A bronze sitting statue of the young Heller Keller wearing a gown and graduation hat stands in a park in Chiba, Japan. ヘレン・ケラー像
Helen Keller (1880-1968) was a deaf-blind American woman who earned a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University (the first blind and deaf person to do so) and became a writer, lecturer, and activist for the blind and people with disabilities. She traveled the world giving lectures, promoting the cause, and advocating for education and welfare for disabled people while inspiring everyone with her personal story, setting a personal example for resilience and strength to overcome challenges.
In 1937, Keller was invited to visit Japan. She received a warm and loving welcome from the Japanese people, traveled across the county, and even met with the Japanese royal family. In one of the lectures, Keller shared that her earliest connection to Japan was as a child when her mother suggested finding inspiration in a role model, and Keller chose a blind university student from Hanawa, Japan. Before she left, the Japanese government gifted her an Akita puppy named Kamikaze-Go, the first Akita in the US. When he died at seven, they sent her to his younger brother, Kenzan-Go.
In 1948, Keller came to Japan as a guest of the US government and to promote legislation for the welfare of the physically disabled in Japan; she toured the country, welcomed everywhere by large and cheering crowds. She visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and dedicated a shrine to her lifelong friend and companion, Anne Sullivan.
Her third and last visit in 1955 inspired the erection of a statue of her with her two life companions, Polly Thomson and Anne Sullivan. The Niigata sculptor, Ami Hayakawa, created it, and it stood on the campus of the Niigata Prefectural School for disabled children.
Her visits were covered in the Japanese media, spreading her inspiring story. In between visits, she stayed in touch with the people, received gifts and letters, and advocated for the welfare of the blind people of Japan. After her death on June 1st, 1968, the Japanese government awarded her the Order of the Sacred Treasure.
In 1971, the Lions International Board of Directors designated June 1st as “Helen Keller Day” to encourage Lions around the world to provide sight-related service.
The Chiba Eye Bank Association was established in 1985 by Lions Club 333-C District in Chiba, honoring Helen Keller’s legacy and connections to Japan.
On June 1st, 2011, the anniversary of her death, they dedicated this statue in her honor.
Helen Keller Visits Japan
After World War II, Helen Keller and her companion Polly Thomson went to Europe and Asia to show support for war veterans abroad. This film footage is from their 1948 trip to Japan. They visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki to experience firsthand the aftermath of the only atomic bombs ever dropped. For more, visit www.afb.org/helenkeller.
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Helen Keller Visits JapanAfter World War II, Helen Keller and her companion Polly Thomson went to Europe and Asia to show support for war veterans abroad. This film footage is from their 1948 trip to Japan. They visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki to experience firsthand the aftermath of the only atomic bombs ever dropped. For more, visit www.afb.org/helenkeller.
This post is also available in: Español