Hikari Ōe was born developmentally disabled. Doctors tried to convince his parents to let their son die, but they refused to do so. Even after an operation, Ōe remained visually impaired, developmentally delayed, epileptic and with limited physical coordination. He does not speak much.
Ōe's parents report that his first "word" was spoken when he was walking with his parents near his house and heard a bird calling. He imitated the voice of a man who presented a record of birds calling in one of his child CDs. His parents were fascinated. They bought him tracks of bird calls, which he learned. This was how they got the idea to recruit a music teacher for Ōe. His parents arranged a piano teacher, Kumiko Tamura, for him. Instead of speaking, Ōe began to express his feelings in music and through musical composition. Eventually he was taught musical notation.
Hikari reflected in the works of the Nobel laureate
Kenzaburō Ōe credits his son for influencing his literary career. Kenzaburō tried to give his son a "voice" through his writing. Several of Kenzaburō's books feature a character based on his son.
In 1994, Kenzaburō won the Nobel Prize for Literature, in part because of his 1964 book, A Personal Matter, in which the writer describes his pain in accepting the brain-damaged child into his life, and of how he arrived at his resolve to live with his son. Hikari figures prominently in many of the books singled out for praise by the Nobel committee:
- A Personal Matter is the first of a series of works which describe aspects of Hikari's life.
- Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness in 1969 provides insight into the life of a family with an unspeaking infant child.
- My Deluged Soul in 1973 describes a father's difficulties in relating to an infant child who, through the medium of the songs of the wild birds, slowly started to communicate with his family.
- Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! in 1983 describes Hikari's development from a child to a young man.
Hikari's life is the core of the first book published after Kenzaburō was awarded the Nobel Prize. The 1996 book, A Healing Family, celebrates the small victories in Hikari's life.
Ōe's published works have no linguistic content. His music and music scores encompass 12 works in 30 publications in 5 languages and 1,721 library holdings.
- Music of Hikari Ōe (1994), music
- Music of Hikari Ōe, Vol. 2 (1994), music
- Atarashii Ōe Hikari (2000), musical score
- Mou Ichido Oe Hikari (2005), music
- Sobsey, Richard. "Hikari Finds His Voice," Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), produced by Compassionate Healthcare Network (CHN). July 1995.
- Cameron, Lindsley. (1999). The Music of Light: the Extraordinary Story of Hikari and Kenzaburo Oe, p. 308.
- Garden, Gary. "Haunting Melodies from an Obscure Genius," Smoky Mountain News. May 16, 2001.
- Nobel Prize, 1994 laureate biography
- Sterngold, James. "Nobel in Literature Goes to Kenzaburo Oe of Japan," New York Times. October 14, 1994.
- WorldCat Identities: Ōe, Hikari 1963–
- Cameron, Lindsley. (1999). The Music of Light: the Extraordinary Story of Hikari and Kenzaburo Oe. New York: Free Press. 10-ISBN 0684824094/13-ISBN 9780684824093; OCLC 37975585
- Ōe, Kenzaburō. (1995). A Healing Family. Tokyo: Kodansha International. 10-ISBN 4770020481/13-ISBN 9784770020482; OCLC 35131624