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Efforts of Tommy G World 1-304 Futamidaitoju, Kiyose, Chichijima, Ogasawaramura, Tokyo
Is it possible to go to Ogasawara even in a wheelchair?
The Ogasawara Islands, which are located 1000 kilometers from central Tokyo, are often mentioned as a place people want to visit at least once in their lives. The only way to get to the islands is a liner that travels there once per week, and the trip takes around 24 hours one way. Therefore, going to Ogasawara means a six-day stay, which is a challenge even for typical people to handle. However, although it is part of Tokyo, Ogasawara offers a rich assortment of charms that are completely different from the hustle and bustle of the city, including the site of the surrounding "Bonin blue" ocean, white coral reefs, and flora and fauna unique to the islands. Hiroki Tomita-a representative of Tommy G World, which acts as a guide on Chichijima-talked to us about how he has introduced a vehicle that is easy for even people with leg impairments to ride due to his desire for anyone to be able to come enjoy Ogasawara and its wealth of nature.
Being drawn to Ogasawara and eventually moving there
I originally came from Kitakyushu. After living in Chiba, I decided I wanted to live somewhere warm back when I was in my twenties, and I came to Chichijima both because of that and because I can surf here. I spent about half a year working part-time and living in Chichijima before heading back to the mainland to work, but Ogasawara's blue ocean called to me even in my dreams, and my desire to return to Ogasawara only grew with each passing day. As a result, I moved to Ogasawara twenty years ago, and I started helping out as a guide due to my desire for everyone to come enjoy nature in Ogasawara.
In autumn of 2017, I struck out on my own, and I currently guide people around the island on my own as a representative of Tommy G World.
Encountering lift-up vehicles
Upon starting up my business, partially because I was relatively inexperienced as a guide, I wanted to find something to specialize in compared to others. When I was thinking about buying a new vehicle, I imagined buying a large vehicle that could be used to load up a kayak and therefore enjoy it anywhere, but my wife found lift-up vehicles on the net. Lift-up vehicles have passenger seats that can be slid to the side and are easy even for people with leg impairments to get into. The moment I saw what she had found, I knew it was just what I needed. Up until then, I had given tours in a light car, and I remembered elderly people telling me that the car was easy to get in and out of and made their lives easier. I have a strong desire for anyone to be able to come to this island and see what makes it so appealing. In particular, I want people who want to come to Ogasawara but have given up due to physical impairments to come here to be healed by nature, so tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that a lift-up vehicle would enable me to guide even people with leg impairments.
Wanting people to enjoy this World Heritage Site while struggling with the balance between nature and accessibility
I introduced this vehicle a year ago, and I've had the chance to guide three people in wheelchairs. All of them inquired after finding me on the net. I've been told that information is available indicating that the Ogasawara Maru is accessible that there is little information available on the accessibility situation of Chichijima. It certainly seems true that there won't be any customers if they can't enjoy the island even if they can ride the Ogasawara Maru. Although it would be ideal if there were in increase in accessible accommodation facilities, restaurants, and sightseeing spots, there are many natural scenic spots as well, and a lot of the facilities here were built back when there was no real concept of accessibility, so some issues are difficult to address. However, I think materials should be provided that make it possible for customers who want to come here to decide whether they can for themselves, so I obtain the permission of customers to post information about their experiences here on my blog and elsewhere.
Expectations that the Tokyo accessible tourism promotion project will be a major turning point
I applied for the fiscal year 2019 Tokyo counselor dispatch project. I ended up noticing a lot of new things as a result of traveling around the island with a counselor. For example, I noticed that parking spaces that seemed fine to me before actually made it difficult for people in wheelchairs to get out of their vehicles, and I found myself wondering why they had been set up where they were. As a result, I realized the truth of the social model of disability. In November, a Tokyo accessible tourism seminar was held in Ogasawara, an adviser visited the islands in connection with the promotion of accessible Tokyo accommodation facilities around the same time, and there are hotels here considering how to make their facilities accessible, so I'm hoping that the big wave of accessible tourism will sweep over Ogasawara as well.
I value my communication with customers on a daily basis, and I will continue striving to help put smiles on the faces of people who once gave up on Ogasawara but ended up being glad they came. I hope everyone will come experience what makes Ogasawara a World Natural Heritage Site.
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Tokyo, a city that is accessible everywhere to anyone.
Sightseeing where you wish, as you wish.
This ability to travel anywhere you please makes life that much richer.
Tokyo welcomes your visit.
Here you can encounter tradition,
history, culture, nature, technology,
and, best of all, smiling faces.
Making tourism closer and more
enjoyable through accessible tourism.