Japan's 'invisible' Disabled Artisans Fight For Spotlight
Faizan Hashmi Published January 18, 2022 | 09:10 AM
Tokyo, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 18th Jan, 2022 ) :In a trendy Tokyo neighbourhood, customers browse the wares at Majerca, a shop stocked with handmade items from scarves to glassware, all produced by people with disabilities.
The shop, and the workshops where the items were produced, are part of a small but burgeoning movement in Japan aiming to promote work by people with impairments.
Despite being the only country to host the Paralympics twice, and the government's public commitment to integrate people with disabilities, activists and experts say workplaces in Japan are rarely accessible to them.
In fact, public subsidies for those with disabilities have generally been understood to mean recipients will simply stay at home, and activists say there is little support for those seeking active employment.
That's a huge loss for society, according to Miho Hattori, who works with some of the producers at a workshop that supplies Majerca.
"Some workers here have a career of more than 30 years, and they are so experienced that we should refer to them as artisans," Hattori told AFP.
Around two dozen employees with various intellectual impairments work at the site.
"I like weaving." The workshop sells bags and stoles to shops and galleries, with items priced at several thousand yen. After costs, each worker can expect to bring in about 15,000 Yen ($130) a month, an amount Hattori describes as "heartbreaking".
It is not the main source of income for the workers, who are entitled to government support, and the figure is about the national average for people with intellectual disabilities, according to the welfare ministry.
"Their labour and their products are so valuable but they remain invisible," said Mitsuhiro Fujimoto, founder of Majerca, which is operated by five employees without disabilities.
Fujimoto was inspired to launch the store after buying wooden toys he later discovered were made by workers with intellectual disabilities.
Majerca passes about 60-70 percent of product revenue back to producers and Fujimoto says he encourages artisans to value their work and demand fair pay, not just charity.
"At times, I've raised the price by more than five times on something that was apologetically priced at just 500 yen," he told AFP.
Fashion house Heralbony, which produces high-end items working with about 150 designers with intellectual disabilities, also prices its products at a level it says reflects the work of its employees.
It offers ties at 24,200 yen and blouses at more than that, which spokeswoman Miu Nakatsuka says are fairly priced.