First school for the Deaf in Kyoto and Furukawa

Furukawa Tashiro, a hearing teacher, was released from prison in 1872 and returned to the Taiken School (19th Elementary School) the next year.

With help of Kumagaya Denbe, the ward head who administered the school, Furukawa started teaching the Deaf-mute girl and her younger brother who was also Deaf-mute. The  two children lived in the neighboring house to Denbe in 1874.

Furukawa taught them with sign language that he invented including home-made signs the students used. He later allowed a blind child to join the class for the Deaf-mute students, achieving a remarkable result in 1877.

The Training Institution for the Blind and Mute (“Mou-a-in” 盲唖院) was temporarily established in Kyoto as a private school by Furukawa and Norimi Tohyama in 1878, and Furukawa became the director.  It was the first school for the Deaf and Blind that was officially opened on May 24, accepting 31 Deaf-mute children and 17 blind children.

Their fundamental educational philosophy was based on humanitarianism and equestrianism. Tohyama stated that all human beings are equal, regardless of disabilities such as deafness, blindness, or other disabilities in a statement for the establishment of the school.

In addition, Furukawa thought that the inability to perform like others without disabilities contributed to discrimination, but argued that those with disabilities are able to perform if appropriate education is provided. In other words, absence of education for those with disabilities accounted to the societies’ and educators’ neglect of duty.

Furukawa did various works about instruction to the blind and deaf students, respectively. His attitude towards to the students was warm, full of love; he accepted them as what they were from the bottom of heart without self-interest.

The subjects taught for the deaf students were "pronunciation (speech)", "dictation", the "discourse method", the "composition method", "composition with theme", and  "geography", "arithmetic".

Furukawa's instruction was combined with the following methods. To teach how to pronounce a syllabary, he made the "pronunciation chart" (1878 発音起源図) along with the word list for the "speech". Also he used the question-answer method for the semantic grasp of the word, carrying out compatibility of the Japanese syllabary, a Chinese character, and the manual spelling. The "discourse method" was used to develop the skills in written communication and reading, and the "composition method" aimed at written expression of things.

Especially the speech training used the mouth form, arranged with the fingertips of the both hands which showed the form of the mouth, compared an up-and-down row of teeth and the right thumb as the tongue (発音起源図). All the elements of positions and movements showed how to pronounce a vowel and a consonant.

Therefore, the language education of Furukawa was based on the combination of sign language, fingerspelling, gestures, speech, writing combined with pronunciation (spoken language), reading comprehension, writing a composition, etc. The method was combined oralism and sign language.

Furukawa invented the manual communication system to be used in teaching, such as the "Japanese fingerspelling chart" (1878 五十音手勢図), "Japanese kana syllabary printing-form sign language" (1879 五十音字形手勢), the sketch of "the numeral signs" (1878 手算法略図), and the "chart of the palm method for writing" (1879 画掌法図), etc., which are much different from the present days. The old, but precious documents are preserved currently in the Kyoto Prefectural School for the Deaf.

The Training Institution for the Blind and Mute moved to a place where the new schoolhouse was completed in front of the Kyoto Prefecture Office as a public school under the Prefecture administration in 1879 (京都府立盲唖院).

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