Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf/blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become known worldwide through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker.
A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled, and was outspoken in her opposition to war. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Wobblies, she campaigned for women's suffrage, workers' rights, and socialism, as well as many other leftist causes. (for more on Helen Keller’s life, please visit the Wikipedia article).
She was the first to bring and Akita to the United States. In 1937 Ms. Keller and her companion, Ms. Polly Thomson embarked on an extended speaking tour taking them throughout much of Japan. Ms. Keller was most highly revered by the Japanese people often being referred to as "Saint Keller...Saint of Three burdens...Miracle Saint...Miracle Hands...Great Heart of Love...Light of All Miracles...Sacred Light". No foreign visitor had ever been met with such enthusiastic reception.
Included in Miss Keller’s plans of regions to visit was the Akita district, she had learned of the legend of Hachi-Ko an Akita so revered by the Japanese people for his immense loyalty to his master that a bronze statue bearing the inscription of his story, graces that special place at Shibuya Station where he waited those many years for his master. Miss Keller loved large dogs and was very impressed with the Akita's faithfulness. When she expressed the desire to meet (have) an Akita, action began to arrange for her to do so. A young Akita Police Department instructor, Master in the art of Kendo, Mr. Ichiro Ogasawara, who owned Akita dogs, was asked to arrange for Ms. Keller to get one. Soon after having arranged for an adult dog to be taken to her, he learned it was not appropriate for her needs, so he decided his own new puppy, "Kamikaze-Go", should be introduced to her.
Miss Keller was so enchanted by this little goma colored puppy that with the agreement of his family, Mr. Ogasawara decided to make mikaze-Go a gift to Saint Keller and a formal presentation took place on June 14th, 1937, the pup then just 75 days old.
Miss Keller continued her lecturing tour knowing an Akita puppy awaited her. In early July fighting broke out between China and Japan escalating to full scale war near the end of the month, Miss Keller's plans to visit China were cancelled and her tour cut short. On August12, Ichiro Ogasawara himself presented Kamikaze-Go to Miss Keller on board the ship Chichibu Maru (named in honor of the Emperor's brother), he had traveled down from Akita City to fulfill this honor. Miss Keller later wrote of this moment: "His devoted master left him by my side, and I sensed it was with a wrench of his heart that he turned and went to shore. The puppy pathetically sniffed around the deck for the familiar footsteps. As the ship surged into a world he did not know, he transferred his trustful loyalty to me, and such a compliment from an Akita dog made me bow my head in humility."
"Kami" as he was soon nicknamed, shared Miss Keller's stateroom on the journey and he quickly became the attention of all the passengers who showered him with attention. During the sixteen days of crossing a profound devotion developed between the two, Kami showed a special sensitivity to Miss Keller's emotions as she related: "If I cried from loneliness for my beloved teacher, he would put his big paw on my knee and press his cool nose against my cheek and lick away the tears." Miss Keller's beloved teacher, Ann Sullivan, had died in October the year before.
Tragically, Miss Keller lost little "Kami" at the young age of 7 1/2 months to distemper. Her grief was so deep, in devastation she cried "....another joy has gone out of my life." She wrote Mr. Ogasawara, in part: "If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet......."
Later, once again Mr. Ogasawara provided a special Akita for Miss Keller, this one was to be the beautiful golden red litter brother to Kamikaze named "Kenzan-Go", he was over 24 inches tall and about 100 pounds. Kenzan-Go was an "official gift of the Japanese Government" and it wasn't until after Kenzan-Go's arrival to a Brooklyn pier on the 1st day of July, 1939, as she departed to greet him, that Miss Keller learned of Ichiro Ogasawara's gracious donation and of Kenzan-Go's relation to her precious "Kami". Miss Keller and Miss Thomson waited anxiously on the pier from midnight till midday for the precious cargo to be unloaded. The magnificent Akita came to her side, there to remain, as he knew it was for her he had journeyed.
Miss Keller often affectionately referred to him as "Go-Go". Kenzan-Go settled in nicely to his new home with Miss Keller in Connecticut, he would move easily amongst her prized treasures from Japan, from jade carvings, elegant vases, objects of ivory and porcelain to beautiful rosewood and teak furniture, never even brushing against them.
Out of doors Go-Go would track fox or deer in the snow or break the ice in the brook with his paw to drink the cold water. In a letter to Mr. Ogasawara Miss Keller wrote: "a splendid protector and companion, and a precious part of my daily life". She spoke of him as "all golden in the sun", "his tail waving like a pine bough in the breeze." She also wrote of his outdoor romps: "but he always came back telling me with his nose, ear and tail to play with him." Kenzan-Go loved, protected and delighted Miss Keller every day of his life as had his littermate the precious "KamiKaze-Go", Akita brothers who shared a very special mission, to give the treasured joy of themselves to a most "special lady".
