【ENGLISH】J.LEAGUE Chairman Award
Football for developmental disorders × Universal Tourism (Kawasaki Frontale)
■J.LEAGUE Chairman Award
Kawasaki type of story – Connecting the passes to one goal
This project was awarded with the following reasons.
① Involved working with not only the companies, government, cooperative organizations, but also the supporters.
② Focusing on the kids with developmental brain disorder which at first take is hard to see the difficulties in.
③ Used the characteristics of the home & away structure of J.LEAGUE and clubs were able to show that in operation of game day events,
utilization of stadiums, relationship building with local companies and governments.
Watching this project closely, there were couple of areas I felt this was Kawasaki-like. The first thing I would like to bring up is how the players were positively involved. They studied the background in advance and understood the purpose of this activity and participated in the VR video that was directed toward the perspective of kids with developmental brain disorder. Kengo Nakamura took the lead in talking about this activity on his blog as well. The non-playing players made an appearance to the sensory room on game days and the day after the game the players that started in the game joined the football clinics with the kids after practice.
Obviously, the team cannot guarantee this type of approach every time, but if the time and situation allow, the players have the mentality of “We’ll do whatever we can do” and that stance is leading to the actions.
Another area to note is the presence of the supporters sharing the values and goals of the club to “Make Kawasaki a city filled with smiles and happiness.” They are involved heavily in this project like creating a message filled banner for the children. Also making cards of the chant (fight song) and suggesting the usage of hiragana on the stadium’s big screen, so it’s easier for them to read. The supporters even assisted in welcoming the kids when they got off the buses, the cheering from the sensory room, and promoting this project to the other supporters who may not have known. I was surprised that they were involved to this extent.
In order for a project like this to happen, there are obviously many people involved, but also the hometown, operations, PR, Technical and business operation department all need to work together. As I talked with the staffs that was involved, there seems to be some miscommunication and stressful situations at times, but they were able to cover and overcome that with synchronization and the philosophy of the club that is rooted within everybody.
Lastly, a lot of focus tends to be directed toward game day and the viewing experience, but we cannot forget the presence of the coaches that were involved in the football clinic on day two of the project. I was told there were many kids that struggled with activities using balls. However, there were kids surprised on how they were able to kick the ball and were all in smiles. The parents watching were talking about seeing their kids like this for the first time and when I saw them crying with laughter, that’s when I felt fortunate to be on-site to witness this.
I would like to introduce some feedbacks from the parents.
He was very unstable and we needed to visit a child psychiatrist once a week and receive some guidance, so it was a difficult time but everything changed after participating that day. I cannot thank enough. (A)
Coach Fujikawa taught in a very sincere way and that ultimately led to his decision in playing football in middle school. He may not be able to be great at it, but with developmental brain disorder his self-affirmation always tend to be low, but I am happy that he was able to develop a goal for himself. This project has changed my son in a big way. By watching my son change like this, it made us parents really happy. (B)
The kids watched a J.LEAGUE game which is the dream stages of professional football in Japan and felt that they want to participate themselves. After actually participating they were able to get the sense of “I can do it” and I would like to ask the coaches, one day what the magic words were.
Now I would like to reflect on how it was for the people that was involved in this two-day project. I interviewed Shigeyuki Narusawa from Kawasaki city, Hiroyuki Seki from JTB, Maiko Gyoten from ANA, Yuki Tanaka from Fujitsu, Akiko Hashiguchi who has a son with developmental brain disorder and participates in many activities herself, supporters from Kawasaki and Oita, Takuma Miura from Kawasaki Frontale, and also Jun Suzuki who formerly was with the club and now working with the J.LEAGUE social cooperation division. It may be a long piece but would appreciate if you tag along for the journey.
Award made happen with the cooperation
―Can we hear about your thoughtsv after receiving the award?
（JTB：Seki）In 2017 we hosted a “Mental Barrier-Free” symposium under the topic of developmental brain disorder and that ultimately connected us to working with all the members and we all used our strength to accomplish the dreams of the kids with developmental brain disorder and their parents. We were happy to be a part and happy this project was awarded with the “J.LEAGUE Chairman Award.”
