Photo/Illutration Chihiro Yamada talks about his prosthetic limbs in a video posted on his YouTube channel. (Manabu Ueda)

Chihiro Yamada awoke from a 10-day coma after a horrific accident eight years ago to discover he was missing both legs and an arm.

He had no recollection of the July 2012 evening he had been out drinking with colleagues from the cable television company where he worked and was marked as a fast-rising sales rep.

It was only later that police informed the 20-year-old he had caught one of the evening's final train runs home but apparently overslept and missed his station. Stumbling around while heavily intoxicated at the terminal station, Yamada had tried to catch a train going in the opposite direction but fell from a platform onto the tracks and was run over by a train.

When he regained consciousness, Yamada tried to rub his eyes with his right hand. It was only then he realized the limb was no longer attached to his body, even though he still felt sensation.

He wanted to run, but he couldn't do that either.

He tried to sit up, only to fall out of bed and find himself in a sea of excruciating pain.


“My life is over,” Yamada told himself.

Unable to sleep, he spent his days staring at the windows in his hospital room and dwelling on how to end his life.

“It’ll be a lot easier if I can end it all by jumping out of the window,” he thought. “Can someone, anyone, please kill me?”

Yamada was at his darkest point when two friends from high school dropped by the hospital unexpectedly.

“Oh, you look fine!” they told him. They talked about all sorts of things, but never raised Yamada’s injuries and the accident.

It was a silly conversation, like the ones they always had.

He saw his friends out in the elevator hall and said, “Goodbye!”

Tears were streaming down his face.

“It was me, my heart, that has changed,” Yamada realized. “I can’t go on like this.”

At that point, Yamada became determined to turn his life around.

Having dropped out of university, he set himself a goal of returning to work before his 22nd birthday, about the same time his university friends would be graduating.

Then he began the long process of rehabilitation and learning to walk with artificial limbs. He even obtained his driver’s license.

Yamada attended a vocational training school for people with disabilities, and gained certificates for bookkeeping and proficiency in computer literacy.

Everything seemed to be going as planned, he thought.

But as soon as he began job-hunting, Yamada hit a brick wall.

Most jobs available to him were non-regular employee positions or very low-paying ones.

“It doesn’t matter how much I try to do my best, they still treat me as a handicapped person.”

His thoughts turned suicidal again.

One day as he was preparing to hang himself, his cellphone started ringing.

It was his older brother checking up on him.

“What the heck? You only think about yourself?” the older brother snapped, sensing something was amiss with his sibling. “That’s enough!”

That seemingly unimportant moment snapped Yamada back to reality.

“Without that call, I would have died that day. It changed my mind and made me want to repay my family for (taking care of me),” Yamada, now 29, recalled.

Bang on target, Yamada at the age of 22 landed a job with an IT company that had quotas for people with disabilities. He handled quality assurance and product inspection at the company.

In June 2017, he made a career move to an aviation-related company. He currently works in accounting and planning there.

Yamada has also been active on social media, sharing his experiences and thoughts.

That eventually led him to exchange messages with other people with disabilities as well as their parents and guardians.

Hoping that sharing his nightmare experience might prove helpful to others, especially children, Yamada established a YouTube channel this past July.

He currently has about 80,000 subscribers.

A video of him talking about the accident has been played 3.6 million times.

In the videos, Yamada explains the way his life has been transformed by prosthetic limbs, chats with a fellow YouTuber whose mobility is restricted to a wheelchair and offers glimpses of his daily life, like cooking with one hand and changing his clothes.

He has also commented about celebrities who committed suicide, saying, “I got through my darkest time by changing my mind-set.”

Yamada these days is buoyant and makes a point of smiling in every video. It is hard for viewers to imagine he was once suicidal.

“A crisis is also an opportunity in disguise,” Yamada said. “Things will work out as long as you are alive.”

His posttraumatic mantra is this: “It may be tough at the moment, but you can change things depending on how you see them. The shortest route to become positive is counting positive things not negative things. Why don’t you smile and have fun?”

Many viewers have left comments on his YouTube channel, such as, “I was seriously thinking about killing myself but had second thoughts” and “Now I know that there is a person who lives positively, I feel I was saved a little bit.”

Yamada offers a final word on the subject, by saying, “I want as many people as possible to know that I am disabled but living positively. I hope that encourages them and cheers them.”