TAKAMATSU, KAGAWA PREF. – Kazuko To, a prize-winning poet and former patient of Hansen’s disease, died Wednesday of acute respiratory failure at the National Sanatorium Oshimaseishoen in Kagawa Prefecture, according to the sanatorium. She was 83.
To, who developed Hansen’s, also known as leprosy, in 1942, was isolated at the sanatorium even from family members and friends at the age of 14. She started writing poetry when she was in her late 20s, winning great acclaim. She released 19 collections of poems, the first in 1961.
She won the Takami Jun Prize for poets in 1999. A documentary titled “Kaze no Mai” (“Dancing of the Wind”) on her life amid the government’s quarantine policy for people with leprosy was made in 2003 and was shown nationwide.