holding on to your dream, having a mental image of realizing that dream, and never giving up. Finally, one child thanked Mr. Kunieda, saying, “I was learning tennis. But I haven’t been able to practice for a year since the disaster, so I have had a tough time. But now I find pleasure in being able to play tennis. I was more inspired than ever by Mr. Kunieda’s talk to become a professional tennis player.” The Kama school district was an area where quite a few residents and students perished in the disaster, and this event is part of JEN’s effort to offer psychological support for the area’s youths.