Effort to start education for Deaf children in Kyoto

On the occasion of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the national capital changed from Kyoto to Edo, later renamed to Tokyo when the emperor moved to the city.

In order to activate the town of Kyoto, where a feeling of stagnation drifted due to the change of the capital, by personnel training, 64 elementary schools were founded in Kyoto City in 1869, first in the whole country.

KUMAGAI Denbe (1834-1914), a sugar wholesale store owner, was elected the head of the 19th ward in Kyoto City in 1873, and was involved in the community activities including the 19th elementary school (later Taiken Elementary School). Established in 1869, the school not only had about 300 children with four teachers, but also played an important role for the community such like a city office, a meeting room, banking, etc.

There was a store that sold umbrellas and paper lanterns near Denbe's home. The store owner Yamaguchi Zensaburo and his wife Mitsu had two mute children, a daughter Ito (1859-?) and a son Zenshiro (1865-1907).

Denbe had known the children since their childhood and that they were very intelligent. He often saw them bullied by the hearing children in the neighborhood. He also knew other mute boy named Yamagawa Tamejiro (Tamekichi), about the same age as Zenshiro, in the neighborhood.

Denbe must have thought of these children staying home while the hearing children attended the school with their peers, wishing for the mute children to go to school every time he came to the school for work.

When Denbe became the ward head, Zenshiro has reached the age to start school. Denbe approached two Taiken Elementary School teachers, Furukawa Tashiro and Sakuma Ushi, about teaching the mute children.


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