He persevered; he persevered one more time; then he reconsidered, and persevered another time.
The right side of his face is swollen greatly due to a disease. He developed a disease called cavernous angioma when he was around two years old. This led to him facing severe bullying from his childhood. When he was looking for work, he was rejected by 50 companies. Teruaki Fujii, who carries with him these intense experiences, graduated from Chuo University, and then, after a period of meanderings, he completed his doctoral course at Nagoya University Graduate School at the age of 41. Nowadays, he says “I am glad I have this face” and is completely grateful for everything. He tours kindergartens, nursery schools and elementary schools throughout the country calling for the eradication of bullying.
● Teachings of his mother
His half a lifetime has been made into a picture book that is also easy for infants to understand. The book is called The Face of Teru-chan (Text: Teruaki Fujii / Pictures: Yuya Kamezawa / Publisher: Kinnohoshi). In morals classes in junior high school, his book Connecting Hearts (Kyoiku-Shuppan) is used, and his face has become a theme with “Do you discriminate by face?” The word face has entered into various other literary titles: I Am Glad I Have This Face (Diamond), Good Fortune Comes to a Smiling Face (NHK Publishing) and Face of Destiny (Soshisha).
He has experienced inevitable challenges. Every day he has battled with his disease and the surroundings from when he was a small child. His parents visited 100 major hospitals throughout the country. However, they were unable to find any effective treatment and the swelling of his face became larger as he grew up. Although cavernous angioma is not an infectious disease, the family also faced attacks from the parents of other infants who would say, “The disease will spread; what will we do if his disease spreads?”
This irrational bullying continued. His heart looked like it would break. His mother, who saw her son become a boy of few words, made him practice the violin to give him the confidence to overcome the difficult obstacles he faced. His mother also became a student. One day, the young Teruaki was surprised. Beautiful sounds were coming out of his mother’s violin from which previously there had only been a squeaking noise. His mother had taught him a great many things, including the importance of making efforts, the fact that the efforts bear fruit and the delight of getting results.
“Teru, you are not to let yourself get weighed down due to your face.” “Let’s go to the swimming pool together.” His mother could not swim, but he continued to diligently practice in the same way as with the violin. The young Teruaki understood the importance of making efforts every day and became able to swim 10km by the sixth grade of elementary school.
● Class at Chuo University
Fujii has been asked to talk about these experiences to children all over the country. He has no problems with the bump on his face because the bump is a part of his personality. “I bow with a smile to those people that stare at me. A smile softens their harsh eyes.” In the Faculty of Letters at Chuo University, a class continues to be taught as a part of early year’s education for first graders. This year was the first time Fujii was invited. The title of the course was University Students and Human Rights. This was held in May and is scheduled to take place again in November.
In the class held in a large classroom, he talked about his job hunting activities. When he was attending the Faculty of Economics at Chuo University, he was unexpectedly called upon by the then university president, Shuzo Toda. “It must be very difficult with the swelling on your face, but please study your absolute hardest in order to be accepted in society. If you get many excellent results, this will be proof of your efforts. Please work hard on your studies and get many excellent results.”
Even though he received a letter of recommendation from the university president for his superior academic work, he was called a “monster” by the financial institution he most wished to work at. “I was bluntly refused with a ‘no’ by about 50 companies. However, in fact, that was a good thing.”
He met a doctor of clinical medicine at a lecture he went to for a change of pace and ended up working in a hospital in Tokyo. His job was to provide guidance to female high school students who wish to enter nursing school and to nursing students preparing for the practical nurse national examination. He was encouraged by those around him to take up further studies to become a doctor of nursing and welfare. He wavered, because at the age of 28 he was committed to his job with work that he found interesting and a workplace that he was comfortable in.
● His estimation of society has increased
His mother continued to support him by saying, “If your level of education goes up, people will see you differently; and if it is possible to a master’s, you should continue until you get your doctorate.” His mother graduated from a school of nursing and midwifery. She then saved school fees by working and went on to attend a school for public health nurses and school nurses.
He entered Chiba College of Health Science. He then went on to complete a master’s program at the University of Tsukuba Graduate School. Later, he knocked on the door of Nagoya University Medical Faculty Graduate School and then acquired his doctor’s degree after graduating. At that time, it was unusual to move on to graduate school for people who had not graduated from a medical faculty. This was the gift of his hard work that he had kept at in silence since first starting to learn the violin when he was a child.
“If I had joined that financial institution at that time, the route to medicine would not have been open to me. Even if you start studying medicine when you are 22 or 23 like me, it is not too late.”
“Even if you take a detour in life, it is definitely not too late, even from the age of 40. It is very important to keep hold of your dreams. Only people with dreams will be able to achieve them.”
● Former bully
This is his half lifetime spoken in a slow drawl. There is deep love from his parents, so he can talk about his life like this in spite of a number of twists and turns in his life.
Fujii has made peace with his former bullies. “Now, we are inseparable friends. They have become people who really understand me. After I published my book, they got in touch with me.” The boys who bullied him in the first grade of elementary school confessed that they hated lessons because they did not understand math and Japanese classes. They were jealous of Teruaki because he was able to study.
“It is unfortunate that I blamed them for so long. Today, I can also greet them with a smile. I want them and me to become friendly.”
This is the heroic half lifetime of a man hidden behind his smile. There is a weight to his words.
Teruaki Fujii graduated from the Faculty of Economics at Chuo University. He is 55 and was born in Tokyo. After completing his doctoral course at Nagoya University Graduate School, he held successive jobs, including Professor in the School of Medicine at Kumamoto University. He is a Doctor of Medicine, registered nurse and notary public. He is a Japan Red Cross Water Safety Act Rescue member and a grade 1 instructor for the Ski Association of Japan. He is also a trainer in the Nursing Department at the National Sanatorium where patients with Hansen’s disease live..