Allowing Japan’s Blind Masseurs to Work Again

From Faces Along the Way, by Ferdinand Micklautz (Miko Oriental Art and Publishing, 2010), p. 252:

Helen Keller’s 1948 tour of Japan gave a real boost to that country’s blind and disabled when a boost of that sort was very badly needed.

One great thing that Helen Keller did for the blind of Japan wasn’t as well publicized as her speaking tour. She successfully petitioned President Truman to lift General MacArthur’s ban on traditional Japanese therapeutic practices, such as acupuncture, moxibustion and anma massage.

MacArthur had banned all these traditional therapies, pending scientific research into their worth, because Americans held in Japan prison camps had reported being burned and stuck with needles when they were sick. This, to MacArthur’s ears, was outright torture, and even if they weren’t actually torture he considered the traditional therapies to be worthless.

The problem was that General MacArthur’s ban had inadvertently put most of Japan’s working blind out of work. Nearly all practitioners of traditional therapies in Japan were blind, because blind people were considered to have a greater than usual sensitivity of touch, and as long as MacArthur’s ban held, an important and culturally acceptable avenue of employment was closed to Japan’s blind. But when Helen Keller asked him to, President Truman lifted the ban. The blind masseurs and acupuncturists stopped being a drain on their families and on the Japanese economy, and they went back to work.

Available by print-on-demand from Lulu.com. Newly available in Japanese translation.

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Filed under economics, Japan, labor, military, nationalism, U.S.

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