TOKYO -- Toronto native Barry Joshua Grisdale is smoothing the way for foreign visitors with disabilities to make the most of trips to Japan with the tourism site "Accessible Japan."
Grisdale, 37, has disabilities in his arms and legs likely caused by a high fever he had when he was just half a year old, and he now uses a wheelchair. Living in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward since 2007, he became a Japanese citizen in 2016 in hopes of contributing to the local community.
Growing up, Grisdale was told he could do anything anyone else did. He studied Japanese when he was a high school student and visited Japan after graduation. One day, on an excursion to Tokyo's Sensoji temple, he found there was no elevator down to the train station's basement platforms. However, six members of the station staff carried him and his electric wheelchair to the platform.
The experience left him deeply impressed with the "customer as god" tradition of Japanese hospitality and thoughtfulness, which he said did not exist back in Canada.
However, Grisdale also discovered that there was very little barrier-free information in English on websites introducing tourist spots in Japan. So he started his own. As he sought to answer daily overseas inquiries, Grisdale found that rental services for equipment for people with disabilities were severely lacking, and that it was very difficult to reserve barrier-free hotel rooms from outside Japan. While feeling a sense of frustration, he is trying to provide useful information and help out visitors to Japan.
With the Tokyo 2020 Games fast approaching, Grisdale wants to get the word out on not just the Japanese capital but on the whole country. He also emphasized he wants to inform prospective visitors to Japan that a lot of progress has been made on barrier-free facilities here, and that he hopes people with disabilities all over the world won't give up on a trip to Japan.
(Japanese original by Hitomi Tanimoto, Medical Welfare News Department)