Chie Sagara / Staff of the non-profit “Jagaimo no Ouchi” (literally “House of the Potato”)
“Jagaimo no Ouchi” is located in a 12-sided wooden structure in front of Mt. Mocchomu, a steep wall of rock which appears to pierce the sky. This facility was built in the town of Onoma, on the south side of the island. Its purpose was to provide a place for people with disabilities to get together with the hope they could find a happy and healthy place in society.
Ms. Chie Sagara is on the staff of the non-profit “Jagaimo no Ouchi.” She is in her 9th year and has been working here since her eldest daughter was 7 months old. “I’ve been blessed to work in a place where I can take my little daughter.” Ms. Sagara is proud of her daughter who, as a member of the facility’s “children’s staff,” makes no distinction between people with disabilities and people without them.
Recently, Ms. Sagara has been busy designing the packages for the products that are produced and sold here.
“Because our products are distributed and sold out in mainstream society, I don’t want to settle for a lower price or poor-quality packaging, or to look for the sympathy of others with the excuse that people with disabilities are doing the work.”
Ms. Sagara also takes care that the facility’s clients whom she meets every day are not overly reliant on others. She wants them to do as much as possible for themselves so that they may live strong and independent lives. “I may be a bit strict, so I’m always asking myself ‘If this person were my daughter, would I say the same thing to her as well?’” In Ms. Sagara’s smile I can feel both the strictness and the kindness of a mother.
Ms. Sagara is very particular about Jagaimo no Ouchi’s products. Putting herself in the place of potential customers, the products must be “cute” and something she herself would want to buy. When you enter souvenir shops on Yakushima, Jagaimo no Ouchi’s playful designs immediately catch your eye. When I see a customer putting one of these products in their shopping basket, the day when people with disabilities can live independently in Japanese society feels close at hand.