``I can't move by myself'' Unimaginable hardships at evacuation center February 20th 16:57

"I want to walk alone. It's a time when everyone is in trouble, so I want to move by myself so I don't have to worry about anyone else..."

These are the words of a man who is visually impaired.

This man is currently living in his third evacuation center. After the disaster, he faced hardships he never imagined.

(Noto Peninsula Earthquake Reporting Team Kazuteru Omura and Yuka Kawamura)

The house is making a cracking noise...

Fumitoho Oguchi, 51, was a victim of the disaster in Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture. Mr. Oguchi's vision has gradually become narrower since he was 20 years old due to a retinal disease called retinitis pigmentosa, and now he can only see between bright and dark.

Before the earthquake, he used a white cane to move around by himself. He worked as a functional training instructor at a nursing home, providing massage and rehabilitation to residents, and lived an independent life with little help from his family.

January 1. When he was resting on the second floor of his home, there was a big tremor. Just as I was about to listen to the breaking news, I heard a crashing sound in the house, and the sliding door cracked and came flying towards me.

When the big shaking finally subsided, my brother's voice said, ``The stairs are falling apart.'' Holding a white cane, he carefully gets down and walks out of the house.

Together with my worried classmates, I headed for higher ground. That day, I slept in my elementary school classroom, wrapped in newspaper. From there, life in the evacuation center began to be a hardship that Oguchi never imagined.

Independent life lost in evacuation center

At the elementary school where he evacuated, the neighbors showed concern for Oguchi, calling out to him and bringing him supplies and meals.

However, Mr. Oguchi, who had lived an independent life until then, was faced with a situation where he was unable to move around on his own.

Mr. Oguchi

: ``The floor is covered with mattresses, so if you move by yourself, you'll end up stepping on someone else.The hallways are also full of supplies and tools, so you can't walk with a white cane. Even if I wanted to do this, there were so many things lying around that I would bump into them and drop them, so I couldn't walk.''

A concerned group of visually impaired people outside the prefecture offered to send Braille blocks that could be easily installed, but we had to decline the offer.

Mr. Oguchi

: ``You can't put a Braille block on a bed of mattresses. I had no choice but to refuse. At evacuation centers, we always have to ask for someone's help. We ask for someone's help. The thing is, you have to take time for that person.Everyone says, "Okay, okay," but everyone gets tired.Even though I can't see, I managed to get along with society. I thought you would..."

For Mr. Oguchi, who had always strived to live an independent life so as not to cause trouble to those around him, life as an evacuee, unable to even move by himself, became mentally difficult.

Touching someone else's feces in the toilet and getting colitis

At the evacuation center, we faced even more hardships than we could have imagined. That is "toilet".

Mr. Oguchi, who is visually impaired, has to use his hands to check the location of the levers, toilet seat, and toilet paper when he enters an unfamiliar restroom.

Because the evacuation center was without water, people had to put a bag containing a coagulant inside the toilet seat, defecate in it, tie it up with the bag, and dispose of the feces. However, as many people used it and it gradually became dirty, Mr. Oguchi said that he often ended up touching other people's feces.

Mr. Oguchi

: ``It's sad and frustrating. If I were a sighted person, I would have wiped it away and said, ``Wow, it's dirty,'' but since I can't see, I ended up touching it. ``And when I smelled it, I thought, ``It's filth.'' This happened five or six times over the course of about 10 days.''

Even if Mr. Oguchi touched someone else's feces, he could only wipe it with a wet tissue because there was no water, and while living in the evacuation center, Oguchi developed colitis.

"Is it better not to eat or drink?"

Thirteen days after starting his life as an evacuee, Mr. Oguchi moved to a ``1.5 evacuation center'' set up in Kanazawa city. Here, the toilets have running water, so hygiene is said to be much better compared to the first evacuation center.

However, even at the 1.5th evacuation center, ``moving'' was difficult.

At this evacuation center, square tents were lined up across a large gymnasium to ensure privacy. However, Mr. Oguchi will have a hard time with this tent.

Again, there are no Braille blocks in the aisles. Mr. Oguchi usually walks along the wall in places where there are no Braille blocks. However, in the large gymnasium, the walls were far away, and the only way to walk was through the tents, but I was unable to do that because I didn't want to touch anyone and frighten the people inside.

Furthermore, in the 1.5th evacuation center where many people in wheelchairs and elderly people evacuated, there was a risk of collision and injury if people walked carelessly.

Once again, Mr. Oguchi could not do even the smallest things in his daily life without the help of his family.

