In September 2016, JTB became a sponsor of the ‘Asuchalle (Challenge for Tomorrow)! Field Day’ for companies, municipal government organisations and universities. Asuchalle! Field Day is a programme sponsored by The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center which provides people with actual experience of para-sports that gives them new insights. We interviewed Yuichiro Imabayashi, who heads the Asuchalle! Field Day project at the Para Support Center.
Para-sports field days are events that can be enjoyed by all participants and which generate insights and promote communication.
Matching company needs with para-sports awareness-raising activities
The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Para Support) is a public interest incorporated foundation that conducts awareness-raising and educational activities with the objective of supporting Paralympic sports federations and promoting para-sports. Two of the Center's awareness-raising activities are Asuchalle! Academy communication seminars conducted by lecturers with disabilities and Asuchalle! School interactive classes on para-sports for elementary, junior-high and high-school students. The Asuchalle! Field Day for corporate organisations that lets participants experience para-sports was started in April 2017. JTB is a sponsor of the Asuchalle! Field Day.
Mr. Imabayashi, would you please tell us about what led to the creation of Asuchalle! Field Day?
“In the process of holding Asuchalle! Academy seminars and inviting discussion, several companies voiced the possibility of letting people experience para-sports by holding events similar to field days. We had already received many requests for interactive seminars, so we thought that by changing the type of sports played at the field days to para-sports we might be able to offer new content that meets the needs of many companies and schools. This was the project's starting point. Para-sports would also make it easy for employees with disabilities to participate. A lot of companies also worry that with regular field days it's easy for employees to get injured. But we thought that adapting the content of the field days to include para-sports could be expected to improve that problem. In addition, a lack of sufficient communication within corporate organisations is viewed as a problem today, so the natural communication generated by the para-sports experience of working together as a team to overcome difficulties would be another attractive point.”
Using the field day format to make para-sports interactive events more enjoyable
“We discussed the idea with JTB, a company with considerable experience in managing field days for companies, and ended up working together to start up the field day project. We considered other companies that manage field days, but JTB has a country-wide network, they are proactive in hiring people with disabilities and also have Paralympian employees working in their group companies, so we decided that JTB would make an ideal partner.”
The experience in para-sports events accumulated by Para Support was combined with JTB’s field day expertise to collaborate on programme development through a process of trial and error. Mr. Imabayashi says they have now entered the final stage of holding trials (as of the end of March 2017) and have established a programme that maximises the unique features of para-sports.
One of the trial para-sports field days that was held is described in the first part of this article.
“The programme provides a variety of insights through para-sports. It’s a chance to think about the barriers that exist in society and the process of trying to play sports, such as blinded sports in which players have physical limitations placed on them, results in lively communication between the participants. In order for participants to experience these features, we didn't have them immediately start playing the sports. First, we had them try an original icebreaker game wearing blindfolds. By doing this, they were also able to unite as a team when playing the sports, which made the time spent quite an intense experience. I don't think we could have improved the programme as well as we did without JTB's expertise and execution capability in managing field days.”
Wish for participants to gain a variety of insights while enjoying the experience
The para-sports played in the field days were carefully selected. Mr. Imabayashi explained that blinded para-sports and wheelchair para-sports were included and para-sports which require a high degree of strategy were then added to these. “They say 80% of the information people receive is through their sense of sight, so cutting off the vision puts extreme limitations on action and people who aren't used to being in a blinded condition may even feel afraid. Playing blinded sports such as goalball is fun and lets the participants actually experience the inconvenience of not having voice guidance. The players also get the physical experience of how cooperating together and helping each other by calling out to each other can enable them to play the sport more skillfully. Blinded sports are sports that give people a deep understanding of the importance of communication. Also, we have people experience the fun and the difficulties of riding in a wheelchair by having them play wheelchair sports. We are able to give participants a sense of how cool para-sports are and an insight into the superhuman abilities demonstrated by those athletes at the forefront of para-sports. Boccia is a sport that persons with severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy can participate in. It's a sport similar to curling which requires a high degree of strategy; a contest of tactics that is very exciting. Para-sports can be enjoyed by everyone whether they are good or bad at physical exercise and regardless of age, gender, and presence or absence of physical disabilities and limitations.”
Filling the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games venue to capacity
The Asuchalle! Field day programme started in earnest in April 2017. Mr. Imabayashi, what do you expect from this activity?
“People's antennas are important for having them learn about para-sports and disabilities. No matter how much information is flying around, it can't be caught if the antennas aren't up. At each event Para Support holds, we ask participants ‘Did you happen to see any disabled persons on your way to the venue today?’ Almost no hands go up. But after experiencing a seminar or a field day, many participants notice someone with a disability on the street as they are going home. This is because they now have their antenna up. Moving forward, we hope Asuchalle! Field Day will be an opportunity for as many people as possible to put up their antennas for para-sports and that para-sports competition venues are filled with enthusiastic spectators. It is my wish that in 2020 the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games venues will all be filled to capacity. This will be sure proof of the deeper understanding society has acquired for para-sports and people with disabilities.”
* Title at the time material for the article was gathered.