It was a sudden tragedy for this 56-year-old engineer who had honed his lathe turning and welding skills on the factory floor ever since he graduated from junior high school. Genju Kato lost all five fingers on his right hand in an instant when he was inspecting the plant’s facilities.

 

After he was discharged from the hospital, the biggest hurdle he faced in living his life without his dominant hand was using chopsticks. Once he realized that what was left of the base of his thumb still moved, he began designing assistive devices. Full of high spirits, he presented his idea to artificial limb manufacturers, but all of them coldly rejected his proposal, saying that his idea was impractical. After that, he made up his mind to make the products himself. Kato’s first project after opening his own studio was developing a <universal holder> designed for the right hand. A wide range of tools could be attached to the holder. After 6 months of struggling to live his life with just his left hand, he completed his first universal holder. He later completed an <assistive device for chopsticks>. Now he would finally be able to eat without any trouble. He was so happy he couldn’t stop crying.

 

Since then, he began devoting himself to inventing self-help devices designed for <challengers for daily living>, a project that was behind schedule. Based on his own experiences, he looked for inconveniences in daily living, which involved everything from eating meals to going out, and turned his ideas for eliminating these inconveniences into products. Kato’s inventions are simple and low-tech. They have a reputation for being easy to operate, rarely malfunctioning, and their durability. While each person's disability is different, Kato has carefully eliminated the inconveniences experienced by each individual and offers them the joy and pride of living independently at an extremely low cost. This elderly man’s magic hand is irreplaceable in that it gives himself and the people who use his inventions a reason to live.

Genju Kato

Born in Okazaki City in 1935. Has received numerous awards, including the Eiji Yoshikawa Cultural Director-General’s Award from the Science and Technology Agency, and Prize of the Commissioner of the Japan Patent Office. In 2000, he set up Fukushi Kobo Aichi, an engineering volunteer group. For details on the studio’s self-help devices, visit its website.

Cooperation: Fumio Miyase of the Aichi RINRI Institute of Ethics

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)