Tetsuo Sakurai: The Poet Who Thanked Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy)
This book is a photo documentary of Tetsuo Sakurai, a.k.a. Tecchan, who lived to tell about Hansen’s disease. The Korean photographer, Choul Kwon, captured the 15 years of Tecchan’s life.
When he was 17 years old, Tecchan arrived at a sanatorium for Hansen’s disease patients in Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture, more than 500 kilometers away from his home in Tsugaru. He suffered a series of hardships there. He lost his fingers and his eyes due to the disease, and also damaged the vocal chords. Having then lost his wife and daughter, he spent his younger days in a desperate depression.
At 59, however, his life went through a drastic change. He entered a world of free self-expression via a poem group at the sanatorium. His humorous but soulful calls moved many people’s hearts.
Another fateful encounter came when he adopted Chongmi Kim as his granddaughter. She was a third-generation Korean-Japanese, who later joined him on a trip to the Korean Peninsula, where his late wife spent her childhood. A life with Chongmi brought Tecchan out of his confined studio, and he began to enjoy more of the fresh air. He was also able to make the trip back to his native town, which he had longed for.
Hansen’s disease, which destroyed his life, gave him many touching encounters. Tecchan, in the end, forgave and thanked Hansen’s disease.
Chapter 1: Trip to Busan—Tecchan’s dream comes true／Documenting Tecchan, bawling from mounting emotions, and Chongmi’s heart (Pages 8~11)／“What happened to your face? Did you burn yourself?” a woman at a market asks Tecchan. (Pages 14~15)
Chapter 2: Days at the Kusatsu sanatorium where Tecchan lived／Tecchan composes a poem in his room. (Pages 41~47)／Tecchan thinks hard for his poems, sometimes crossing his arms and lying on his stomach.／He asks a sanatorium staffer to write out some of the words compiled in his mind once a week.
Chapter 3: Capturing opinions and emotions of the people at “Zenseien” sanatorium for Hansen’s disease patients in Tokyo
Chapter 4: The only one solitary sanatorium for Hansen’s disease patients in Sorokdo, South Korea, was built during the Japanese occupation.／The patients were forced to manufacture bricks and suffered hard labor with other such work.／A bed for sterilization (Page 92)／Sterlization surgery was conducted as a punishment in Sorokdo.
Chapter 5: Auschuwitz in Japan／Remains of prison cells for serious offenders in the Kusatsu sanatorium for Hansen’s disease patients／Many patients who were considered rebellious were imprisoned here.／Fourteen people died inside. ／The average imprisonment was 134 days, but one made it to the longest 549 days. Investigation and excavation was conducted in the summer of 2013 at this remains, which reminds us of Auschuwitz.
Chapter 6: History of how he came to identify himself under his real name Toshizo Nagamine from the pseudonym Tetsuo Sakurai.／Tecchan passed away on December 28, 2011.／He is buried in the Nagamines’ graveyard in his native town of Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture, surrounded by an apple orchard. (Pages 138~139)