As a company specialized in eye health, Santen is dedicated to helping people realize “Happiness with Vision.” As part of our efforts, we are promoting inclusion-focused activities with the goal of “realizing an inclusive society where everyone can live in harmony irrespective of disability.”

In 2020, embracing the shared vision of bringing down the walls between those who can see and those who can't and turning society into a stage on which anyone can shine, Santen, the Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA), and the International Blind Football Foundation signed a long-term partnership agreement. Santen recently joined Ajinomoto Co., another JBFA partner and promoter of the “Food Diversity Project,” to hold a DE&I* exchange workshop that encouraged participants to think about “an inclusive society where everyone can live in harmony irrespective of disability.” The workshop took place at the Ajinomoto Group Umami Experience Center on March 7.

Santen employee Kento Torii, a designated player for Japan’s Blind Football Men’s Japan National Team and an excellent cook, engaged with Ajinomoto Co. employees through blind soccer and cooking. Here is a report on the day's activities, which offered participants the opportunity to experience blind soccer as well as Torii’s unique way of enjoying cooking.

* DE&I: Diversity Equity & Inclusion

DE&I Exchange Leverages Santen x Ajinomoto Co. Employee Individuality


The workshop started with Torii sharing his story. He explained that although he developed retinoblastoma and lost his sight when he was two years old, “I was curious and challenged everything as a child—going fishing, riding my bike, and taking on every challenge—and fortunately, my parents supported me. I had a competitive personality. I think those things have led me to the active life I lead today.”


Kento Torii
Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd./Designated player, Blind Football Men’s Japan National Team

- Currently training with the national team for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games - Promotes Santen’s WORLD VISION, “Happiness with Vision”* and Creating Shared Value (CSV) project among internal/external stakeholders - Motivated to “utilize my perspectives and experiences as a visually impaired person,” regularly posts on Santen’s internal SNS channels, speaks to media, gives lectures to elementary, junior high, and high school students, and promotes experiential learning (Spo-Iku) through JBFA-sponsored blind soccer activities

*WORLD VISION: The world Santen ultimately aspires to achieve


Participants from Ajinomoto Co. included young employees from public relations and the Tokyo office. Junichi Oshiro of the Global Communications Department, who was born with a hearing impairment, introduced himself using voice-reading technology: “My motto has always been to let people get to know me so that we can build a mutually comfortable working relationship. We rely on vision for everything, and I seem to be in a world where everyone has muted the sound on their TV. This is a rare opportunity to experience firsthand what it is like to live with a hearing or visual impairment, so please ask me anything you want.”

Ajinomoto’s Junichi Oshiro introduces himself using voice-reading technology

Experiencing the Importance of Language and Communication through Blind Soccer®

As a warm-up exercise, participants were divided into pairs to play a gesture game that allowed them to experience how difficult it is to communicate with words alone and to grasp the extent to which we rely on visual input. 

In the blind soccer experience, two teams of five players each competed to score points using a special ball that emits a sound. One member of the team wore an eye mask and could kick the ball; the other four did not wear eye masks and used their voices to tell the kicker where the ball is and the angle of the shot. When you can’t see where you’re going, then walking a straight line is difficult, so the kicker needed to rely on the voices of their companions to guide them. By experiencing both the “can see” and “can’t see” positions, participants gradually became more attuned to the feelings of the kicker, and the accuracy of their communication improved—“three more steps,” “5cm to the right," and so on. 

Torii, who says that he usually chooses his words carefully, commented: “Even the voice has expression.” The same words can give different impressions depending on the tone of voice and the way they are conveyed. “Please pay attention to senses other than sight, be considerate of others, and enjoy your own creative ways of expressing yourself,” he said with a smile.


Every Active Para-athlete Has to Deal with “Food”—The Joy of Cooking and Unique Ideas

Ajinomoto Co. applies the knowledge of “food” and “amino acids” it has cultivated since its founding to support the activities of a variety of athletes. The Food Diversity Project, launched internally by volunteers in 2023, aims to create a society in which people from different backgrounds co-mingle naturally. This is a DE&I promotional activity that connects para-athletes and sports enthusiasts with their peers while experientially learning and communicating about their approach to food and the value of food.


