Public Lecture by Mr. Koichiro Kobayashi

Mr. Koichiro Kobayashi, a Paraclimber and founder of the Non-Profit Organization (NPO) Monkey Magic, delivered a Public Lecture at the Embassy of Japan on 14th March 2018. The public lecture titled “A Life Story of a Visually Impaired Climber - His New Venture in Kenya" is a part of accredited activity of the Sport for Tomorrow Initiative by the Government of Japan. Sport for Tomorrow seeks to promote sports to more than 10 million people in over 100 nations in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. The aim of the program is to deliver the values of sports and promote the Olympic and Paralympic movement to people of all generations worldwide.

The lecture was opened by Ambassador Toshitsugu Uesawa. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Uesawa encouraged the audience to overcome misfortunes instead of being overwhelmed by them. This, he, concluded would enable a person to rise up to the unlimited potential within them.

Remarks by H. E. Mr. Uesawa, Ambassador of Japan to Kenya
Following Ambassador Uesawa’s remarks, Mr. Kobayashi shared his life story. Koba, as he prefers to be called, was born in Tokyo in 1950. Growing up, he did not excel in either sports or academics. As his classmates found their place in various clubs and activities and settled on career paths, he was unable to find anything that really captivated him. When he got to senior high school, he stumbled on what would become one of his life’s greatest joys. As he was browsing through a magazine in a bookstore, he came across an advert for sports climbing. This intrigued him and motivated him to start free climbing.

Mr. Kobayashi giving his lecture 

He later on joined a free climbing club which opened two major opportunities for him. Free climbing allowed him to spend a lot of time around nature and it gave him the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and thus learn from them. Having found his passion, Koba went about making the best of every day and moment.

One day, as he was driving, he realized that he was not able to see clearly. He assumed that the blurry vision was as a result of the nature of his job at that time which required him to spend a lot of time using the computer and reading a lot of documents. To be on the safe side, he went to an optician. Instead of being given prescription glasses, he was referred to an ophthalmologist who gave him the devastating news that he had a degenerative eye disease which would one day result in total blindness.

Audience listening to Mr. Kobayashi’s Lecture 

Devastated and in denial, Mr. Kobayashi sought out various specialists in Tokyo. However, the conclusion was the same every time; he would one day lose his sight completely. Three years later, he visited yet another specialist, but this time round, though the diagnosis was the same, he was given a lifeline. The specialist he had seen listened to him as he shared with him his anxieties of how his life would be in future. The doctor told Koba that he should not consider what he could not do or would not be able to do but to instead focus on what it was he could do and how it was that he wanted to live. The specialist further advised Mr. Kobayashi to join a society for visually impaired individuals so that he could learn from them.

Several years later, Koba met Mr. Suzuki, a man who later became a friend and colleague. On learning about Mr. Kobayashi’s condition, Mr. Suzuki told Koba about Erik Weihenmayer, a blind man who had climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest. Hearing this story inspired Koba. He had never thought that a blind person could dare to dream of accomplishing such a feat. Encouraged, Koba sought out Mr. Weihenmayer. Their meeting further motivated him and at the age of 37, Mr. Kobayashi founded the NPO Monkey Magic. His desire was to provide an opportunity to show the world that climbing was for everyone, children, older people and those with physical disabilities.

In 2005, together with Mr. Weihenmayer, he climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This experience motivated them to start Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa which aims to support education for visually impaired children. This year, Mr. Kobayashi has come back to Kenya in order to launch a climbing program for visually impaired children. He noted that while these children do have opportunities for education, they rarely do have recreational opportunities.
Mr. Kobayashi conducting a Training Session at Blue Sky
Koba concluded his remarks by stating that there are five foundations on which to build Quality of Life. These are: finance, education, environment, relationship and most importantly, recreation.
A Member of the Audience asking a Question to Mr. Kobayashi
Mr. Kobayashi posing for a photo together with some of the members of the audience