Fukuske was a real person who lived  in the 18thC (Edo period)  in Japan, and the story goes that he had hydrocephalus  and left home after being bullied, to  join a travelling circus, He was then adopted by a man, to whom he brought great good fortune.  His image was used as a moneybox, which you can still buy.  Nowadays the name is associated with a company that makes socks and tights.  


UK story

Fukuske’s story has some links with that of the so- called “Elephant Man” Joseph Merrick (1862-1890), who developed physical deformities in early childhood. His family tried to care for him, but his appearance led to problems. After a period in a workhouse, proposed to a showman that he should be exhibited as a curiosity – an “Elephant Man”.. He was certainly exploited by the group of men who “managed” him. He toured England, and when in London happened to be shown in  a stall opposite the London Hospital, where the doctor Frederick Treves  saw him and examined him – Treves also used him for demonstrations which Merrick found very degrading. Subsequently he toured in Europe, but was robbed and abandoned by the showmen, and eventually made his way back to London and to Treves. He was given a home at the London, and became something of a celebrity and was befriended by the doctor. Everyone remarked on his gentle nature and once they could understand his speech, his good conversation.

There is a long article about Merrick on Wikipedia, and the film (1980) starring John Hurt, is well worth seeing by older pupils (available at this date on youtube).



Fukuske’s story does lend itself to a circus theme – thinking about what jobs he could have done (as an alternative to being exhibited).



Best for older pupils in high schools/secondary schools to stimulate discussion about historical and contemporary views of disability.



©Betty Grove 2016


Traditional Fukuske Money Box - a generous gift from Japanese friends.