Nguyen: With the Light

I remember when I first looked at the list of books that was required for this class and I thought, woah! We’re going to be reading a manga in this class and I was super stoked for it ever since. This manga is so beautifully done; from the pictures to how it’s written. It was definitely different to see how autism is viewed in a different culture. I decided to look into how autism is seen in Japan.There also seems to be a lot of misconceptions of what autism is in Japan. I came across a blog where Jaime Tatsubana talks about how Autistic people are treated in Japan. He states that treatment of those with Autism is poor in comparison to the U.S because of the lack of awareness in the country. Tobe shows this in the manga with how Sachiko and her husband has to explain to people what autism is when Hikaru starts crying or throws fits in class. Tatsubana said himself that he has never even heard of autism until he moved overseas to Canada. According to Tatsubana, if a Japanese citizen is treated with autism, they are given a booklet which gives the person free counselling and job search support. The booklet also enables autistic people to apply for “Living Protection” which allows those with disabilities to receive a monthly pension to cover living expenses until they can find a job.

In With the Light, it seems like Sachiko Azuma had a lot of support within the schools and daycares that she went to. I did a little research on the types of facilities and support groups that they offer in Japan. Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

The website is divided into six sections: parent support groups, other links to different centers, evaluation/testing therapy, tutoring, distance programs, and others. Here’s one of the support sites that I looked at (Warning: it’s all in Japanese ):

From what I can pick out from my years of learning the language, it’s a support group that’s mainly in the Tokai region in Japan. There are different options on there that shows different employment plans and childcare support. They even have different options for seminars to help adults to understand the different disorders and also seminars that help try to prevent frustration that leads to abusing your child. I guess this is surprising to me because I don’t really hear much on lots of support groups like this for autism. For school wise, it was the first time reading that there were separate schools for children with autism. Growing up, I only knew that children with disabilities were placed in the same school as everyone else.

I guess to me, out of all the books we read this semester, Sachiko had a lot of support and patience with the people that she had to work with. Yeah, she did go through difficult times with her husband and her mother-in-law but eventually they were willing to try to understand the disorder and try to do whatever they can to help Hikaru.

How are people on the Autism Spectrum treated in Japan? (July 13). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from

3 thoughts on “Nguyen: With the Light

  1. sgrit96

    When I was reading I noticed a lot of similarities between the perspective in With the Light and the book I read for my literature circle, Delightfully Different. The gradual realization of the differences in the children, in With the Light: Hikaru, and in Delightfully Different: Mia, along with the supportive nature of the parents toward their children and the patience displayed in both pieces led me to connect the two. Mia also had a younger sibling without autism, the situation is strangely similar. Even the school’s lack of ability to assist and understand Hikaru’s needs is similar to Mia’s situation as she was bullied mercilessly by a fellow student, and due to her autism was originally asked to alter her behavior to prevent further bullying. The two situations seemed to eerily similar that I became curious about the resources available for people to gain a further understanding of autism.
    I decided to search for online resources and was delighted to find a lengthy list of websites These provide information, resources, and communities for parents raising children with autism, the amount of information available is astounding. After reading further I found more information about the global initiative to improve awareness and diagnosis of autism, Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) lists their three guiding goals and provides extensive information about the impact on the global community made by their organization. The goals listed involve increasing awareness, expanding and enhancing research, and providing training. I also discovered further evidence of these efforts to improve the understanding of autism spectrum disorder in schools including mandatory training in diagnosis and treatment of autism for teachers. The global effort to increase understanding and tolerance of people on the spectrum is astounding, the Autism Speaks organizations have made a tremendous impact and the movement seems to be expanding.
    With these phenomenal efforts to improve the current understanding of autism spectrum disorder, I grow increasingly optimistic about the future opportunities and support systems that will become available for people on the spectrum. The idea that research and training can provide teachers and caregivers with improved ways of working with students and children with autism, I also have renewed hope that adult people on the spectrum will also be treated with more understanding. Seeing the lists of the progress GAPH has made throughout the world leads me to believe that eventually the resources at the disposal of families and people on the spectrum will be abundant and that society will become more understanding towards those on the spectrum. From your research as well I am glad to see that Japan has many resources as well, and I hope that eventually those resources will coincide with the efforts being made by the global organizations I have found in my research as well.


