83 year old schoolgirl becomes Internet sensation in Japan

83yearold

While it is often the case that a nation’s news will be dominated by stories of crime and controversy, from time to time a story appears that reminds us just how wonderful life can be.

Kaminakabeppu Chie felt that the she hadn’t been able to study all she’d wanted as a child in wartime Japan, so she decided to go back to school, entering high school in 2010. Now, at the age of 83, she is not only studying as hard as she can, but is also a member of the school’s softball club, waiting on the bench during the championship finals with the glove her teammates gave her.

This heartwarming story has captured netizen’s hearts, and soon became one of the Yomiuri Shimbun’s most read articles:

On June 23, 83-year old Kaminakabeppu Chie (from Arima, Miyamae ward, Kawasaki), a part-time fourth-year student at Takatsu Municipal High School in Kawasaki, will be on the bench for the Kanagawa Prefecture Part-Time High School Softball Championship finals.

Scheduled to appear as a runner wearing a no. 12 shirt, she is fired up and ready for the match, “I’ll go all out to support the team”. Her favourite phrase is “life is my job”. She is full of enthusiasm, saying “What am I going to do all huddled up at home? I’ll give anything a shot!”.

Born in Soo, Kagoshima Prefecture, she graduated from the locality’s Jinjo Higher Elementary School. She has two children, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. When Kaminakabeppu had been in elementary school, there had been no time to study what she wanted because of practising the bucket relay to prepare for air raids, training with the naginata swords, and farm work [all of which were part of the war effort in Japan]. When she turned 76, she began to want to learn English. After discussing it with the Miyamae ward office, they recommended that she take night-classes at Nishinakahara Municipal Junior High school in Kanagawa, and she went to the school for three years.

Wanting to study more, in April 2010 Kaminakabeppu entered high school. She revises what she has learned at school without fail, telling us that “It’s difficult for me to understand things immediately like the youngsters do. I want to get the sense that I did it myself, and so I always go over my work”.

From time to time, her homeroom teacher, Nakashima Katsumi (45), brought home-made bread and snacks to the softball club, for which he is also the adviser. Last autumn, she was scouted by Nakashima to join the club. Called “Chie” by her teammates, she is loved by everyone for being the mood-maker. The club meets at 9pm for just under one hour. Kaminakabeppu helps with collecting balls and so on, but sometimes she also puts on the glove that was given to her by her teammates, catching the ball and fielding knocks.

She participates in the softball club three times per week, returning home at just past 11pm. Though on these nights she will frequently not get to bed until past midnight because she has to go over her school work, she gets up at just past 8:30am. She keeps herself busy, since she is also affiliated with the calligraphy club and the flower arranging club, saying “Every day is just so enjoyable for me”.

Her first appearance in a public match was on May 19. By the 4th round of matches, her team had a huge lead of 11 — 1, and so her teacher, Nakashima, arranged for her to play left defense in the 5th round. The ball didn’t come her way, but she speaks fondly of the experience, “I was so excited I think I reduced my life expectancy by three years!”

Read the comments on Twitter here and in Japanese here.

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