（Kawasaki City：Narusawa）By using the potential of our hometown club “Kawasaki Frontale” we were able to create an opportunity for people to know more about developmental brain disorder which is difficult to recognize by first look. The participants were all left with smiles, and I have heard this project has led to some people changing their actions which leads me to think how meaningful this was. I believe this award has valued both the details of the project, but also the cooperative structure. As a member of the project our city is very proud of that.
（Hashiguchi）I would like to show my appreciation from two perspectives. One as an activist. I feel that this award will be an opportunity to spread what developmental brain disorder is and will lead to creating more allies. Developmental brain disorder has become part of the system and welfare service in the last ten years and the recognition from society is still at a low level. It’s only been the last year or two since it has received citizenship. So, for a project like this to happen in real life is like a dream come true for me.
Another perspective is from being a parent. I know that parents with kids that have developmental brain disorder has to force a smile at times in their daily lives, and I was very happy to see the smiles from their hearts. It was good to see them being accepted by so many people and I really appreciate for the opportunity in making a comfortable place for them.
（ANA：Gyoten）This is an award that is impossible to receive being in the category of airline transport. However, if you look at it from a different view, we were able to be a part of this award because J.LEAGUE, the clubs, supporters, companies and local government all worked together.
（Fujitsu：Tanaka）It was not just the club, but the league also showed interest and was involved between the clubs. The chairman had to attend another game that day, but he showed up for this project. We cannot thank enough. Also, we appreciate Kawasaki Frontale on entering this project out of all the other activities they have been doing in the community.
（Frontale：Miura）We certainly had other candidates with projects like Ofurontale, blue santa, reading to the kids, and providing work experience to the disabled. However, in 2019, we felt that this project was the one to enter as there were many people involved. Suzuki was the main person in charge, and I was watching everything next to him. My main task was to bring the mascot to the sensory room with me during halftime dancing along to YMCA. I am really glad we chose this project.
I just joined the football industry last year. I participated in the SHAREN meeting organized by the league on the second day at work. I would like to tell my old self that this project is the model case for SHAREN! It’s always difficult to start something from zero and making it to one. My role is to make the one bigger. I would like to make the most out of the opportunity and with this recognition I think we will be able to accelerate.
（Hashiguchi）People might say this was possible because big corporations joined in, but I do not feel that way. Obviously, we cannot count out the contribution the bigger corporations provided, but there was a lot of people taking part behind the scenes. We can say that about the supporters too. They were really taking their time in creating the banner.
Also, the presence of Kengo Nakamura is tremendous. The word spreads to a larger audience when he promotes it. He understands his position and presence and promotes it realizing that. All the players enjoyed being a part as well and the video production staff of Fujitsu was a huge help too. Even though their jobs were to film they were also protecting the kids at the same time and we cannot thank enough.
Sharing the Emotions
―What were the emotional moments?
（Hashiguchi）I was very moved by our supporters. I was on-site at that day when the supporters were creating the banners. When I talk about this experience to people overseas, they will say how rare it is that supporters from rival teams will get together and share a spray can in order to create a banner.
（J.LEAGUE：Jun Suzuki）Fans are always here to voice their opinions and show us their commitment. It seems like we are always looking in the same direction and sometimes they are looking more long term than us and we always appreciate that.
（ANA：Gyoten）I have a lot as well. The smiles on the kids and the families. We provided many volunteers from our company as well. Our employees acted with a mindset of “What will make people happy?” They thought and acted on their own and translated that to energy. In that circumstances, the employees mentioned how they were the ones receiving the power. I was happy we were able to create an opportunity for the employees to learn from the players. We also saw the supporters add an illustration of our airplane on the banners as well. I wasn’t able to see the exact moment when the banner was up, but I was able to feel the atmosphere in the videos I saw later.
（Fujitsu：Tanaka）It really made me emotional when I saw Kengo Nakamura’s long blog entry after the game against Oita.
（Ｊ.LEAGUE：Jun Suzuki）On the first day, I was too busy with the operations and was not able to be too emotional about it. On the second day at the football clinic, it washed away all the difficulties we have gone through. I was happy to see the kids express their emotions. The players understood the purpose of this project and participated. The mothers were excited to see the players as well and it was good to see their expressions as I heard they have to preserve it a lot in their daily lives.
