able  japnese

Catherine and Mark Ruby, a young couple who live in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, decide to host two Japanese mentally disabled teenagers in their home for several months. This proves to be a special adventure for the Rubys as well as their guests.

According to the information they have about the boys, Gen Watanabe is a 19 year-old with Downs Syndrome, and Jun Takahashi, a 17 year-old with autism. They also know that both boys are athletes who have represented Japan in the International Special Olympics. Although Catherine volunteers for a community organization, her knowledge about mental disabilities is minimal. Deciding that the boys and she will be best served by an organized daily routine, she attends seminars and solicits advice over the internet. The two months she has to prepare for their visit pass quickly.

Heading to welcome the boys, Catherine is beset with doubts. Gen speaks only Japanese. Jun neither communicates verbally nor makes eye contact. During the car ride home, conversation is impossible. As soon as the boys arrive at the Ruby's house, they collapse. Will the Rubys really be able to host Gen and Jun? But as soon Mark comes home and they settle down to dinner, her anxieties are quieted. Although taken aback by the boys' enormous appetites, the mood at the dinner table reassures Catherine. Later that evening, as she watches the sleeping boys, Catherine experiences the stirrings of maternal instincts, to be responsible for and protect these boys who are not her own. She resolves to face the coming months with the optimistic spirit of adventure.

Jun joins the special education class at Gilbert High School. The classroom looks like fun. One of his classmates is Chad, who now suffers on-going complications from the brain damage he experienced in a childhood car accident. Calling himself Big Chad, he is a natural and generous leader, who immediately takes Jun under his wing.

Gen begins occupational training at the local Perry Rehabilitation Center. Though he has no trouble completing the tasks assigned him, Gen leaves a puddle of tears on the dinner table, apparently overwhelmed by homesickness and tension. But this is the only time he cries. Both Gen and Jun are beginning to enjoy their new communities.

Catherine decides to enroll both boys in the Special Olympics sports program in Arizona. From among the many sports offered, she chooses basketball, because it is a team sport where both offense and defense count. As they start practicing, Jun waits passively for someone to pass him the ball. Gen is quiet at first, but quickly joins in the general hustle for the ball.
Their coach takes the whole team through warm-ups, stretches, jumping, and running across the length of the court. Both boys seem to enjoy being part of the atmosphere.

One day, the Rubys take Jun and Gen to Sea World to see the dolphin show, where they meet a Chinese woman Rachel, who lives in California. Rachel, who works tirelessly on behalf of her autistic son, Joshua, shares her experiences with Catherine and Mark. Inspired by Rachel, Catherine begins searching the internet for more information about autism and is intrigued by the heading "Horseback Riding and Autism." An autism equestrian expert Catherine contacts urges both boys try horseback riding therapy.

Jun has never really verbally articulated, even in Japan. The most he usually can manage by way of communication is to nod. But undaunted, every morning and night, Catherine keeps talking to him,"Good morning," "Good night," "Good morning," "Good night." And one day, finally, Jun speaks.
Gooo..d Na...ii.." A joyful Catherine cannot hold back tears.

The Rubys are informed that the two boys can participate in the basketball competition sponsored by Arizona Special Olympics. Mark and Catherine take the boys to a local park to practice basketball with them.

Gen has been proceeding well in his training. The Rehabilitation Center decides that Gen is ready to be integrated into a real job and they assign him to the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix, where many other mentally challenged people work. Jun is also playing baseball, studying the computer, learning to cook and making clay sculptures at school, generally enjoying his classes. Chad teaches him the joy of opening doors for the other kids and Jun starts having fun opening doors.

On the day of the Arizona Special Olympics basketball match, Jun is constantly grinning, racing from one end of the court to the other. Gen, on the other hand keeps wandering around the edge of the court. The other athletes are very aggressive with the ball, but both boys never reach for it. Catherine screams "Grab it" ("Totte") to them in Japanese. "Totte, totte, totte...”

Encouraged by Catherine and Ruby's enthusiasm, they gradually become more aggressive with the ball. Although they do not win, they seem genuinely happy.

As their stay nears its end, Catherine and Mark decide to take the boys on a picnic to Sedona, where they were married. The four enjoy the natural surroundings, eat lunch and take photographs. Gen shows real talent as a photographer, surprising Catherine. A few days later, at the farewell party the Perry Center throws for the boys, Gen also proves to be a charming and popular dancer. Gen and Jun wave goodbye to their new friends. Chad gives the boys Superman T-shirts he has made for them. After waving good bye, Jun's eyes fill with tears.

Finally, it is time for the boys to return to Japan. After the boys have gone to sleep on their last night, Catherine and Mark retire to their room to reflect on their months together, laughing and crying that the experience has been a positive one for the boys. Their time together has left the Rubys with a genuine sense of pride and of possibilities.