Table Speech

“Service Dogs that Assist Self-Support of the Disabled”

March 2, 2011

Ms. Kumiko Hashimoto
President, Japan Service Dog Association

 Let me start my speech by touching upon the years I spent with my husband, Ryutaro Hashimoto. In April 1966, I got married to my husband, who was then serving his first term as the member of the House of Representatives elected from Okayama Prefecture. He promised me that we could reside in Tokyo, and all he expected from me was to help him during the election campaigns. What happened was, on the contrary, I moved to his constituency in Okayama Prefecture, with my 2-year-old daughter and new-born-son while my husband lived in Tokyo. This was because he lost quite a number of votes in the 1967 election and he asked me to move to his constituency out of a sense of crisis. You can imagine my disappointment, knowing how easily a politician breaks his promise. 

 My life in Okayama was quite hectic, as we were blessed with 5 children. I helped my husband for 12 election campaigns, while taking care of our children. My husband served as the Minister of Public Welfare at the age of 42, the Minister of Transport 10 years later, then the Finance Minister for the Kaifu Cabinet. He was appointed the Minister of International Trade and Industry in the Murayama Cabinet, and became the Prime Minister at the age of 58, when Mr. Murayama stepped down in January 1996.

 During his many years in the political arena, my husband had been engaged in assisting the disabled. This was partly because his father had become disabled by a disease in earlier years. Although guide dogs were widely known, there were only few hearing dogs or service dogs and not much was known about them. My husband devoted all his energies to pass the “Law Concerning Assistance Dogs for the Disabled.” This law passed both Houses unanimously in May 2002, which allowed free access for assistance dogs to all public places.

 My husband was delighted with this achievement, but he was looking ahead for further progress and accepted to be the President of the Japan Service Dog Association. Unfortunately, he departed this world with more work to be done, so I succeeded him as the President to be of some help. I would be happy to share with you the DVD on “what service dog is” to increase your understanding.

●DVD on the documentary broadcast by Nippon Television Network Corporation in 2009 was shown:
“On the hill in Nagakute Town, Aichi Prefecture, stands the memorial monument of “Cynthia,” the very first service dog approved in Japan. Cynthia served devotedly for Mr. Kimura for nearly 10 years. The activity of Cynthia, at the time when service dogs were still not approved in Japan, became the driving force to put the new law in force on 08 October, 2003.

 Mr. Kimura, a newly-married 27-year-old man living in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, broke his neck in a traffic accident in 1987. The doctor shocked him by telling that he would be paralyzed on one side. Thanks to the devoted care by his wife, Mr. Kimura could leave the hospital after three years, going through an intensive rehabilitation.

 His life back at home changed drastically after the accident. He could not even get up by himself, and he became wheelchair-bound. One day, he fell out of his wheelchair. As he could not reach the telephone, just one meter from him, to call for help, he had no choice but to stay lying on the floor for many hours.

 Around that time, a Labrador retriever puppy Cynthia joined the Kimuras as a pet dog, to comfort the couple worn out by the tough rehabilitation. Cynthia fawned on her master and did naughty things all the time.

 In 1994, Mr. Kimura happened to watch the news on service dogs that help the physically disabled. Trainings for service dogs could be demanding, which include training them to open the refrigerator, take out the drink and close the door afterwards; to pick up small objects like coins, or to fetch the telephone receiver from the adjoining room. Dogs should not be forced to take trainings and it is important to reward the dogs when they did well.

 Mr. Kimura sent Cynthia to the newly-opened training center for service dogs, hoping his dear Cynthia would become a bit more helpful for him.

 After four months of training, Mr. Kimura was astonished to find how much Cynthia had changed. Although Cynthia followed the instructions given by the trainer, she ignored what Mr. Kimura ordered, as if she was looking down on him. Even though Mr. Kimura felt rejected by Cynthia in the beginning, he looked after her patiently, earnestly and wholeheartedly. Over the years, Cynthia has come to respect Mr. Kimura as her partner. Mr. Kimura started to ask Cynthia for help, and she has literally become a part of himself. They grew into best partners.

 Thanks to Cynthia, Mr. Kimura started to go out more frequently. Yet, he experienced new hardships almost anywhere he went. This was because service dogs were unfamiliar, as there was no legislation to approve their access. Cynthia and Mr. Kimura set out on a long and challenging journey to enact a law that protects service dogs. They visited numerous schools and he gave lectures to make service dogs known to as many people as possible.

 Devoted care by Cynthia started to impress and move many people. More and more restaurants started to allow service dogs and the railway companies, that had once refused service dogs, came to accept them. Cynthia was finally welcomed with warm hands when she walked on the red carpet of the Diet Building, as the first service dog.

 All the hard works by Cynthia and Mr. Kimura gave birth to the “Law Concerning Assistance Dogs for the Disabled.” Ever since, service dogs are allowed to enter the public facilities freely.

 2 years later, Cynthia’s dedicated life of 12 years came to a close. Today, the service dog training center named “Cynthia’s Hill” stands beside her memorial monument.” (End of DVD)

 Today, there are 53 certified service dogs in Japan. Yet, those who are in need of their help number as many as 15,000. Let me close my speech by asking for your generous support and understanding.