How it all came together
―Heard there were a lot of difficulties
（Fujitsu：Tanaka）It wasn’t personal, but as we tried to conduct the project with this many people each company and people has a different custom, so having different opinions are obvious. Every weekend it was really tough times.
（ANA：Gyoten）When there are many people involved, it usually takes time to come up with one answer. I felt the difficulties in making something from zero. For example, we were told that too many volunteers were coming from us, but since it was the first time we want to try until we figured out how many was appropriate. There are many opinions, but I felt like trying at first and then changing things after receiving feedbacks was the way to go. I feel it’s the repetition of that.
（Hashiguchi）I also felt the difficulties in starting something new where an example or a precedent does not exist. There were times when it was tough mentally when working toward making this project happen. However, there were many people that got in between and helped us coordinate and I would like to thank them for that.
（ANA：Gyoten）It was difficult to really be in the shoes of a parent with a kid that has developmental brain disorder and how they feel. We tried our best to prioritize to take some difficulties off their shoulders, but there were still some areas we did not fully understand. Our care was not perfect so those are some reflection points.
（Hashiguchi）On the second day when we saw the kids in smiles playing football, the trouble we went through disappeared. Everybody that was part of the project asked about how they can help. I was happy to see people in different roles that were aware of what may be needed.
（J.LEAGUE：Jun Suzuki）Hashiguchi san being part of the project was really big. It always makes things easier when you have somebody to ask when you’re stuck on something. As we were able to work together with the people with developmental brain disorder, we were able to gain some understanding, but we still have a lot to learn. I would like to continue learning about them.
(Frontale：Miura）Gaining understanding internally and coordinating with people externally. Communication with supporters. Quickly needing to handle issues on-site. I am sure there were a lot of things Jun san had to work through.
（J.LEAGUE：Jun Suzuki）Gaining understanding internally was not as hard as people expects it to be and I felt like time would solve it. For these projects, it can be said about myself too, but you need to experience it to fully understand. Everybody pretty much covered the difficult part till the actual day.
On the actual day we included inside the script of Kawasaki city mayor Fukuda about this project which he was going to read at the stadium. We felt mayor’s message can reach to a larger population and wanted to include it. Kawasaki is a city that promotes diversity, so I think the mayor included in his message and we really appreciate that.
Executing the message, the city and companies’ value
―What kind of projects have you done in the past in the context of diversity?
（Kawasaki City：Narusawa）Our city looked at Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as an opportunity to execute “Kawasaki Para Movement.” We hoisted a philosophy to “Take the barriers off of people’s mindset, the social environment and create a place where anybody can be a part of the society” and also to “Aim to become a community where anybody can take an action to realize their own possibilities.”
We try to work with a mindset based on the society model for disabilities, and to become a place where anybody can join with their characteristics and beliefs with or without disabilities. In other words, we think about how to create an inclusive society.
Regarding sports, we have worked with elementary schools within our city to execute projects like “Let’s try participating in a para sport caravan” and created a barrier free map of the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium. We also worked on creating a calm down space at Todoroki Arena as well.
（JTB：Seki）JTB Group has vigorously working towards “Tourism for All” since 2013 to allow people in all ages , gender, nationality and with or without disabilities to enjoy traveling safely which is the thinking of “Universal Tourism.” Through universal tourism, we created interactions of people with different backgrounds and pushed for “Barrier Free of Mind” and “City development with Universal Design.” We worked with a mindset of contributing on creating a convivial society. In order to push this forward, it’s very important to have the cooperation among everybody from the country, local government, companies, schools, the parties concerned (organizations).
（ANA：Gyoten）We previously had many efforts towards diversity such as our boarding experiences. We believe that transportation increases people’s possibilities. We wanted to open up the possibilities of the participants’ view by allowing them to experience live sports. We are originally a business to customer company and it’s ingrained within us that we want to do something for our customers and that can be said about our back office people as well. We put our efforts toward education on universal design and volunteering. In this day and age, the reason we have created infection protective wear probably has to do a lot with our companies’ spirit.
Goal Sharing is Very important
―Are there any things to be aware of when executing these types of project?
