Hanawa Hokiichi, Japan’s revered blind scholar and Buddhist monk of the Edo-era, was born on this date a full 271 years ago. A Google Doodle appearing in the country Friday shows the savant seated next to a kneeling student, with dreams of books floating above his head — alluding to his reputation as a font of wisdom.
Hokiichi is known for compiling the more than 500-volume Gunsho ruijū, a vast collection of linguistic texts and classical literature. He is also remembered as a person who persevered in the face of adversity; after going blind when he was a young boy, Hokiichi impressed local scholars with his extraordinary memory. He studied history, literature, medical science and jurisprudence under several masters.
When American author and activist Hellen Keller visited the Hanawa Hokiichi memorial house in 1937, she described it as the most significant event of her trip to Japan. “I believe that his name would pass down from generation to generation like a stream of water,” Keller reportedly said.
Hokiichi also founded the Wagakusho school, where he passed his knowledge on to a new generation of adoring Japanese scholars.