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Keisai Aoki (青木恵哉 Aoki Keisai?, April 8, 1893-March 6, 1969) was a Japanese missionary who paved the way to the establishment of Hansen's disease sanatorium Kunigami-Airakuen, Okinawa, now Okinawa Airakuen Sanatorium, Japan. At the age of 16 he developed leprosy and later, under the leadership of Hannah Riddell, he helped people with leprosy in Okinawa.
|Born||April 8, 1893
Tokushima Prefecture, Japan
|Died||March 6, 1969|
|Known for||Helping Okinawan leprosy patients, leading to the establishment of leper hospital Okinawa Airakuen Sanatorium|
Early history and Hannah Riddell
Keisai Aoki (real name Yasujiro Aoki) was born in Tokushima Prefecture on April 8, 1893. At age 16 he developed leprosy and everything did not help, including the pilgrimage of 88 holy places of Shikoku (at that time it was believed to be of help). In 1916 he entered the Oshima Leprosarium and was baptized in 1918. He helped with missionary work, and he sent a letter to Hannah Riddell since he was worried about women's temptation. At Kusatsu, he met Hannah who was vacationing there and decided to go to Hannah's Kaishun Hospital. He helped with missionary work. He cherished affection for Aiko Tamaki, and this worried him because this was against the Riddell's policy of sex segregation. He decided to go to Okinawa on missinary work at the strong suggestion of Riddell.
Okinawa and Okinawa Airakuen Sanatorium
With missionary Arato, he discovered people with leprosy living in caves or other places, first on Iejima Island, and later on Mainland Okinawa, and gave clothes and food and prayed. At one place, village people burned down the houses of people with leprosy. 40 people had to live in a small island called Jalma Island. Later they landed at Yagaji Island and their land became the Kunigami (later Okingawa) Airakuen Sanatorium Okinawa Airakuen Sanatorium in 1938. In 1957, he became an official missionary of Okinawa Seikokai (Episcopal Church). On March 6, 1969, he died of myocardial infarction.
He composed many short poems (haiku):
- Koetekite, Hone o Uzumuru, Hito Ha kana
- Coming over to Okinawa, I am like a leaf, my bones will be buried here.
Leprosy in Okinawa before Aoki
Among the Japanese prefectures, leprosy had the highest incidence in Okinawa Prefecture in 1925, 1935 and 1940. The Okinawa Government was inconsistent concerning the establishment of leprosaria. In 1931, Miyako Hoyoen Sanatorium was established on Miyako Island, but opposition was strong on the Okinawan mainland. Rioting and burning of houses of leprosy patients occurred. With the help of various organizations and Kensuke Mitsuda, Fumio Hayashi, the Kunigami Airakuen, now the Okinawa Airakuen Sanatorium was established with the leadership of Keisai Aoki.
- Barato Sumire No.27, (2009). In Japanese
- Aoki Keisai Dozo Jomaku Kinen (Statue Unveiling Ceremony)(2005) Okinawa Airakun Jichikai. In Japanese
- Hansen's disease policy(1999) Kazuo Saikawa Okinawaken Hansenbyo Yobo Kyokai. In Japanese
- Erabareta Shima(1972) Keisai Aoki, Shinkyo Shuppan Sha, Tokyo. in Japanese
- Aoki Keisai, Mission to Okinawa, Christian Book Room, Hong Kong, (a 352 page English translation of autobiography).
- On the "Chosen island", abstract in English
- Leprosy Control Measures Kazuo Saikawa, Okinawa Leprosy Preventin Association, 1999.