（Fujitsu：Tanaka）Organizing the big picture and setting the goal is important. We had some conflicts in between, but I feel we were on the same page on the goal of creating a convivial society. Also, it’s important to understand where everybody stands.
（ANA：Gyoten）Sharing the purpose and vision. Create a place where everybody can come back to. Include the mind of person concerned. Don’t make things self-centered. Divide the roles, so it doesn’t become a project where only a few has the final say in things. For instance, the voice of players and supporters are a big part. It’s really important to provide a place and time for communication between the parties and create a unity.
（Fujitsu：Tanaka） Also to add something different from a common opinion, I feel that starting small and doing what we can is not a good way to execute personally. It’s important to attack and challenge the difficult things rather than putting it aside. If we continue to attack small things, there is a danger in losing sight of the purpose. It’s a bit of a waste if we can’t add more people to join as well.
（Kawasaki City：Narusawa）As the environment of stadiums and staffs are different, this statement cannot be said for all, but the main character of this project is the club and the person of concerned and to emphasize their thoughts are very important. Adding on to that, we need to bring some ideas on how to accomplish this and think about what is the role that only we can provide as a local government. We felt it was important to support by being creative in overcoming the legislations and budget concerns. If we are able to do that, we felt the smiles of the participants would be that much closer.
（Hashiguchi）Sharing the goals of who we are doing it for and what purpose. The presence of an individual that can be the spokesperson/translator for the social issues in the community is a must. There is always a spokesperson that can explain the issues occurring in each community and it’s important to reflect their influences. Participants usually mention that it can be a pain when there are supported in a self-centered way. The problem doesn’t get solved just because they place a sensory room in place. I feel the value is there when people really understand what the needs are.
The goal that lies beyond the sensory room is the hard and soft element of the universal design. Placing the goal beyond watching a football game and it’s more about being part and not to discard anybody within the community.
（J.LEAGUE：Jun Suzuki）Even on the day of the project we tried not to focus on the sensory room itself, but to bring smiles to the kids and their parents who were participating.
（Fujitsu：Tanaka）Certainly I was considering the soft element of the design as well. Release them from the prejudice. To live as who they are. My goal was to create an environment where we are not disinterested to the people who are struggling. The reason why we involved Kengo Nakamura and elementary school children to the VR video that was created to simulate experience of hyperesthesia were for those reasons. The documentary video was the same too. We felt it was important for the people who didn’t make their way to the stadium that day to know about this project.
（Hashiguchi）Being able to attend or not can change the world and the possibilities. We feel very honored if this experience led to expanding the children’s and their parents’ world.
Still in the midst of development
What is needed in order to make this a sustainable development project?
（ANA：Gyoten）To not make this as a one-time launch of a firework. Need to involve more people that shares our goal. That can be said internally within our company and for those in companies, local governments and the clubs as well. I feel we have the responsibility to pass this enthusiasm to the next group of people. If there are other clubs that are interested, we would like to tell them with our own words.
（Frontale：Miura）As a club it’s all positive being able to receive an award like this and being featured in media. We are able to involve the supporters as well, and we like to continue this. Now we have to focus on how we can continue it. We need a structure in place. Not being passive and the club to be the core and creating an executive office might be the way to go.
（J.LEAGUE：Jun Suzuki）It’s important for the club to not become too strong of a presence, but not to back away too much and the balance is key. It’s important to put your mind on who we are doing it for and for what purpose. Remember the priorities and act in that way, but if that falters it wouldn’t continue. First of all, involve more people and then money will follow.
（Kawasaki City：Narusawa）In the Premier League in England, several clubs have implemented a sensory room for their fans with developmental brain disorder. In our city, for the Improvement plan (Decided on March 2018) of the 2nd Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium maintenance, we focused on developing a facility where people from athletes, spectators to kids from the elderly, parents with kids or not, people with or without disabilities and foreign people being able to use easily. We would like to maintain an environment where anybody can enjoy watching sports at any time of the year.
（ANA：Gyoten）If you are an employee of a large corporation, you need to gain an understanding from within. It always begins with the question, why are you doing this? In order to move forward with a proposal, you need to create a story. You would most likely be asked why the company should be involved. That’s when it’s important to state that, “Continuing to support people’s transportation is our social responsibility and at the same time expanding children’s world will led to more people utilizing our service. We are looking at potential customers and eventually it would lead to our business.”
