Kamakura is among the most popular destinations for day-tripping Tokyoites, who regularly fill up the city's historic temples and meander through its beautiful shrines on weekends and holidays.

For Hajime Takano, such a trip was his birthday wish when he turned 53 earlier this year. But the prospect of his wish coming true seemed like a long shot.

That's because he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Having been diagnosed five years ago, the progressive and incurable neurological disease has degraded his ability to move, speak, breathe and eat, while leaving his consciousness and higher mental faculties intact.