Collective Overview 1997©
Taken from The Natural Akita
HELEN KELLER AND AKITAS
By Ichiro Ogasawara
Taken from: Northland Akitas' The Akita Learning Center
During a conversation with Managing Director Matsuyama at the Headquarter's office, I mentioned that I had presented the world famous Helen Keller with Akitas on two separate occasions some thirty years ago. It was from Mr. Matsuyama's suggestion and from the urgings of several others that I relate this story to the readers as well as can be recollected.
While touring Japan, for the purpose of studying the physically handicapped and their rehabilitation, Helen Keller visited Alata City with her secretary Miss Thomson in June, 1937. She reportedly asked the official host, a member of the Board of Education, if she could be shown an Akitainu as she disembarked from the train. A member of the Board of Education asked a member of the Military Criminal Investigation Division, who, in turn, contacted me and obtained a list of Akita owners. Shortly after, however, I was contacted by telephone and informed that the Akita I introduced would not meet the requirement. It was explained that since Miss Keller was blind, it would be necessary for her to feel the dog to know what it was like. The Akitas I recommended were all grown dogs, and it was feared that there could possibly be an accident. Since I had just acquired Kamikaze-go, a two month, goma colored puppy from Mr. Takichi Takahashi, it was decided that I would show Miss Keller this puppy.
The following day, proceeding the lecture at the Akita Memorial Auditorium, I showed Miss Keller my puppy in the presence of the then Governor Homma and members of the Board of Education. Miss Keller asked me various questions about the Akitas through Miss Thomson, but as it took place such a long time ago, I could not recall the details of the conversation. All I can recall of that meeting was that she was a very warm person. At the end of the day I was visited by Mr. Ishii, Section Chief of the Board of Education who had a request from Miss Keller. Evidently, Miss Keller had fallen in love with the puppy I had shown her and wanted to take it back to the United States.
After consulting with the family, I agreed to present the puppy to her. It was arranged that I would keep the puppy for two months until Miss Keller completed her tour of Japan and Manchuria.
About a month later, however, the trip was shortened and I was notified by the Superintendent of the Board of Education that Miss Keller would be boarding the S.S. Chichibu Maru for the United States. I took the train that very night to present the puppy to her on board the ship.
After the sailing of the ship we did not hear from Miss Keller for a while, as we took it for granted that everything was fine. However, I received a letter in English, one day, and I rushed over to the Prefectural Office to have it interpreted by Mr. Yoshida, Section Chief of the Board of Education. The letter reported of Kamikaze's loyalty and the sad news that he died of distemper.
Later, in a news article, when Mr. Fleisher of the Japan Advertiser reported how Miss Keller missed Kamikaze-go, I was contacted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Arita, through Governor Homma and was asked to present Miss Keller with another Akita. An old friend of mine, Mr. Eijiro Kanazawa of Odate City owned Kenzan-go, a litter brother to Kamikaze. I reported back to the Minister through channels that he would be available. Thus, again, I journeyed to Tokyo to present the Akita to the Minister. I was instructed by the Administrative Assistant to take Kenzan to the S.S. Kirishima Maru and present it to the Captain of the ship the following morning.
By this time, relationships between Japan and the United States was becoming strained, and we feared that the ship would not reach the shores of the United States. However, sometime later we received word that Kenzan was safely delivered to Miss Keller through the Foreign Ministry. We also received a letter from Mr. Tahei Kobayashi, a complete stranger, who sent us clippings of photos and articles from the New York Times, reporting the arrival of Kenzan into the Port of Brooklyn. We also received photos and letters from Mill Keller thanking us for Kenzan. The New York Times also sent us the photograph that was printed in the paper. Soon after, the war broke out between Japan and the United States.
After the conclusion of the war, in the summer of 1947, out of the blue, I received a message from Miss Keller through the Mainichi Press that she had come to Japan on a speaking engagement. She was on her way to Tokyo, from Hokkaido, and wanted to meet me at Akita Station. At the appointed date, I arrived at the station a little early, and waited in the area where Miss Keller's car would stop. I remember clearly how I anxiously wondered if she would remember me.
The train finally arrived and as I worried about the short train stop, Miss Thomson spotted me and called out, "Ogasawara!" The anxiety and the span often years quickly disappeared as I hurriedly followed Miss Thomson to where Miss Keller was seated in the train. Miss Keller extended her hands and asked me about the dogs, about the situation during the war, thanked me for sending her Kamikaze and Kenzan.
Just before we said goodbye, I asked Miss Keller for her autograph and she readily complied. The meeting was a short one, and was our last meeting. Though more than thirty years have passed since these events have occurred, the memory of Miss Keller and Miss Thomson's deep love for Akitas remain fresh and deep in my heart.
(Mr. Ogasawara, having given a long and distinguished service to the organization, is one of the Vice-Chairmen of the Hozonkai as well as the Tohoku Regional Chairman)
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