No One’s Perfect The Complete Edition by Hirotada Ototake
Review by K. Opoku
Being from the West, I was at a slight disadvantage as I had no idea who Hirotada Ototake was when I began this book. However, this might be akin to any good reader who saves the last pages for the end and doesn’t peek.
The book encompasses Mr. Hirotada’s life from preschool to young adulthood. Born without arms and legs due to tetra-amelia syndrome Ototake was destine to follow a specific path as laid out by Japanese society of the 1970s. However, his parents had different ideas and inspired a great tenacity and independence in Ototake that pushed him towards a reality that resulted in two successful careers (to date!) as a sports writer and school teacher.
From a literary perspective the book is simplistic at best and mostly reads as a list of events. The chronological nature of the book doesn’t allow for the development of themes and overarching emotional journeys which I think is a disadvantage to the reader. I am not sure if the translation has impacted the prose it did become the third best selling book in Japan in over 50 years (since WWII) (cite Wikipedia).
Ototake presents his experiences through very rose coloured glasses which leaves this reviewer to wonder if it truly represents his emotional journey or only that which he would like to present to the public… which I find contradictory to the purpose of reading biographies… to enrich our experiences by learning from the true experiences and perspectives of others.
I question Ototake’s memories – he claims these detailed and specific memories from his first years in school… I think at best we might be able to claim general feelings, an emotional soundscape of experiences… a feeling of acceptance or alienation, painful or joyful emotions but not the specifics of classroom dynamics or teacher’s pedagogues. This doubt has shaped a view of Ototake as a man lacking in depth and perhaps insincere. This view might be sacrilegious to people in Japan as it seems Ototake holds a certain cult status in Japan.
And maybe that view is the right view… his tenacity and successes help shape public perspectives of disability and push these issues into the light. His public persona forced people to reassess their perspectives of and discomfort with disability.
One thing I quite enjoyed about the book was Ototake’s ‘can do’ attitude. A lack of self-pity and a blindness to limitations that might otherwise have limited his ability to achieve. It seems from my limited knowledge that this came from his parent’s unwavering love and their commitment to provide the best for their son. They would not accept the prevailing ‘wisdom’ of the time that greatly limited the potential and abilities of the disabled. Ototake’s parents took great financial risks and invested massive amounts of time in ensuring their son had the same opportunities as his peers.
No One’s Perfect The Complete Edition by Hirotada Ototake is available in English on Amazon.