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Japanese man who attended school for impaired kids in China shares memories of war in DVD

Setsuo Ota, second from right, is seen at a gathering in the city of Kobe's Chuo Ward on Aug. 22, 2021. (Mainichi/Chikako Kida)

KOBE -- A 94-year-old man who partially lost his hearing as a child and attended a school for visually and hearing-impaired children in China's Dalian during the Second Sino-Japanese War has narrated his experiences in a new DVD set.

    In the DVDs, Setsuo Ota uses sign language to tell the story of his life in Dalian, which was leased territory of the Empire of Japan, amid the turbulent age of the 20th century and describe his attendance at "Dalian school for the blind and mute." The DVDs are subtitled, and created by Deaf Support Kamome, a general incorporated association in the city of Kobe, where Ota is from. Kamome commented, "We'd like many people to watch it, regardless of whether they know sign language."

    A DVD set showing footage of Setsuo Ota, who attended a school for visually- and hearing-impaired children in China's Dalian, is seen in this image provided by Deaf Support Kamome.

    Ota lost the ability to hear in his right ear at a young age, and was unable to enter elementary school before moving with his family to Dalian. At age 9, he entered the school for children with impairments, and moved on to work in shipbuilding after graduating from its primary school section. Following Japan's defeat in World War II, and until Ota returned to his home country, he saw his friends and acquaintances falling to bitter deaths. After the war, he ran a dressmaking business in Osaka, and served as a consultant for hearing-impaired individuals.

    For six months from May 2021, members of Kamome and other parties aiming to enhance communication among hearing-impaired individuals interviewed and filmed Ota in order to pass on the Dalian school's history to later generations. In August 2021, the group held a meeting to delve into the history of hearing- and speech-impaired people during WWII, and new information was gathered from some 60 participants.

    Hidemitsu Takata, 65, a board member of Kamome, who also has a hearing disability himself, along with others, reconfirmed the significance of listening to affiliated parties and digging out historical material, and created the "society to record and preserve the history of the Dalian school for the blind and mute."

    The DVD set was filmed and edited by Takata, and consists of two sections lasting around 40 minutes each. They recorded Ota's account of his school days, his post-war experiences and return to Japan. As sign language is used, no audio accompanies the video. The DVD set is scheduled to be sold at 3,000 yen per set plus with 180 yen for shipping (about $30 in total). Earnings will be used to create new DVDs and publications on the Dalian school. Purchases are being accepted via fax on 078-330-4187, and through Deaf Support Kamome's website.

    (Japanese original by Chikako Kida, Kobe Bureau)

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