On April 11 of this year, unusually strong winds were gusting in Tokyo, but Tomoka Igari gave them no heed as she headed off to a dance class.

The 26-year-old member of popular indie idol group Kamenjoshi (masked girls) was passing by Yushima-seido Confucius temple near JR Ochanomizu Station when a heavy sidewalk billboard in the temple premises ripped loose from its moorings and slammed into her violently, crushing her to the ground.

Igari suffered a broken leg, as well as rib and spinal injuries that left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Despite the horrific aspect of that day, Igari stays true to the showbiz maxim that the show must go on--even if it means taking to the stage in a wheelchair.

The Asahi Shimbun interviewed Igari by phone in the hospital where she is undergoing rehabilitation.

“I was in despair as I thought no one would want an idol who can’t dance,” said Igari, recalling the dark days she confronted after learning she might never walk again.

“I yearn to be back on a live stage once again, even if it means being in a wheelchair,” she said. “I will be an idol who advocates wheelchair accessibility.”

Fans have been hugely supportive of her fighting spirit, inundating her with goodwill messages calling for her “comeback.”

People with disabilities also rallied to her side.

Alice Project, the talent agency Igari signed with, is offering its full-fledged support, and planning to purchase a vehicle with wheelchair access for her to tour around with.

“Some people have no choice but to quit their jobs because of injuries, but I was fortunate enough to receive lots of physical and moral support," she said. "It made me realize that being an idol is more than just benefitting myself. It is for everyone else, too.”

On the afternoon that changed her life, winds were blowing in Tokyo at 83.52 kph. Seconds after a violent gust, Igari noticed a structure disintegrating out of the corner of her left eye. With no time to react, she found herself crushed under a large wooden splintered signboard that had measured 2.8 meters by 3.5 meters when it stood on the premises of the temple.

Igari was in agony, and could hardly breathe. A passer-by came to her assistance and called for an ambulance to rush her to a hospital.

It was there that she learned her legs and ribs were broken and that she had spinal injuries. She was in a daze, unable to comprehend the magnitude of what had happened.

Three days later, Igari asked her mother, “Is the diagnosis that my legs will never heal?” Her mother hesitantly answered, “Yes.”

The misfortune that befell Igari came just a year after she achieved her dream. Igari made her debut at age 22 and became a full-fledged member of Kamenjoshi, whose members all wear hockey masks on stage, in February 2017.

She was almost an old maid in the idol industry. She had no singing or dancing experience and had taken nearly three years prepping to join the group, longer than any other member.

Things had just started working well for Igari: She even got the opportunity to make the first pitch at a professional baseball game, a long-cherished wish. Then, disaster struck.

Through lack of use, her leg muscles are wasting away. She can't feel any sensation below the waist. Dancing is out of the question, although Igari is not ready to give up.

Her current rehabilitation regime requires her to find the inner reserves to roll over, sit up and maneuver wheelchairs by herself.

It is hard work, but Igari is trying to put a positive spin on her plight, saying one of the good things about being in hospital is that she has to go to bed at a set time.

“My complexion has improved a lot, as I don’t wear makeup and am having (a good night sleep)," she said. "That is a plus for an idol!”