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Specially Designed Tableware Helps Disabled

February 23, 2001
All-purpose dishes, including a segment for soup, for people who have no use of their arms. (Aritsuki Ceramics)

Recently, among the new ideas in regard to helping disabled people and the infirm elderly eat independently, so-called "independent tableware" has gained notice. This ingenious tableware allows users to enjoy eating with their families and friends rather than depending on them for assistance. There are robots being developed for this purpose overseas, but tableware that allows the disabled to eat under their own power is a new concept, according to those in the know.

An Idea Is Born
Easy-Use Dishes are a line of special tableware designed by Kochi Prefecture's Yoshiharu Nitta. The 75 year-old Nitta, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a traffic accident more than 20 years ago, came up with the idea and created the first pieces while he was making pottery as part of his rehabilitation some 10 years ago. After his work was featured in the media, orders began to pour in from around the country, and Nitta soon became unable to meet the demand. When Gifu Prefecture-based Aritsuki Ceramics learned of this about five years ago, they obtained the manufacturing rights from Nitta, and after a few improvements, production and sale began in earnest.

This line of dishes includes 15 different products made in shapes that allow the disabled to easily scoop the food out. A silicon base prevents sliding. Because it is difficult to explain the functions and characteristics of Easy-Use Dishes in words, Aritsuki has released a series of 18 promotional videos.

Functional Products Spark Demand
One of the most interesting products in this line is an all-purpose dish designed especially for people that have no use of their arms. This circular dish has seven different places for food, including one for soup. The dish is mounted on a base that allows it to rotate. The user can move the dish and bring the desired food closest by using his or her mouth. The center of the dish is indented so as to prevent food from coming into contact with the user's nose. The place for soup has a cylindrical, straw-like piece that sticks out 1.5 centimeters (about half an inch) from the bowl that allows the user to enjoy soup as well.

In addition to the all-purpose dishes, the line of Easy-Use Dishes includes coffee cups, dishes for noodles, and dishes for bread and desserts. The prices range from 1,500 yen to 17,000 yen (13.04 to 147.83 U.S. Dollars at 115 yen to the dollar). Every time these products are written about in magazines or newspapers, hundreds of inquiries and orders come in, demonstrating the need for these special dishes. Aritsuki is currently averaging sales of about 400 units a month.

A hotel in Kyoto began using Easy-Use Dishes in spring 2000. When a group of students from a school for the disabled stayed the night at the inn, meals were presented on the special dishes, and the students were very thankful.

Both Nitta, the original developer, and Aritsuki have been showered with comments such as, "Mealtime is fun now"; "I don't feel like I'm being forcibly fed anymore"; and "I was worried about the money I was spending on nursing care, but now I can eat under my own power. This has really helped me financially."

Having won the praise of users, production has become unable to meet the rising demand. For this reason, Kochi Prefecture's Aki City Work Center and a company in Gifu Prefecture that produces ceramics in the Mino-ware style have been assisting in production.

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.