Shoko Kanazawa is a Japanese calligrapher with Down Syndrome. With the confidence she gained through her work, she decided to take the plunge and start living independently starting this December.
Previously Shoko was living with her mother – not uncommon as a large population of adults with Down syndrome in Japan still continue to live with their parents. Shoko is definitely breaking outside of the mold and she decided to move out on her own into a one-bedroom apartment near the Kugahara station in Tokyo.
It was her goal to become completely independent and to encourage others with Down syndrome as well as their parents. While her mother had reservations and asks regularly if she feels lonely, Shoko is extremely content with their new lifestyle.
Although she’s just a five-minute walk from the family home and her mother handles the living expenses and rent, Shoko is independent for her cooking, laundry and cleaning. In order to maintain her apartment she has an agreement with her mother to continue tidying up properly, exercising to lose weight as well as maintaining a regular routine.
Shoko learned calligraphy from her mother who was a professional calligrapher with a school run from her home. Shoko was able to start calligraphy at just five years old and although it’s difficult for her to express herself well with speech, calligraphy offered her an outlet where she could connect with people and showcase a beautiful skill.
By learning to live independently and apart from her 72-year-old mother, Shoko can develop a plan for what happens when her mother does eventually pass on. She has established an excellent routine and even become a regular at a coffee shop. She assists her mother with her calligraphy work and plans to offer a more active role in teaching calligraphy to others.
Her next goal in independence is one day being able to live near Disneyland.
The main barrier that many face when finding housing is that there aren’t too many privately owned properties that will rent out to independent individuals with Down syndrome, at least not without some stipulations in place. As more of these cases occur, the changes in rental behavior for adults with Down syndrome could show extreme promise for the future. As it becomes easier for people with Down syndrome to have an independent lifestyle, we can work at facing the challenges of independence as communities rather than with healthcare facilities.
To see some of Shoko Kanazawa’s works, check out her homepage – it even has English!