vol. 19 HIROTADA OTOTAKEWriter
Our guest in Part 19 of OWNDAYS MEETS is Ototake Hirotada. We speak him about the “OTOTAKE PROJECT” in which he took up the challenge of walking with prosthetic legs developed using the latest technology. We also talk to him about his plans moving forward.
Ototake Hirotada was born in 1976 in Tokyo, Japan. He was born without arms and legs due to a genetic disorder and moves around in an electric wheelchair.
In 1998 while he was a student at Waseda University, Ototake published an autobiography “No One’s Perfect” which became the best-seller in Japan. He worked as a sports writer after graduation and subsequently joined the teaching profession because of a keen interest in education. After serving as an elementary school teacher, Ototake became a board member in the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education in February 2013. In April 2014, Ototake started “Green Bird Shinjuku”, a non-profit organization aimed at keeping the city clean through picking up litter on the streets. In April 2015, Ototake took up a master’s programme in public policy at the National Graduate Institute for Public Studies. In November 2018, Ototake launched the “OTOTAKE PROJECT” in which he took up the challenge of walking with prosthetic legs developed using the latest technology. The project raised 17 million yen from about 2,000 people through crowdfunding.
How did “PROJECT OTOTAKE” come about?
There was a time I met Mr Endo who works on prosthetic limb technology at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories and he asked if I had ever tried using prosthetic legs when I was young.
Actually, I did try using prosthetic legs when I was about 1 or 2 years old. However, it didn’t turn out well so I stopped using them. Mr Endo was quite disappointed when he heard this. He said it was perhaps a little difficult with the technology back then but it might work better now with current technology. He then invited me to try out the latest prosthetic legs. 2 years after that meeting, we officially started “PROJECT OTOTAKE”.
Why did you decide to take up this challenge?
First of all, new challenges are fun. The moment of discovery after a series of trial and error is exciting. Besides, I was hoping that by taking up this challenge, I could bring hope to those with disabilities just like me.
If someone were to ask me whether I want to be able to walk using prosthetic legs in my everyday life, I wouldn’t answer yes. I’ve been living with electric wheelchair for over 40 years so I don’t think I want to shape my body for prosthetic legs right now. Nevertheless, I think there is some meaning to this challenge if the fact that I can walk with prosthetic legs would bring hope to the people in similar circumstances.
How was the response to the project?
We received a wide range of responses from the public after the project was launched. Of which, what surprised us most was that many people told us they were moved by the project. I guess this was probably because people saw me as someone who had lost his limbs so this project, to them, was a rehabilitation that could help me regain a lost bodily function.
For me, since I don’t have limbs from the beginning, this wasn’t really a rehabilitation project. It was more like acquiring something from ground zero. This was why the entire team was very excited about the project. I think it was interesting to see if people perceive this project as a touching story about regaining something that was lost or as a challenge which no one had accomplished before.
What are your future goals?
I’m 42 now and I think I’m at the age whereby an athlete would be retiring. In spite of this, I’ve been pushing myself very hard every day for the training. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this to myself [laughs].
People who have seen our project are telling me that they hope I could be the torchbearer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic, running for the torch relay with prosthetic legs. Even the entire project team are aiming for that too. Well, it sounds like a dream though.
My ultimate goal is to fly [laughs]. I had never imagined I could one day walk on two legs and I eventually accomplished it by putting in a lot of effort. Since I have now managed to walk, the next mission is to fly. Isn’t it fun to challenge yourself to something that looks totally impossible?
Guest Select BUTTERFLY EFFECT
I haven’t been able to find glasses that look rugged and refined at the same time. What I like about this pair of glasses is that it has a rugged look and it suits me. Personally, I prefer glasses that are more rugged looking but I do wear more formal designs to match my suit when I appear in TV shows. I wear different styles for different occasions.
- C1 Mat Black