Kenichi Kato, Wheelchair Paragliding President
“One heart can change the world.”
Kenichi was born in Nanyo City, Yamagata Prefecture in 1980 and spent most of his young life like other youths. However, at the age of 21, Kenichi was diagnosed with an uncommon neuromuscular disease known as Muscular Dystrophy. An incurable disease in which the muscles of the whole body gradually decline, including heart muscles which can causing significant issues later in life. At the age of 32, it became difficult for Kenichi to walk on his own and began using a wheelchair for every day mobility needs. This is when he began feeling confined to the use of his wheelchair and thought that many things may have to be given up due to his new restriction. On this realization, he felt as if he was experiencing an overwhelming setback in his life. With this new concern in mind, Kenichi envisioned a society in which anyone can enjoy various experiences regardless of their disabilities. This passion is the origin of Kenichi’s accomplishments that would follow.
Kenichi, realizing that the biggest barrier is the one in your own heart, he knew that he must take that first difficult step in order to succeed. So, in order to break the stereotype of “I can’t because I have a disability,” In 2015 Kenichi made a solo paragliding flight while using a wheelchair. In-turn he also became the first person in the world with Muscular Dystrophy to accomplish this feat, breaking both barriers and records in the process.
While Kenichi created an opportunity for people to overcome barriers in the air, there are many situations for people living with disabilities to face similar barriers on the ground. Not only physical barriers, but also information barriers and even lack of awareness in terms of barriers. Luckily, at the present time, the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Act and the Promotion of Employment of Persons with Disabilities Act has been established to help breakdown such barriers. A welcome start, in a positive direction, that helps to change the systems of society by removing unnecessary barriers so that people with disabilities can choose their own jobs and take on challenges themselves. Kenichi’s thoughts echo these ideals, feeling that it is important for everyone to take up various challenges even if you have a disability.
Kenichi wants people to understand that not only can a person with a disability be supported by society, but also show their own ability, and even become leaders in society themselves. He also wants people to see that everyone can be talented at something even if they aren’t so talented in others, that they can do different things no matter whether they are healthy or living with a disabled. Kenichi believes that everyone will find what they want to do by reaching for opportunities, challenge yourself, acting individually to change society, and the world will transformation little by little in kind.
Going forward, Kenichi and his company plans to continue to take on the challenge of creating a society where everyone can live life comfortably.
We are certain that you will love Yamagata.
Yamagata Prefecture is the only “hot spring kingdom” that has hot springs in all 35 municipalities of the prefecture. Each area has its own hot spring town with unique characteristics, and exploring the various types of hot springs, such as hot springs overlooking the mountains and valleys, the Sea of Japan, large modern inns, and old-fashioned hot spring inns is highly rcommended.
Surrounded by many mountains and natural beauty, Yamagata is a place where you can find yourself healed by the various colors that change with the seasons.
Taking advantage of the rolling hills and mountainous terrain of the Okitama region, visit a facility established to allow people with disabilities to enjoy flight with a wheelchair designed for paragliding. In the Shonai region, facing the Sea of Japan, discover a blending of culture from a historical link to the Kansai region where various activities, history, and culture unique to the area can be enjoyed.
For many, travel is often given up due to disability and age. In Yamagata, we hope to make such trips more accessible, allowing you to once again enjoy traveling. Please feel free to contact us. Whether it’s sightseeing, hot springs, or the seasonal flavors, we hope that you can enjoy the excitement and hospitality of Yamagata.
Why not experience Yamagata’s offerings and hospitality yourself?
Yamagata Barrier-Free Sightseeing Tour Center.
We support your journey.
Information for sightseeing tours.
We at Yamagata Barrier-free Sightseeing Tour Center support everyone’s “I want to go to…” including people with disabilities, the elderly, families using strollers, and foreign tourists.
Depending on the time of year, we can recommend many different enjoyable sightseeing tours, hot springs, and nature unique to Yamagata. If you are interested, please contact us.
Providing tourist information.
Tourism and Accommodations.
We provide information on accommodation facilities and sightseeing spots in Yamagata Prefecture that are accessible.
Food and drink.
We provide information on accessible shops where you can enjoy the seasonal flavors and dishes of Yamagata Prefecture.
We provide information on events and sports that you can participate even if you have physical disabilities.
About rental and sale of useful goods for sightseeing
We also rent various assistive equipment. You can apply at our tour center, based on your specific needs the following items can be rented when sightseeing.
- Rental equipment
- Shower carry (shower chair)
- Beach star (manual wheelchair for beach use)
- JINRIKI (assistive bars that turn a manual wheelchair into a rickshaw)
- Wheel blades (small skis that attach to the front wheels of wheelchairs, used for snowy and icy conditions)
- Folding ramp
If you have any questions about equipment rental or would like to request a rental, please fill in the application form below or contact the Yamagata Barrier-free Sightseeing Tour Center.
Accessible sightseeing application.
Please apply for accessible sightseeing and rental items using this form.
We are also active in the Accessible Japan community forums.
If you have any questions about tourist attractions or accommodations in Yamagata, you can ask us there as well!