Konoha Mall Hashimoto, a large commercial facility, has opened in Fukuoka City’s Nishi Ward. One shop in the complex is an interesting establishment called M&M slow, which sells sundries. Among the items they sell are eco-bags with unique illustrations, accessory pouches, and objects and straps in the shape of strange creatures. They’re all colorful, enjoyable, and guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
In fact, all these items are handcrafts made by the disabled throughout facilities in Japan, primarily in Fukuoka. This might be the first shop in a commercial facility of this type in Japan that makes a practice of carrying these items. There is an amazing appeal to the art created by the disabled. They combine subjects, designs, shapes, and original colors with a vibrancy and a strength beyond the conception of the rest of us. I suspect that’s because they were rendered with a pure desire to paint a picture, rather than the desire to depict something artistically or to make money.
Many facilities for the disabled in Fukuoka City emphasize art. Some of them sponsor groups that have drawn pictures on the streets of New York for display, as well as musical groups that perform overseas. One Fukuoka City site that supports the disabled is the Tokimeki Shop Arigata-ya at the Nishitetsu Yakuin Station, where people can buy products made at all the facilities for the disabled in the city.
The reputation of art for the disabled has also grown in recent years. Unfortunately, however, the disabled do not receive remuneration commensurate with their efforts. It would be wonderful if we could create a society with more shops selling art by the disabled, where the customers could purchase their works at prices the other artists receive, enabling the disabled to live independent, self-sufficient lives.
Originally published online for Fukuoka Now magazine (Aug. 2011)