At the age of seven, Manami Ito began to learn to play the violin. She enjoyed it, she says, but never really fell in love with the instrument and rarely practised. Then, when she turned 20, she was involved in a serious car accident.
When she awoke in hospital it was to discover that she had lost her right arm.
She fell into a long deep depression. She says, “I left school and didn’t leave the house for a year.”
Then one day her mother said something that made her completely rethink and remake her life: “Please play the violin again for me someday.”
Manami worked and studied to become the very first amputee nurse in Japan but she was also determined to do what her mother had asked. She had a lightweight prosthetic arm designed and built and then, once again, she took up the violin.
This time she did practice and this time she fell in love with her instrument.
To use her prosthetic to play, Manami has a harness and cable attached around her left shoulder, allowing it to control her movement. She also has a customised prosthetic bow so that she can play with more precision. She describes this bow as “lightweight and cool”.
Thirteen years after the accident Manami journeyed to Hollywood where she appeared on James Corden’s popular TV talent show, The World’s Best.
What she did then reduced judges Faith Hill, Ru Paul and Drew Barrymore to tears.
Ru Paul said, “It was absolutely beautiful and it really made me proud to witness your grace and your way of overcoming adversity. This is a lesson that every human alive needs to learn.”
Not satisfied with becoming a nurse and a professional musician Manami also took up swimming. In the 100m breaststroke she finished fourth in the Paralympics in Beijing in 2008 and 12th at the London Paralympics four years later.
Still, it is her accomplishment as a violinist, her fulfilment of her mother’s wish, of which she is proudest.