Technology and innovation are very present in Japan – especially in Tokyo. ‘Western style’ toilets include a control panel and at least ten different functions (including one for playing music), just to name one example... It’s great to see that this enthusiasm for technology also applies to the field of assistive technology, to promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities. This is what brought us, the CYBATHLON organizing committee, to Kawasaki in the greater Tokyo area. Together with the local organizing committee and the Swiss Embassy, we carried out the first ever CYBATHLON Series in the discipline “Powered Wheelchair Race”. We were very lucky to have local support for this endeavor – because there are quite some cultural differences… Let me share some of my personal observations.
It’s not that Swiss people are rude, but to me the politeness in Japan is on another level. Underpinned by repeated bowing accompanied by a “hai” (meaning yes), no one ever gave me the impression that something is not possible. And yes, it’s true, you hand over your business card with both hands and honor the one you receive by reading it attentively (even if you can’t decipher the Japanese characters). I liked this and other small gestures of appreciation I witnessed on a daily basis.