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Shougai Yakusha, prologue

This is the first chapter of Yanagi Kotarou's new biography, Shougai Yakusha (Handicapped Actor).

*If you like it, please consider buying the original, and donating to this site! =^-^= Links for both are at the end of the chapter

“Shougai Yakusha ~ Hashirenakutemo, serifu wo wasuretemo~”
“Handicapped Actor ~ Even if I can't run, even if I forget my lines~”

by Kotarou Yanagi

(The title is a play on words. Shougai-sha = Handicapped person, and Yakusha = Actor)

Prologue: I, on this day, became a handicapped person

December 14, 2003

As I came home from practice for the musical “Prince of Tennis,” I got into an accident. In two weeks, the winter run (of the musical) was supposed to kick off. This is the story of that time.

In March of that year, I had auditioned and been chosen to play the part of the main character, Echizen Ryoma.

“Huh, a musical? How lame! What the heck is this 'Prince of Tennis'!?”

That's what I thought when I got the news. I ran it over and over in my head cheekily how I, who kind of just went to the audition, got the part of the main character without even really trying. I actually fit the part of Echizen Ryoma to a T. So, really, I couldn't fathom how some people might think that life was, like, hard.

As a kid who had lived abroad most of his life, I didn't really know how to use keigo (japanese honorific speech pattern), but the older cast and staff members understood. They treated me like a little brother.

I had no idea that this little“Prince of Tennis” world that we created then, with a lot of trial-and-error and group effort, would turn out to be so much fun.

April 30th. The day that “Musical the Prince of Tennis,” aka “Tenimyu,” was welcomed into the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space medium hall, was also the first day that I'd ever performed in a play.

At the time only a third of the 841 seats were filled, but I could feel hundreds of eyes staring at me in the center. I was so nervous that my knees started to shake.

But six days later, at the last performance on May 5th, the theater was standing-room only.

At the time, I thought that it was going to be the last time we would perform together, so I started crying and couldn't stop, and I delayed the raising of the curtain by five minutes.

But even with all that, we all got caught up in the excitement of the last show, and an additional performance was added.

The additional shows, August 7th and 8th of the same year, were held in the 1360-seat Nippon Seinenkan main hall. Even though it was a sudden and huge jump in scale, the tickets sold out almost immediately.

Not only did fans of the manga and the anime versions accept us, but we also gained our own, completely new, “Tenimyu fans.”

During the first show, that the cheers changed from “Ryoma!” to “Yanagi!” and “Kotarou!” was proof of that fact.

Furthermore, from August 13th -15th, we journeyed to Osaka. Through word-of-mouth, the Tokyo performances had gained a lot of fame, and so many requests came in that we opened up in Osaka Sankei hall, as it was called at the time.

In any case, I was just happy that we could gather the same members and perform again in front of a sold-out crowd.

Furthermore, based on the reaction to the Tokyo and Osaka added performances, talk began of “Musical Prince of Tennis” possibly becoming a series. As people who had created “Tenimyu” starting from scratch, we, the cast and staff, finally started to think of ourselves as comrades.

So it became that the next show, “Musical Prince of Tennis: Remarkable First Match Fudoumine,” was scheduled to open on December 30th. I would be able to stand on stage again as Echizen Ryoma, so my excitement was inevitable.

Plus, this time the show was set to run in the 1800-seat U-port Postal Life Insurance hall. ((ed: It sounds better in japanese...)) Along with the much-evolved “Musical Prince of Tennis”, I was really excited to show everyone my Ryoma: version improved.

At the time I had just entered an acting agency, but I was still living in my parent's house in Saitama prefecture. ((Located North of Tokyo)), and the trip from there to the office to take lessons was a pain in the butt, so I often got in trouble for skipping them.

But even though I rode the same train day in and day out going back and forth to the Tenimyu practice space, for some strange reason I never hated that journey. On the contrary, I couldn't help but find it fun.

After I graduated from high school, I started going to a lot more practice sessions, so I started to get really tired. Under those circumstances, coming home every night to my house in Koshigaya city, Saitama prefecture, started to feel like too long a journey. So, the other cast members who lived close by often let me stay the night.

December 13th, the night before the accident, I had also stayed over at a Tenimyu member's house. Because the next day was a Sunday, I went from there straight to the practice space.

A few days before, I had started to feel the signs of a cold coming on. But I'd taken some over-the-counter cold medicine, and didn't really think much of it.

But on that day, for some reason I was coughing a lot and couldn't hide it, and the producer told me to go home early.

It was two weeks until opening day. Every second counted.

Not to mention, that I, the lead, was lagging behind everyone, was kind of bad, right? I didn't want to get sent home by some stupid cold.

Starting in this musical, the first rival school, Fudoumine Gakuen, was going to debut.

Between genius tennis player Ryoma and his team Seigaku, and the members of Fudoumine, a natural kind of rivalship sprouted.

We (Seigaku) didn't want to lose to Fudoumine. Ryoma's rival, the guy who played Ibu (Shinji), was super-good at singing and dancing. In order to make sure that our fight scene was worth seeing, I definitely didn't want to lose to him.

