Field Day Special Match: U.S. Navy, JASDF, Police vs Fire Department
December 1 in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, a city known for its international flavor. On this day, joy abounded in a corner of this city, more specifically in the Misawa International Sports Center, as 12 teams from local companies, the U.S. Navy, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, the police station, etc. came together to battle it out in the Asuchalle! Field Day in Misawa 2018 event.
Asuchalle! Field Day is a project that has been deployed nationwide by the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Parasapo) since last spring. However, this was the first team-battle Asuchalle! Field Day to be hosted by a local municipality. Making this event even more interesting was its location in Misawa, which with its bases meant a unique and diverse cast of teams, who battled it out in five different para-sports.
Two members of the Misawa International Association recited the oath of fair play
Interest in parasports is rising in Misawa, what with the city being chosen as the site of the pre-games training camp for the Canadian national wheelchair rugby team before the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Deputy Mayor Koichiro Maita, and the Chairman of the Misawa Host Town for a Harmonious and Inclusive Society Advancement Committee gave the opening greetings, speaking about the city’s efforts over the years to provide social spaces for children through sports, even before their designation as a “Host Town for a Harmonious and Inclusive Society.” Afterwards, members of the Misawa International Exchange Association recited the oath of fair play declaring that they would enjoy the event in the spirit of “i enjoy!” And so the field day began, amidst the sound of much fanfare.
Hokkina, the Misawa surf clam mascot character, was also there to cheer everyone on
Trial and Error with Goalball
The navigator “Bucky” of the Parasapo came in to teach the participants how to play defense by using your whole body to make a save, about goalball spectator etiquette (the audience must watch in silence during the game but are allowed to cheer after a goal, etc.), and more as his audience listened carefully, brows furrowed. He also informed them about the depth of gameplay in goalball, like how you can be charged with cheating if you don’t get a proper feel for the distance between your position and the line on the court (which results in you throwing the ball beyond the highball line), and how throwing a ball with a spin, which requires you to throw hard, is difficult because you risk losing a sense of what direction you’re facing, and more.
This was the first time any of the participants had ever played goalball
After that, the matches finally began. The game between the U.S. Navy team and the Misawa Police Station saw members of the U.S. Navy team wasting no time throwing powerful balls that quickly broke through to the opponent’s goal, leading them to a straightforward win.
Sitting Volleyball, Bringing Teams Closer Together
The second sport was sitting volleyball. “I sometimes have to work in small spaces, but I’ve never had to move like this with my butt on the ground the whole time. It was hard. But I’d heard of sitting volleyball before, and this was such an amazing opportunity to finally be able to experience it for myself,” said a woman in her 20s from Japan Air Self-Defense Force Misawa Base, looking pleased and fulfilled from the experience.
Teamwork is absolutely integral—team members called out to each other to make passes
Local Specialties for Lunch!
This day was also the opening day for fishing season, and locally-sourced surf clams were provided for lunch
Also offered was yam suiton (hand-pulled dough soup), a Misawa specialty
Participants Go All-In for Universal Sport, Boccia!
After the lunch break was boccia, wheelchair port ball, and wheelchair relay races.
Boccia, which has gained popularity as a universal sport that anyone can play, was extremely popular amongst the women of the U.S. Navy team and many of the other teams. Participants were able to experience the joy of boccia, throwing the ball cautiously and grimacing in disappointment when they accidentally pushed their opponent’s ball closer to the jack ball (goal ball).
Participants were full of joy as they played boccia
With wheelchair port ball, many teams struggled to move the ball around the court, with the balls hitting their wheels as they attempted to catch the ball. Misawa Fire Department Headquarter team, however, managed a victory over the U.S. Navy team with their swift passes.
“Thank you!” they all said as the games came to a close. In a display of sportsmanship, the U.S. Navy team members also came around to shake hands with all the other participants. Even as they were sitting out waiting for their next match, participants cheered on other teams, exhibiting an active social exchange that transcended any national boundaries.
International exchange through wheelchair port ball!
White-Hot Competition in the Wheelchair Relay Races
The wheelchair relay races, the final para-sport, had the teams divide into two groups for preliminaries, with the two highest-ranked teams in each group getting to advance into the finals. Team members use the wheelchair (that was used in wheelchair basketball) as a baton. As predicted, the Self-Defense Force and Fire Department teams—young and physically strong—performed very well in the preliminaries, which was conducted on a straight-line course.
The finals, which was conducted on an ellipse-shaped course, saw the Misawa Fire Department Headquarter team catching up to and overtaking Japan Air Self-Defense Force Misawa Base team and Misawa Police Station team to finish first. The Misawa Fire Department Headquarter team members, pumped with adrenaline from the race, high-fived each other and celebrated their victory.
Their expressions as they pushed the wheels showed how bent they were on winning
The cheers for the races were white-hot and passionate as well
In the end, it was the Misawa Fire Department Headquarter team that managed to claim victory over the other powerhouses there in that gymnasium that day. “Today was a day of laughing out loud. The secret to our victory, I think, is that we were having the most fun!” said a man in his 40s from the Fire Department (Headquarters), smiling.
Misawa Fire Department Headquarter team, who claimed victory in the event
Asuchalle Field Day in Misawa 2018, hosted by Misawa, the city of international exchange, signaled the extraordinary potential of parasports events. Those who participated in the event were rewarded not only with new discoveries about the lives of those with impairments, but new discoveries across the board—across national boundaries, in coworkers in the workplace, and in themselves as well. All in all, it was an extremely special experience for all involved.
text by TEAM A
photo by Hisashi Okamoto