  2. ashleighnfowler

    For me personally, this was the first time that I have ever read manga. I have read graphic novels, such as “ Watchmen”, “ Persepolis”, and “ Maus” ( so the popular ones) before, so it wasn’t too foreign to me. The whole reading backwards through me for a loop though, but once I got over that, I really enjoyed the text. If all manga is like Keiko Tobe’s. “ With The Light”, I will definitely be reading more manga in the future.

    The thing that I loved most about the text is how real it is. We may not have had an autistic narrator but the struggle of Hikaru’s mother was really refreshing. As readers, we got to see how hard it is to raise an autistic child. I don’t know when Hikaru was born but I was surprised to see how hard it was for Hikaru’s parents to find a school for him. If I am right, the story takes place in Tokyo. I don’t know too much about Tokyo but I do know that Tokyo is the most populous city in the world. In 2010, Tokyo and its surrounding area had a population of 36, 923,000. If 1 in every 1,000 person has autism, then that means there is at least 36,923 people in Tokyo who have autism. That’s a lot of people, so you would think that all the schools in Tokyo would be very accommodating. However, that simply isn’t the case. As you stated, there is a lot of resources in Tokyo for people with autism/ parents with children who are diagnosed with autism, but I assumed there would be more. With that many people estimated to have autism, I would have assumed that all schools in Tokyo have made accommodations for students with autism. I found a really interesting article in the Japan Times regarding students with learning difficulties in Japanese schools. Louise George Kittaka writes,

    Sayoko and her husband, both Japanese, are the parents of an eighth-grader with autism. The family recently returned to Japan after spending five years in the U.S. During his time abroad, their son was able to transition from special education to a mainstream classroom, where he was a straight-A student in his last year and had teachers enthusiastically recommending college in the future.

    Despite this stellar record, his autism and its attendant issues with communication mean that Sayako’s son would land squarely back in the “special education” track in the Japanese system. He is currently attending international school, where is he in a mainstream classroom but receives little tangible support for his autism.

    “In the Japanese system we are told that even many highly educated, ‘high-functioning’ persons with disabilities can’t get jobs, so it is better for them to attend a vocational high school and gain employment under the ‘disabled persons’ scheme,” Sayoko says, referring to the quota system that exists at big companies. “This idea is instilled into parents of children with disabilities right from elementary school. The path ahead for our son is far from clear.”

    Even though Sayoko’s son was is a mainstream classroom and a straight-A student in the States, in the Japanese school system, he would have been sent to a special education classroom due to his autism. Raising a child with autism is hard anywhere and I guess that’s what I like the most about the text. The text is universal! Raising a child is difficult everywhere in the world.

    George Kittaka, Louise. “Different strokes: navigating the Japanese school system with a
    learning difficulty.” The Japan Time, The Japan Times, 4 Nov. 2015, Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.


  3. frickeh8

    When I first got this book I wondered if we were actually going to read the whole thing or if we were just going to pick parts from it to examine during class. I’ve read manga in the past, though it was admittedly difficult for me at the time. I thought it would be a similar experience this time around (minus the human-eating parasites, of course) while reading With the Light. I was pleasantly surprised however, to find that reading it was a breeze! I finished the entire book in one day, and I plan on reading the rest in the series. I love, love, loved this book.

    I especially agree with you when you call it ‘refreshing’. Unlike the other selections we’ve read thus far, I didn’t have any moments of discomfort at how Hikaru’s ASD was being portrayed. It felt completely real, and I kept forgetting that it wasn’t a non-fiction story. The moments of self doubt that Hikaru’s mother had were so raw and believable. The story definitely showed a lot of the struggle that comes with raising an autistic child in a country that struggles with a lack of awareness for mental illness; she had to explain again and again about Hikaru’s behavior and it seemed exhausting. However, there was such love and such hope that the story never felt too dismal or became to upsetting to read. I love that the author didn’t make it a tragic story, only a realistic one.

    Ultimately what I loved the most about the book was the educational aspect. I learned more about autism reading this manga than I have taking multiple psychology classes. The resources listed in the book were actual resources, and there were footnotes explaining that Hikaru’s behaviors were not necessarily the same behaviors that would manifest themselves in other children with ASD. I feel like this is one of the problems that writers struggle with when depicting ASD; the assumption that relatively common behaviors are true for every individual with ASD. In this way, “With the Light” didn’t feel stereotypical at all.



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