Torii making twice-cooked pork and egg soup

As a para-athlete, cooking is a refreshing activity for Torii, and he pays careful attention to the nutritional balance of his meals. He is a regular user of Ajinomoto Co. products and has been experimenting with various menus. On this day, he demonstrated how to cook twice-cooked pork using Cook Do®️ and egg soup using Maru Tori Gara Soup™. Torii started cooking when he was in junior high school, wanting to make a tasty and nutritious meal for his younger sister, who was five years old at the time. The appeal of cooking is that “you can enjoy unlimited ingenuity.” To ensure smooth and safe work, he always makes sure to confirm the placement of ingredients, seasonings, cooking utensils, and the direction of knife blades. In particular, he relies extensively on touch—carefully touching carrots to check if they are peeled, and measuring the amount of granulated dashi with his fingers. He checks the temperature of the pot or frying pan and the doneness of the ingredients by touching them directly with his hands as he cooks.

Since he cannot visually check the doneness of the beaten eggs that go into the soup, he strains them through a colander to get a fluffy texture—an example of his ingenuity and the enjoyment he brings to cooking. Said Torii: “It’s not that I’m doing anything amazing, it’s simply that what’s ‘normal’ for me is different for someone else. Moving closer to that understanding would be good stimulus for everyone.”


Oshiro communicating with Torii using the voice function on his smartphone.

Oshiro was amazed by Torii’s deftness and enthusiastically peppered him with questions. “What do you struggle with when cooking?” he asked, using the voice app, and Torii answered with a wry smile: “I don't like deep-fried food. It's too hot to touch.” When asked by another Ajinomoto Co. employee if he had any requests regarding the company’s products, he replied: “For example, I’d really appreciate it if the top and bottom of the package could be easily understood by touching, or there were links on the packaging that would allow access to detailed product information. Making it readable with a smartphone would be a convenient way for visually impaired people to get the product name, recipes, and menu arrangements.” The exchange was friendly from start to finish, with comments that included perspectives unique to visually impaired people.

Gaining Awareness from the Differences Between “Can See” and “Can’t See”


Following the tasting, participants reflected on the workshop, and Ajinomoto Co. employees expressed a variety of insights.

- I feel nervous talking to visually impaired people, but through my blind soccer experience, I found that the guidance I received made me happy and grateful. Using specific expressions such as “4 o'clock” instead of “this way and that way” were helpful. (Recipe Development, Female) - Because I can see, I tend to accept recipes as they are, but through this experience I was taught the importance of cooking with my tongue and five senses. I’d like to give greater thought to people who cook in a variety of situations and apply this to my work in the future. (Recipe Development, Female) - I thought I approached my work with others in mind, but I want to be more aware of diversity and treat people with greater care. I think that being able to pursue and enjoy delicious food, your favorite things, and things you’re particular about is important, regardless of any disability. (Sales, Male)

Smiling and nodding at the participants’ impressions, Torii and Oshiro said the following:

“It’s natural to distance ourselves from what we don’t know. You can’t understand the lives and actions of visually impaired people unless you get involved, and because you don’t know, you build walls. That’s why the opportunity to ‘know’ is so important—we don’t want people to understand us; we want them to know us. I would be happy if we could continue to increase these opportunities and spread the word.” (Torii)

“I feel that it is universal and important to be creative in dealing with what we cannot do. When I met Torii for the first time today, I was very impressed when he greeted me with sign language. Getting to know each other is very important. I believe that seeing, noticing, and knowing the other person naturally leads to compassion and cooperation.” (Oshiro)

Toward a Society that Recognizes Diverse Personalities and Promotes Harmonious Inclusion 


After the workshop, representatives from Santen and Ajinomoto Co., the organizers, spoke about the prospects for DE&I.

“In Japan, students with visual and hearing impairments are separated from other students and attend different schools, so there are no opportunities to learn about how people with disabilities live their lives and what they need. In the workplace and at opportunities such as this one, we can get to know each other and live together in a mutually considerate and creative way. Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a society? Inclusion cannot be achieved by one person or one company. I hope that we can expand the circle of empathy step by step from a new angle by combining our strengths with those of our partner companies, as we did this time.” (Santen staff member)

“Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and if we can overcome these barriers and help each other, we can make delicious food. I think this is the significance for a company involved in food. We support para-athletes because we share their positive attitude and believe that the power of food extends beyond its nutritional benefits to generate peace of mind and teamwork. We would like to support the creation of an environment in which diverse personalities can enjoy food in a positive way.” (Ajinomoto Co. representative)

A Short video of the workshop (approx. 1.5 minutes) is also available here.


You can also read the Ajinomoto Group’s article here (Japanese only)

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