Tamio Hojo (1914-1937) was a writer who was an inmate at the Japanese National Sanatorium Tama Zensho-en.
Hojo was diagnosed with leprosy at 19 and admitted to Tama Zensho-en in 1935, where he died in 1937 aged 23.
Yasunari Kawabata, the famous Japanese novelist and 1968 Nobel Laureate in literature, encouraged Hojo to write and acted as his patron. Hojo wrote his account of leprosy in his novel Maki Rojin (Old Man Maki, 1935) which was much admired by Kawabata. Kawabata also recommended Hojo's work Inochi no Shoya (Life's First Night, 1936) in the literary journal Bungakkai. Kawabata once wrote of Hojo, “It is a wonder of literature to make us see a man living a more vital life than ours, in spite of the fact he has been effectively prevented from living in society.”
Like many sanatorium residents, Hojo lived under an assumed name to protect his family from discrimination. In 2014, his relatives in his hometown agreed to disclose his real name as Shichijo Koji, 77 years after his death.
An introduction and translation by Kathryn M. Tanaka of Hojo's Life's First Night, published in The Asia-Pacific Journal, volume 14, no. 4, can be found online here.
Entry created January 2016