Because of that, I REALLY didn't want to be sent home alone at this time.

“Yanagi...” Seeing through how I felt, the producer took me aside. “If you push yourself too hard right now and it affects your performance later, it will have all been for nothing, right? And if you pass your cold on to the other actors, it would be really bad. I understand how you feel, but if you rest now and recover completely, and THEN do your best, the outcome will definitely be better.”

All I could do was agree. Because after all, I just couldn't cause problems for everyone.

I looked out over the practice arena. Everyone looked back at me with serious eyes.

Not even a year had passed since the first musical, but every time we had a show, us, the Seigaku members, got caught up in the enthusiasm of the audience. Our vigor, of course, went hand-in-hand with the enthusiasm that the Fudoumine members felt for being able to take part in this much-talked-about production.

That my health would crumble at a time like this..... That I was unable to take care of my own duty- my health- was especially mortifying. Anyway, tonight let's go home and go to sleep early, I told myself. Sleep and get better quickly.

I put on the cold mask that I had with me and, alone, left the practice arena behind.

When I left the arena, a New Year's wind so cold that it could cut your skin blew across my cheek.

My body started shivering immediately, and my mother's usual e-mail in my hand, “You're coming home late, so take care of your own dinner,” I headed for the nearby JR (train) station.

Before long a train arrived and I got on the Saikyo line. I got off at Minami Koshigaya station and hurried quickly down the same dark street that I always went down.

Our apartment building was already right in front of me.

“That kind of dance, I can do it a little better. A little cooler,” I thought.

Noticing suddenly that I, who was always thinking about Tenimyu, had lately been having such negative thoughts, I laughed out loud.

And the next thing that I remember was the ceiling in the ICU of the Dokkyo Medical University Hospital.

It seems that things seemed really bad when my mother got the call and rushed to the hospital.

“We'll call you in an hour, so please wait outside in the waiting room,” said the doctor.

The next time that she entered the room, my head was shaved and tubes were attached to various parts of my body.

The swirl of lights around my bed was like a scene out of a drama.

My mother, who had never even seen me out-of-sorts before, turned to the utterly unresponsive me and, “Kotarou! Kotarou!” screamed my name over and over again.

Erika, the girl who had come with me to the ICU, had fainted due to shock as she had left the ICU.

My father, who was working in India at the time, rushed to my side the next day.

The first time that I opened my eyes was a week later, December 21, right on my 18th birthday.

The doctor's diagnosis was a cerebral contusion on the left side of the cephalic hood, damage to the brain stem and cerebellum, paralysis due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage, decreased mental status, impairment of higher brain functions....

At this time, I still didn't know what had happened.

From then on, little by little I was able to respond to things, and even though I was conscious, it wasn't until the New Year had began that I was capable of any form of communication.

Ever since I'd woken up, I had trouble remembering things, and I couldn't really retain anything new either, so I don't have very many memories of that time.

I'd find myself staring off into space easily, and I'd close my eyes and loll around. It was hard to keep my balance, and I became unable to regulate my strength or speed. And the smallest things pissed me off. My hands and feet were partially paralyzed, so I wasn't even able to stand up properly. My dominant right hand wouldn't move according to my wishes anymore. My words wouldn't come out right anymore either, I couldn't articulate well. I'd get tired so quickly....

At first we were afraid that there would be brain death from the vegetative state, but there was just a lot of damage from the head injuries. A lot.

My body had changed completely after the accident. From a world of spotlights and cheers to one burdened with conditions, my new life started here.

On this day, I became a handicapped person.

(Stay tuned for the next chapter!)

Buy the book on Amazon: 障害役者 ~ 走れなくても、セリフを忘れても ~
Donate to this site:


( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 16th, 2010 07:49 am (UTC)
Oh wow, I didn't know he had an accident that bad. Well i was never a fan of him or the D-boys but even still, I know him.

And congratz on the opening of this community and thank you for the translation.
Jul. 16th, 2010 08:25 am (UTC)
thank you very much for this!!
Jul. 16th, 2010 08:26 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for translating! I heard about his book, but I can't understand Japanese and I was so down because I thought that I'll never know what he felt about his accident...

Yanagi is the person who impressed me the most. I admire people who can do things that I could do too, but I wouldn't dare, so to speak. If I were in his place, I don't think I would have been able to live like this again. I really admire him, he's the only reason that I watched Tenimyu at first [I had the same opinion as him at the beginning xD]

Thanks again and keep up the good work ~
Jul. 16th, 2010 08:55 am (UTC)
Yanagi <3
Thank you so much for taking your time to translate this and I'm looking forward to read more whenever you have the time and will to continue :3
Jul. 16th, 2010 09:03 am (UTC)
I really don't know what to say... T^T

Thank you so much for translating it, seriously. m(_ _)m
Jul. 16th, 2010 10:15 am (UTC)
thanks for translating !!!
poor Yanagai >.< he is such a brave soul T^T
Jul. 16th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
I remember years ago when I first heard about Yanagi through your personal LJ. It broke my heart to hear what had happened to him. Reading this straight from him is so hard :( How I wish it never happened to him, he is so young still.