Mr. Oguchi

: ``You have to ask someone to buy a drink or go to the bathroom. Even if it's a family member, family members are human beings, so it feels like a burden. You don't want to be woken up when you're sleepy. Then, in order to hold back from going to the bathroom, I started thinking things like, ``Maybe I shouldn't drink,'' or ``Maybe I shouldn't eat.'' I was thinking, ``Maybe I should just hold back.''

During his prolonged evacuation, Mr. Oguchi refrained from eating and drinking, and refrained from using the toilet because he did not want to cause trouble to his family.

Meeting the research team

Despite living in such anxiety, 15 days after the disaster, we were able to move to a hotel in Kaga City that would serve as a "secondary evacuation center" and accept victims. A private room is provided here, and a toilet is also available in the private room. For the first time, I was able to go to the bathroom by myself.

As a result, Mr. Oguchi said, ``I wanted to change the way I lived my life, relying on my family and relying on others wherever I went.'' I communicated this to people around me at a gathering on social media for people with visual impairments. Then, I received some information from a friend. That was the existence of the "coded Braille block" developed by a research team at Kanazawa Institute of Technology.

A coded braille block, also known as a talking braille block, is a braille block with 25 dots marked with colored circles or triangles, which when read by a dedicated smartphone app will provide voice guidance. Thing.

Currently, it is installed around the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, and at Kobe City's Port Liner Medical Center Station, and has won the Good Design Award in 2022.

Professor Kunio Matsui of Kanazawa Institute of Technology, who was consulted by Mr. Oguchi, came up with the idea of ​​installing the Braille blocks on the wall, applying the technology used to make Braille blocks that had been placed on the ground, so that they could be installed as quickly as possible.

He then wondered if it would be possible to install a "paper Braille block" that could be simply printed on A4 paper and pasted on the wall.

The hotel we consulted was also willing to help us put it up on the walls of the elevator hall and lobby.

Each piece of paper contains the voice information necessary to determine the location, such as "Go 2 meters and turn right, you're heading for the elevator."

The position of the paper Braille blocks was adjusted to match the height of Mr. Oguchi's smartphone hanging from his neck.

As Mr. Oguchi walks through the museum, his smartphone detects the Braille blocks and provides information. In this way, Mr. Oguchi was able to move around by himself.

*Click the button at the bottom right of the image to play the video

Recovered the “joy of walking alone”

Thanks to the "talking Braille blocks" affixed to this wall, Mr. Oguchi is now able to freely go from his hotel room to the lobby by himself.

It's been over a month since I started my evacuation life. He says he is happy that he is finally able to live an independent life.

Mr. Oguchi

: ``I was extremely happy when I came across a talking Braille block and was able to walk by myself relying on the sound.After all, having to rely on others to survive can't help but make you feel inferior.'' One thing, it relieves my complex. I'm happy that I can do things that I take for granted. I'm glad that I can do something that is normal because everyone is in trouble because of the disaster, so I'm happy that I can do something to help others."

To support evacuation life

According to Ishikawa Prefecture, more than 12,000 people have evacuated to evacuation centers as of February 20th. In addition to Mr. Oguchi, many other people with disabilities and other people who require special care are living a different life at the evacuation center.

In addition to the problem of accessing the toilet that Oguchi experienced, it has also been pointed out that people with disabilities have difficulty obtaining information because a variety of information is posted on paper at evacuation centers. Professor Kunio Matsui, who introduced the ``talking Braille blocks,'' says this.

Professor Matsui, Kanazawa Institute of Technology

: ``We are researching toward the realization of an inclusive society where people with and without disabilities can live together.''We decided to introduce this system after hearing people say they were unable to walk by themselves at evacuation centers. Even while living as an evacuee, I would like to use my skills to learn about issues and solve them so that everyone can live a life that is as easy and safe as possible.''

Mr. Oguchi talked about his experience using the toilet and the difficulty of moving around at the evacuation center. And the words, ``I want to walk alone because it's a difficult time for everyone.''

Through this interview, I realized that there are still many situations that we have yet to imagine.

In the disaster-stricken areas, many people are still living harsh evacuation lives in completely different environments than usual. I strongly feel that I want to listen to and convey the voices of as many people as possible, with a sense of remorse.

Kanazawa Broadcasting Station Announcer 

Kazuteru Omura

Joined Kanazawa Station in 2018,

3rd year at Kanazawa Broadcasting Station

Covered and reported on the ground as a reporter immediately after the Noto Peninsula Earthquake.

Director of Matsuyama Broadcasting Station

Yuka Kawamura

Joined the station in 2016

Covered issues surrounding visually impaired people at Matsuyama station

Responsible for lifeline broadcasting and relay during the Noto Peninsula earthquake