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【CenterNews】Asuchalle School In Okinawa-Special Live Performance by Koshi Kishita

The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center held the first Asuchalle (Challenge for Tomorrow) School in Okinawa between May 11 and 12. The Asuchalle School provides hands-on para-sport experiences to elementary, junior and senior high school students across Japan.

Asuchalle School, held in Okinawa Prefecture for the first time—group shot of participants from Nakijin Junior High School

Asuchalle School is a program hosted by the Paralympic Support Center toward Tokyo 2020. It provides opportunities for young people to meet para-athletes, make discoveries and learn. The program is held for elementary, junior and senior high schools across Japan. With Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. a sponsor of this program in fiscal 2017, the air transport of sports gear is now possible. With such support, Asuchalle School was held in Okinawa Prefecture for the first time in this second year of the program.

Nationwide Rollout of the Asuchalle School

On Day 1, the program was held at Nakijin Junior High School, with 97 seventh graders participating. Nakijin Village Mayor Haruki Kiyan and Kiyoshi Marukawa, President of Japan Transocean Air (JTA) of the JAL Group, were also present. The program was kicked off amid a welcoming mood.

The lecturer was Shinji Negi, Project Director of the Paralympic Support Center Asuchalle project. Mr. Negi was captain of the Japan wheelchair basketball team at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. Exclamations of awe erupted from students as Mr. Negi showed his athletic skills in the opening para-sports demonstration, manipulating his sports wheelchair on the court and shooting baskets.

The program was held at the Nakijin Sports Complex Villagers’ Gymnasium in Okinawa Prefecture.
A beautiful Okinawan beach, under blue skies, was located behind the gymnasium.

Nakijin Village Mayor Haruki Kiyan and JTA (JAL Group) President Kiyoshi Marukawa were also present

Twenty students split into four teams for the mini games to experience playing wheelchair basketball, five against five. There were several students from the school’s basketball club among the players. They made successful baskets, one after another, from the start. The games were quite heated with a lot of cheering going on from spectators. The third game was played by the school’s teachers. They played an even more heated game to loud cheers from students. The teachers worked up a sweat as they moved rapidly around the court on wheelchairs.

Mira Shima (7th grader), who participated in the mini games, is a member of the school’s basketball club. Mira said, “You need strength in your arms to move and manipulate the wheelchair as you play basketball. That wasn’t easy, and it was different from the basketball I usually play. But, I really enjoyed playing the basketball game. That’s no different from ordinary basketball.” When asked what her “challenge for tomorrow” was, Mira responded, “To practice hard and earn a place on the school’s basketball team.”

As the students tried playing wheelchair basketball for the first time,
they had fun playing a game and became used to manipulating their wheelchairs

JTA President Marukawa decided to join in and play wheelchair basketball.
Teachers also participated in the mini games as the cheers of students filled the gymnasium.

Mr. Uchima, an instructor who played on the teachers’ team, said, “Watching people play is very different from actually doing it yourself. I didn’t realize how intense wheelchair basketball was as a sport. There were many discoveries. It was a wonderful experience both for the students and myself.”

A lecture followed the mini games. Mr. Negi spoke about following one’s dreams and the importance of trying things you are not good at without being embarrassed or giving up. He talked about some of his personal experiences as well.

Blind Singer Koshi Kishita Appeared as a Surprise Guest and Demonstrated His Perfect Pitch

Koshi Kishita, a blind musician, was the day’s surprise guest. He is a familiar sight from The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center’s ParaFes and Para-Ekiden events. He performed a mini live concert. He sang Amazing Grace as well as Chiisana Koi no Uta (Small Love Song) while playing the keyboard. The latter is a popular song by an Okinawan rock band called Mongol800. Mr. Kishita is also known as Japan’s Stevie Wonder. He listened to the melody of the Nakijin Junior High school song played by the school’s music teacher. Although he was hearing it for the first time, he immediately joined in, playing an improvised duet. Students and teachers alike were surprised by Mr. Kishita’s demonstration of his absolute pitch. The concert closed with the students singing the school song to the keyboard duet.

A mini live concert was given with blind singer Koshi Kishita as the surprise guest

Students enjoyed the live performance

After the first Asuchalle School held in Okinawa, Project Director Negi said, “It was a wonderful day spent with the elementary and junior high school students of Nakijin Village. The mighty cheers by students during their wheelchair basketball experience, and the serious expressions on their faces listening to the lecture were both very memorable. The clear blue skies, beautiful ocean and bright sun that I saw from the gymnasium all felt very good, too.”

The Asuchalle School project exceeded its fiscal 2016 goal of 100 schools last year. Visited were 116 schools across Japan, from Aomori Prefecture to the north and Kumamoto Prefecture to the south. This fiscal year, Asuchalle School plans to cover the whole of Japan, with a goal of visiting 250 schools, from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Students listening attentively to Mr. Negi’s lecture

JTA crew member Ms. Koizumi, who participated as Asuchalle School supporter.
JAL will be providing full support for the project.
It will include the air transport of sports gear as well as operational support at various locales by the JAL Sports Ambassador and local staff

Details on the Asuchalle School can be found here.

text by Chizuko Totake
photo by Parasapo
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