MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – Amiri Afifa, a 24-year-old Afghan woman who lost one of her legs to a land mine at age 4, visited an orthotics and prosthetics maker in western Japan this summer to be fitted with an artificial limb for the second time.
“Does it hurt here?” prosthetist Hiromi Omori of Nakamura Brace Co. asked Afifa at the company’s factory in Ota, Shimane Prefecture, while adjusting the socket of the new leg.
Omori watched Afifa, who had looked nervous at first, become noticeably relaxed and smile as she walked with the leg, which was specially crafted for her.
“So happy. Arigato,” Afifa said in her limited English and Japanese, and kissed the leg.
Omori, 53, himself wears prostheses on both of his legs. “I’m doing this work because I want to see patients smile.”
Afifa lost her right leg below the knee in 1997 while fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with her family. While heading for Pakistan, their vehicle hit a land mine, taking her leg and her two sisters as well.
Her connection with Nakamura Brace stems from her appearance in the Japanese film “I Love Peace,” in which a Japanese female prosthetist forms a relationship with an Afghan girl who lost her leg, played by Afifa.
In spring 2003, Afifa visited Japan to film the movie. It was during this time that Omori made an artificial leg for her.
Afifa, who now lives in Kabul, mostly stays at home because her parents ask her to stay inside for her safety in the terrorism-rife country.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a federation of nongovernment organizations, about 1,300 people in Afghanistan were injured or killed by land mines and unexploded bombs in 2015.
As the artificial leg wore out and lost its buckles, Afifa became unable to walk freely and was forced to leave college. After seeing her fall into depression, her elder brother sent an email to Nakamura Brace in January this year to see if it would make a new one for her.
The company offered to shoulder the costs of the new device as well as her trip to Japan, leading to her visit on June 27.
Before wrapping up her three-week trip to Japan, Afifa told reporters she wants to return to college and become a doctor.
“I want to take a job that can help other amputees,” she said.
“She will certainly encourage other handicapped people,” Nakamura Brace President Toshiro Nakamura said.