Thank you so much for this comm and for translating this, I can't wait to read more.
Jul. 16th, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! ♥
Jul. 16th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you <3
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you for taking the time to translate this.
Jul. 16th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Wow. It's so awesome that you're translating this. Thank you so much! ^_^<3
Jul. 16th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
Thsnk you do very much for taking the time to translate this.
Truly. This coming from a die-hard Yanagi fan who already reserved the book even though I can't read japanese.

As I got to the end of this first part I almost started feeling sick... I can't imagine going through what he did, and you can tell that it'll be worst reading on...

Nonetheless, I hope you'll want to continue with this projects.
Thanks again! ♥
Jul. 16th, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for translating this for us!
Jul. 17th, 2010 02:13 am (UTC)
I, unfortunately, did not even know of the Prince of Tennis franchise until 2008, so I was completely unaware of Kotarou Yanagi and his accident. But... wow. His story is quite powerful, and I cannot wait to read more.

Thanks so much for translating! ^.^
Jul. 17th, 2010 06:32 am (UTC)
I know I should not have read this at work (tearing up, agh!), but I couldn't help it. Thank you so much for translating it! I'm glad I bought a copy and have tried to support him as much as possible by buying his books and magazines and DVDs over the years. ;A;

No, it isn't Shakespeare, but it is an intensely personal thing that I am very glad he has decided to share with everyone. ♥
Jul. 17th, 2010 07:40 am (UTC)
Thanks for the paid account time, btw ^-^

Yeah, I'm in the middle of the next chapter, and I have the feeling that he's writing because it's all that he can do anymore..
Jul. 17th, 2010 07:50 am (UTC)
♥ It's the least I can do :3

That makes me sad. I've always pulled for him and enjoyed seeing him, but it was heartbreaking to notice certain things, like where he was obviously having problems with speech or motor control, despite how hard he was trying. Still, the fact that he can walk and write is something positive in itself.

I was actually wondering if I could still find a fanmail address somewhere. I sent one letter years ago that I never really knew if it got to its destination or not (My post office made me do weird things with it and may have goofed it up), and I'd like to try sending something again.
Jul. 17th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for translating. I'm looking forward to the next chapter.
Jul. 17th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I am so grateful that you are translating this. I didn't really think anyone would.
Jul. 18th, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)
Thank you! I can't wait for more! I'm really happy to be able to read it n__n!
Jul. 18th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
shit, thank you so much, so so so much for translating. i knew i would cry and i was right T__T Yanagi, you are really an amazing person!
Jul. 18th, 2010 08:26 am (UTC)
I've read about his accident and all and he's become my hero since.
But to know it from himself is so very touching.
Thank you so much for translating this. m(_ _)m
Jul. 18th, 2010 09:13 am (UTC)
thanks a lot hinoai!!
Even though i'm quite unable to understand any of it, i'll buy it and stay tuned to your translations.

really, thank you <3
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:11 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for translating !! <3
Jul. 18th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
Thank you for translating the first chapter! When I'm in Japan, I will buy the book and try my best to read it.
Jul. 18th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks you for translating...
Jul. 18th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this translation. I have been so impressed by Yanagi's courage and determination to reach out for his dreams since I first read his story. He's inspirational.

I really appreciate you sharing the translation with us, as I speak very little Japanese. Thank you so much! ♥♥
Jul. 19th, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
thank you for translating this...

I always love and admire Yanagi coz he never gave up the fight.

But reading this now, made me admire him even more...
Jul. 19th, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)


thanks a lot for effort!! >/////////////////
Jul. 20th, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
thanks :)))))))
Jul. 20th, 2010 05:36 am (UTC)
Thanks for the effort of translating this!! I want to buy it so much!
OMg I'm crying so much now! T___T
Yanagi I always loved you but now I'm just loving you more!!
He is such an awesome person nee?

Thank you so much! I really hope you find time to keep translating it!!
Thanks again! <3
Jul. 21st, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks for translating this~~
T^T Poor Yanagi~~!
He had such a tough time after the accident...
(I soo wanna buy the book now~)
Jul. 23rd, 2010 12:27 pm (UTC)
This accident was really a huge shock... thought I heard about that a year later and knew that he was fine again - I couldn't believe it and felt like crying. ;__; I'm so happy that Yanagi made it back to stage, back to D-Boys!! I guess there exist miracles, don't they?

Thank you so much for translating!!
Jul. 23rd, 2010 01:01 pm (UTC)
I just realized I didn't thank you for this!

I look forward to the rest of it.
Jul. 26th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for translating this.
It makes me feel so sad, but reading this all in Kotaro's pov makes it better. We get to understand more of what he went through...

Thanks again. And keep up the good work!~
Jul. 27th, 2010 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this. I've always been wondering how he managed to bounce back.
( 37 comments — Leave a comment )