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Campus Now

Midsummer Issue (Jul.)

Message to the second century

Consider the meaning of receiving life and seize the moment

Hirotada Ototake

While studying at Waseda University, Ototake wrote No One's Perfect, a well-received book featuring an impressionable cover and humorous anecdotes of the author's personal experiences. After graduating, Ototake has been active in a variety of fields such as sportswriter and instructor. We discussed his past and the message which he wants to convey to society through his own activities.

Overcoming the pressure of becoming a esteemed individual

――First, could you please discuss your student life at Waseda University?

I tried a lot of different things at university. One particularly impressionable event was the Waseda Urban Life Planning Committee that I participated in during autumn of my first year. Originally, in conjunction with start of charges for trash generated by businesses, the committee promoted reduction of trash and recycling in the Waseda shopping district. However, while conducting activities, we realized that there was a need for creating barrier-free facilities and developing community education. The community asked us to help in such areas. A newspaper featured an article on participation by a wheelchair-bound student, which was the start of increasing coverage in mass media. Actually, my book No One's Perfect was born when a member of a publishing company asked to write a book after seeing my documentary program. In this respect, I can say that the Waseda Urban Life Planning Committee was the origin of my activities.

――――Did you have a change of heart after writing No One's Perfect?

I'm happy that many people read my book, but there was actually a period when the whole matter was an emotional strain. I have never studied social welfare. I wrote the book based on my feeling that there are many people who enjoy life despite having disabilities. However, after the book was published, I felt like society was proclaiming as the bearer of social welfare in the future. I was showered with expectations and excessive praise calling me esteemed and stating how wonderful my activities were. Eventually, such praise and expectations became a burdensome cross for me to bear. I regretted writing the book. At that time, I was supported by my family and friends at university. Even when I was suffering from the gap of my image in society and my true character, I was able to return to my normal self when with my family and friends. I am truly grateful for the sanctuary that they provided.

――――Why did you choose to become a sportswriter after graduating?

The main reason was that I wanted to try something completely different from social welfare. At that time, the first thing that I thought of was sports, which I have always enjoyed. Furthermore, sportswriter is a profession that emphasizes the contents of writing instead of the identity of the author. As long as I acquired the correct writing techniques, I could earn a living even without been showered with attention from society as the author of o One's Perfect. Basically, I decided to try something new after thinking about my way of living.

Returning the love that I have received back to society

――Please discuss what led you to being work in education after establishing a career as a sportswriter.

Every time that I saw news regarding serious crime committed by children in their teens, I felt sorry for the children who were the perpetrators. I certainly don't intend to disrespect the feelings of victims or surviving families, but I believe that responsibility for such crimes also lies in adults who failed to recognize the signs exhibited by children. Upon reflecting upon my own life, I realized what a wonderful environment that surrounding me when growing up. When I was born, many people worried that my mother would faint from shock. However, the first time that my mother saw me, she called me cute and hugged me. In addition to my mother, I received love from my father and other surrounding adults. This enabled me to develop the self-affirmation that I am loved. Now, I want to repay my gratitude to society and to younger generations. Such feelings led me to consider education.

――――Do you have any impressionable experiences from your time as a teacher?

I'll never forget a boy that I taught for the two years that I was responsible for teaching the 3rd and 4th grades of elementary school. Elementary schools give tests on Chinese characters almost every week. The boy studied hard but never produced the kind of results that he expected. But he never gave up. The final test on Chinese characters giving at the end of the school is a comprehensive review on characters learned throughout all three terms. This makes for a test that is so difficult that even children known for their proficiency in Chinese characters can't get a perfect score. However, the boy got a perfect score on that test. As I checked every one of his answers, my hands started shaking when I got to the end of the sheet. Personally, I have the quality of performing well when the occasion arises. I'm not good at producing results through consistent effort. But when I saw the single-hearted devotion of this boy, I once again considered the importance of dedication. The three years that I spent with children was an irreplaceable and valuable experience. It was really a wonderful time for me.

Remembering my gratitude and doing what I can

――What drives you to keep trying new things?

Town Nursery School Kotake-Mukaihara. Opened this April

After working as an author, sportswriter and teacher, I am now involved in the management of a nursery school based on the concept of child-raising through fusion with the community. Some people may think that my activities are totally disconnected, but they are actually connected along a single line. "Everyone is different and everyone is special." My strong desire to convey this message is the drive behind all of my activities. I don't have any specific ideas on what I will do in the future. However, I will never forget my gratitude towards the people who have supported me, and I will conduct a variety of activities while doing what I can with the body in which I was born.

――In conclusion, would you please discuss your expectations towards Waseda University?

The appeal of Waseda is the diversity created by individuals with different values gathering from throughout Japan, as well as the tolerance to accept those values. I hope that Waseda retains this appeal in the future. Furthermore, something that is true for both universities and homes is that I would like students to be commended for taking on new challenges rather than being evaluated according to results. Fear of failure inhibits action and prevents the accumulation of meaningful experiences. In order to produce professionals with a spirit of embracing challenges, I hope that Waseda will prepare an environment that enables students to try new things.

Newly published, Hope: Reflections Upon Disaster Areas describes the authors actions in disaster areas following the Great East Japan Earthquake. The book contains the author's thoughts on aid.

Hirotada Ototake

Born in 1976. Graduated from the Department of Economics at the Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University. While studying at university, wrote the top bestseller No One's Perfect which sold more than 5 million copies. After graduating from university, worked as a sportswriter from approximately 7 years. In 2005, began his educational activities as a part-time instructor on the Shinjuku Ward Educational Committee. Studied in the correspondence course of Meisei University and acquired certification as an elementary school instructor. From 2007 to 2010, worked as an instructor at Suginami No. 4 Elementary School on a three-year contract. Currently involved in the operation of Town Nursery School Kotake-Mukaihara as President of Natural Smile Japan Corporation. Continues to produce written works and give lectures.