Yokoo Yoshitomo (1893-1963), first Deaf village mayor




http://joetsukankonavi.jp/
Yokoo Yoshitomo (1893-1963) was the eldest son of a rich landowner in Koguro Village (present Yasuzuka Ward, Joetsu-shi), Niigata Prefecture, a part of Japan's northeastern region. He was a first boy after eight sisters and was Deaf.

He entered Tokyo Institute for the Blind and Deaf-mute (present Deaf Special Support School with the University of Tsukuba) with one of the sisters who was Deaf in July, 1903 at the age of 9.

He graduated in March, 1908 and then at the age of 17, he returned to his hometown and learned a practical business affair under his father as landlord's heir. 

Five years later when father passed away, Yokoo inherited an estate and got married to a hearing woman Satoko in the next year. The marriage was arranged between the families, but she learned sign language from her husband, deepening mutual trust and affection with her husband.

Satoko supported various business undertaken by Yokoo such as establishment of an association to plan for farmer's economical stability; she gathered women as the chairperson of the Yasuzuka branch of a national defense women society during wartime.

When Yokoo was 40 years old, he became a village mayor in February 1934, serving for 12 years of three terms through November, 1946, working hard for development of the village.

To support Yokoo as a mayor, Satoko was the only person who knew sign language. She relayed what her husband said to the assembly immediately, and also relaying comments from the assembly member to Yokoo --- acting as an interpreter. 
 
However, after Japan lost a war on August 15, 1945, Yokoo was purged from public office by a GHQ directive. 

Later Yokoo concerned a start of a Deaf group and busied himself in order to establish a school for the deaf across the country. As an active Deaf leader, he established Hokuriku Region Federation of the Deaf and  became the first president. He was an honor advisor to the Japanese Federation of the Deaf as well as president of the Niigata Prefecture Association.

There is a memorial hall (photo) local people manage in order to preserve Yokoo's achievements for posterity. Using an old land tax depot in his old birthplace, a family tree of the Yokoos, his paintings and various articles on him are exhibited (http://joetsukankonavi.jp/spot.php?id=12).


Japanese source:

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