Helen Keller and Hanawa Hoki-ichi, a blind Japanese scholar

Helen Keller visits Onko Gakkai in Shibuya-ward, Tokyo.

During her first visit to Japan, Helen Keller visited Onko Gakkai (温故学会) in Shibuya-ward, Tokyo, which is the research institute that inherits the learning of Hanawa Hokiichi (塙保巳一:1746 to 1821), a well-known Japanese classical scholar of the Edo period, on April 26.

Helen touched the wooden statue of Hanawa who was visually impaired since his birth, and spoke with gratitude as quoted:

"When I was a child, my mother told me that Mr. Hanawa was my role model. To visit this place and touch his statue was the most significant event during this trip to Japan. The worn desk and the statue facing down earned more respects of him. I believe that his name would pass down from generation to generation like a stream of water."

How did Helen's family know about the blind scholar Hanawa? Here is a story.

In 1887, the parents of Helen visited Alexander G. Bell about her education. They sent the letter by his introduction to the principal of the Perkins School in Maschusetts, and asked for a tutor for Helen.

Reportedly, Bell then told the parents about a Japanese man named Hanawa Hokiichi.

It was said that a Japanese man named Izawa Shuji (伊沢修二) (1851-1917) introduced Hanawa to Bell in details.

Izawa was sent to the United States by the Ministry of Education to study a teacher training program from 1875 until 1878. He also studied education of the Blind and Deaf including "the visible speech" from Bell.

Related links (English) :

Hokiichi Hanawa (1746-1821,died aged 76) --The Famous Blind Scholar of Japan--
HANAWA Hokiichi, Hellen Keller's role model
Hokiichi Hanawa~The famous blind scholar of Japan ~ (1746-1821)

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