（Fujitsu：Tanaka）In order to continue, it’s important that this project is contributing to the actual business of each company as well. For Fujitsu, we would like to use sports and universal design to expand ICT and create a more convivial society. The VR video that was born from this project is something we would like to expand further as an educational tool to a more national scale. That would lead to this project not being an one-time act. Always hoped that this will be a project like a baton and which can be passed onto other J leaguers from different clubs by Kengo Nakamura.
（JTB：Seki）Create a fundamental manual for the J.LEAGUE to share as an example with others and for instance utilize it on World Autism Awareness Day (week) for every club to take part and spread the project across the nation.
（Hashiguchi）In order to spread this to the children across the nation, it’s important to make a good example out of this. Universal design and barrier free for mind is a ministry matter. Transportation support will be from Ministry of Land. IOT and AI in order to make a better society and to push for VR, it would come from Ministry of Public Management. Working along with the country’s policy and to become that role model will be important. I tend to value emotions, but that’s not going to be enough. Adding to the award and money, we need to make this project something where people would like to be involved and feel that they can accomplish this.
The support for developmental brain disorder can differ depending on the city. It cannot be just Kawasaki. There are people who have not been diagnosed, so it’s said to be difficult to determine how many numbers of people actually has developmental brain disorder. According to the scientific research provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare estimated number of developmental brain disorder is at least 10%. That’s how much needs there are and it may exist near you, but it differs among community if they recognize it or not.
We would like J.LEAGUE to take the initiative and lead the sporting industry. Being the core of the project and taking the initiative is different. Being the core means to take the responsibility of passing on the baton. There needs to be people from three different standpoints. ①Clubs ②Players（Sender of the message） ③Supporters. Each have to become the core and pass on the baton and involve more people that shares the same vision. We would be happy if people become the preacher of our vision, hope and love.
―As a supporter, how was it to become involved?
（Kawasaki Supporter：Gonta）We would’ve wanted more preparation time. If we can act a little earlier next time. Continuing this project and spreading the word to more people is important. Would love the opportunity to talk about our experience even if it’s online. Not just making this, but I would like to learn more about the developmental brain disorder. I feel the more we learn the more we can do. We would hope there are some study sessions that we can join.
（Hashiguchi）We appreciate the support. It’s a disability that can have different characteristics, so there are difficulties in understanding everything. The situation may change depending on each child. The characteristics can change depending on the development of the child. What is crucial is to know what each child is having trouble with and to realize that for them to open their hearts to you. We could tell the fans wanted to be a supporter, get closer to the children, root for them and wanted them to become future supporters of the club. There are individuals with different characteristics, so it’s good to provide many different options.
Questions to Hashiguchi san from the supporters continues…
・Around how many people with developmental brain disorder exist in city of Kawasaki?
・Is it something that people can overcome?
・Are there sponsors for the sensory rooms in England?
・How about doing it this way?
I was touched on the straightforward attitude of everybody on how they tried to know more, seek what they can do and tried to become involved.
（Kawasaki supporter：Kaito）It can start by meeting at the station, do some shopping on the way and then go to Fronpark and have a meal. We can start this with Frontale and spread the project throughout the nation. We felt that we could have done more and would like to create something together with the children.
（Hashiguchi）Go shopping before you go to a football match. While watching the match, somebody being next to you all times. They may feel comfortable going out in a city like this if they know people like this exist around you. The fans you met might be in Kawasaki city. Having those people around you can be a relief for the kids.
Build and walk together
―We hear the relationship with the Frontale supporter and the club is different.
（Kawasaki supporter：Kaito）For example with other clubs, if the team continues to lose supporters might scream for the president to come out. But we feel it’s not fair to just share the victories. There are wins and losses and we need to share both moments. It is important to have the mentality of building the team together. We can tell the club staff what we recognize from a fan standpoint. The hurdles of communication are very low. The strength of the Frontale is that everybody is looking at the same direction.
We have the perspective how can we contribute to Kawasaki and Japan. There are only about 40 games. It’s 40 days out of 365. There is way more time besides from that. How can we be loved by the community? Not just the 90 minutes, but it’s about how we can bring a Frontale culture before and after that.
