Hokiichi Hanawa(1746-1821,died aged 76)
–The Famous Blind Scholar of Japan–
Japanese Scholar who compiled “Gunsho-Ruijyu(Great collection of old documents) despite his inability to see.
Born in 1746 in Hokino Village, Saitama prefecture, Hokiichi lived 100km north of Edo, what is now Tokyo. Since childhood he possessed an unusual talent for immediately memorizing and retaining information. He was eager to study with books but a disease caused him to lose his eyesight. However, he never gave up.
On becoming 15, Hokiichi took his first step upon his scholarly career at Edo.
One summer night, a wife of a Bu-shi, Japanese knight, read a book for Hokiichi. She found that he had tied up his hands together. Asked why he did so, Hokiichi replied, “Whenever I move my hand to get mosquitoes away, I tend to miss words of your reading. So as not to do that, I did this.”. He always studied with an attitude like this.
He learned History, Literature, Medical science and Jurisprudence from several masters. One of them was Kamono-Mabuchi, one of the best scholar at that time, and his study proceeded well.
At the age of 34, Hokiichi made up his mind to start the compilation of the “Gunsho-Ruiju”.
He set out to gather as many old documents as possible from all over Japan, and examine and select worthy ones for compilation, regardless of their character. Thanks to his efforts, it is now possible for everyone to refer to them whenever they want.
However during that time, it was so difficult to get even a single book for the project and it cost tremendous money. Moreover, it required cooperation from so many people including government officials.
Hokiichi worshipped at the Tenjin-Shrine and prayed reading Hannya-Shinkyo(Buddhist scripture) everyday so that he could accomplish his task.
At last, 40 years since the start of this project, he finished compilation of “Gunsho-Ruiju”, aged 74. It is consisted with 670 volumes. It is a magnificent work with scarcely any comparison in the world.
Nowadays, you may find “Gunsho-Ruiju” at large libraries not only in Japan but also in all over the world. There is also a plan to make it available on the Internet.
“Gunsho-Ruiju” is a common cultural heritage of all the people of the world.
In 1937, Ms. Helen Keller, who had three disabilities, visited “Onko Gakkai”, and expressed her impression as follows: “When I was a child, my mother told me that Mr.Hanawa was your role model. To visit this place and touch his statue was the significant event during this trip to Japan. The worn desk and the statue facing down earned more respect of him. I believe that his name would pass down from generation to generation like a stream of water.”
I hope that the people of the world will make such contributions for the growth of mankind with an ambition and self-dignity similar to that of Hokiichi.
Director of Onko-Academic-Society, Saito Masao