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Did you know that Beppu City is the birthplace of wheelchair basketball in Japan?
On July 16th, I attended the Yutaka Nakamura Asian Dream Cup 2023, an international wheelchair basketball tournament, held at Beppu Arena. APU provided free buses from the campus to encourage students to attend, and I was able to enjoy two games.
The tournament was held to honor the achievements of Dr. Yutaka Nakamura, a surgeon whose work on developing and promoting the acceptance of para-sports and people with disabilities dates back to 1961 when he organized the first Oita Games for the Physically Disabled. Dr. Nakamura also played a significant role in Tokyo Paralympics in 1964 and the first Oita International Wheelchair Marathon in 1981. The Wheelchair Marathon has since grown into one of the world’s largest and best, respected by citizens and applauded by supporters.
Through sports, Dr. Nakamura realized the importance of enabling people with disabilities to interact with society independently. He once said, “The days of giving charity were over and, from that moment, independence and active participation in society through employment were key".
A year after the Tokyo Paralympics, he founded Japan Sun Industry in Beppu, which provides people with disabilities jobs to be more independent.
(Reference: Sun Industry :http://www.taiyonoie.or.jp/english/)
APU students can feel the presence of Dr. Nakamura’s influence in the Sun Store supermarket run by Taiyo-no-ie in Kamegawa. Many people with disabilities work there, and you can support them and Japan Sun Industries by using this supermarket.
It is no question that Dr. Nakamura’s legacy lives on today in the event that I had the pleasure to attend. The matches I attended were Kyushu vs Philippines and Thailand vs Chinese Taipei. The para-athletes showcased their expertise and well-trained talents in the arena, as the audience cheered for each point they scored. I saw how the teams huddled up and strategized diligently. I witnessed their passion and dedication to their teams and the sport as well as their sportsmanship toward their opponents.
There was also an experiential wheelchair basketball event on a court next to the game. In this activity, participants could learn how to use special wheelchairs and play basketball in them. The participants were mostly children and teenagers, who were eager to try it out. I felt that this activity was a great addition to the match as it shows how much expertise it takes for the para-athletes to succeed. Wheelchair basketball requires a lot of focus to dribble the ball and direct the wheelchair properly. Techniques like blocking and assists were also taught to the participants. In the end, the best performing participants were given medals in appreciation of their effort, just like winning teams are.
For me, this was not my first time enjoying a para-athlete competition. I previously attended the Asian Para Games 2018 held in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was a much larger competition, and one of the most memorable moments of the event was the opening ceremony with its fireworks display. Of course, the matches were just as exciting, and I was reminded of the when watching the Asian Dream Cup 2023.
My personal impression of the event was how the audience was so eager to cheer on the Kyushu team and how the para-athletes’ huddled together and motivated each other. I left the arena with a great impression of how welcoming and supportive Beppu is to para-athletes and people with disabilities.
Overall, this tournament showcased the tremendous efforts that Dr. Nakamura undertook to promote the social participation and recognition of highly capable and passionate individuals, and it underscores the importance of everyone being accepted and supported in society.
Hello, everyone! I’m Zera from Indonesia. I am in my first year of APS, majoring in CSM. I’m still relatively new to APU student life so that will motivate me to experience more things and make new friends! Of course, I won’t forget to write about it for you all!