Even in Kawasaki with a population of 1.5 million, only 40 thousand people are a club member. If you compare it to other cities in the world, there are places where the whole city turns into a festival on a game day. We hope that’s what it will be like in 100 and 200 years. There are times when the club is good and there might be times when they are struggling. We think it’s important to build a club that is loved by the community even when we are losing.
Football may be a closed community, but we would like to use football and make Japan and the world even brighter. We hope to use Frontale and do some fun things together.
（Kawasaki supporter：Imasato）How happy can we make people that have been involved with Frontale and Kawasaki city. We need to take that initiative and show that through Frontale.
―How was it looking it from the Oita side?
（Oita supporter：Atsuo）There are not many opportunities to see the relationship between other clubs and their supporters. I was able to be on-site to witness that for the first time. The supporters were very upfront in providing many ideas one after another. The club takes it all in. It made me realize a relationship can be born in this way. Oita had a lot issues including debt. There were a lot of struggles, but the club and the supporter’s relationship are not at that level yet. There were a lot to learn from seeing the open relationship with Frontale and its supporters. We would like to make that happen in Oita. Please support us when that time comes.
（Oita supporter：Ben）The meeting that was conducted a week before the project in Kawasaki between the club staff and supporters were on good terms and it amazed me when I saw that. I was very moved by that. For the Kawasaki supporters to be able to say they can make it better with more time is pretty amazing. Oita has overcome the financial issues and we would like to do better. We would like to find more people that wants to joins us.
―What’s the future dream?
（Frontale：Miura）As a club we want to spread activities like this. What’s in the root of us is that through football we want to make citizens of Kawasaki and the city happy. We want to create a world where having a disability or not doesn’t matter. When you work for a club, you work with a lot of people who moves with unconditional love. As a club and an individual, I would like to keep those mentality. Being able to work in this position, I would like to put my mind open and continue to act. I also want to challenge myself in creating something from scratch and also continue this project by taking the initiative.
（J.LEAGUE：Jun Suzuki）SHAREN! is not something done only by the football industry. Obviously other clubs, but also want to spread this to other sports as well and pass on the baton. It doesn’t even have to be sports and can be done with art and music as well. Initially, not knowing was the barrier. With Frontale I was able to have the opportunity to learn by spending time with the disabled. You get to know their characteristics. My current dream is to create “A society without the unknowns.” At the end, hopefully this becomes something normal that it doesn’t even be featured as news.
（Hashiguchi）Dream is simple. We would like to create an environment where not only the children with developmental brain disorder, but for all to be able to watch football. We would like to peak out and deepen their love for football. We would like to create a world where people can commit to having fun. Watching sports can be a place for growth. In the future, they might want to be a supporter or a staff. This can bring hope for people to become independent in the community and I hope the world will become somewhere like that.
（Fujitsu：Tanaka）As a company, we would like to make a convivial society. ICT is a premise for Fujitsu. We would like to challenge on sports × universal design. In order to spread this to the people without interest, using VR in classrooms at Kawasaki city elementary schools may be an idea too. It will be great if elementary school student has the opportunity to discuss with Frontale players. We would like to spread this to other communities and even throughout Asia. We can get on international flights. Go to a higher level with this as there are many ways to expand the possibilities by multiplying.
（ANA：Gyoten）As a company, we would like to create a way to travel without stress for everybody. The goal of destination can be to watch a football match, art or whatever the reason may be. Become a society where everybody can travel. Personally, I felt that it’s my dream to continue to become involved with this type of project.
（Kawasaki Supporter：Kaito）Last year was the beginning. Currently it’s a crisis globally and nationally, but we would like to make something better from the previous and to spread this from Kawasaki and Oita to the whole sports industry in Japan. We would like to be a part in making good things happen. Let’s bring smiles to the children and their parents together!
This is a Kawasaki-like project. However, we do not want to end it as this was possible because it was Kasawaki. That’s how I felt when writing this interview article. You can see many important factors that can be seen in SHAREN! Hopefully there are many people that receives this baton. One day I hope that each person’s dream comes true. I wish that from bottom of my heart.