Director's Message


Director Hirofumi Uchida

The National Hansen's Disease Museum

Director Hirofumi Uchida

I have assumed the post of Director of the National Hansen's Disease Museum from July 1, 2021, with the retirement of Dr. Minoru Narita. This post comes with significant responsibility, and I will strive to the best of my ability to fulfill this responsibility based on my experience working on leprosy issues. I request you all for the same guidance and encouragement that you gave to the previous director.

Many animals are stronger than humans. I think humans who are weak have developed to this extent because of the social life that we have practiced. This is the reason why humans are called social animals. I believe that the most important point in our social lives is to respect the human rights of oneself and others.

The French Declaration of Human Rights in 1789 proclaimed the first modern human rights of the world in the form of "The Rights of Man and Citizen". This declaration holds great significance in world history. However, in reality, this declaration guaranteed the rights only to certain people. Women, children, people with disabilities, and foreigners were excluded. How to guarantee the human rights of these people? This was the main reason for the subsequent development of human rights.

The French Declaration of Human Rights mainly covers the guarantee of civil liberties and the right of equality, and the right to life was not yet recognized. The right to life was recognized as a human right only in the 20th century. The right to life was first stipulated in the Weimar Constitution of Germany enacted in 1919. Article 151 of the constitution clearly states, "The regulation of economic life must be compatible with the principles of justice, with the aim of attaining human conditions of existence for all". Many countries included this social right in their constitutions after World War II.

The United Nations was established after World War II. Reflecting on the two world wars, one of the first initiatives of the United Nations was the internationalization of human rights to prevent World War III. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted at the third General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948. The preamble, which clearly states, "Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations" is a common standard that all people in all countries should follow, showing respect to human rights. The human rights issue has become the most important international issue for the world in the post-war period.

"Human rights of the people, by the people, for the people" is considered human rights in the 21st century, unlike the 20th century. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has also shifted the traditional concept of the "disability" paradigm based on the sovereignty of the concerned people. For example, "disability" has been conventionally defined as blindness, deafness, or the inability to walk. This concept is based on the so-called medical model. However, even if a person is blind, deaf, or cannot walk, there is no obstacle to social participation if society has "rational consideration". The lack of rational consideration is the reason that social participation is not possible for people with disabilities. Disability is not in the affected people but the society. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has thus shifted the paradigm. The convention adopted the concept of a social model. A normal healthy person can climb up to the second floor using the stairs, but a person with a walking disability cannot climb up to the second floor by the stairs. However, if there is an elevator, even a person with walking disabilities can reach the second floor. This is the concept.

Even Article 6 of the Act on the Promotion of the Resolution to the Issues Related to Hansen's Disease states, "When formulating and implementing policies related to leprosy problems, the Government shall take necessary measures to incorporate the opinions of persons affected by leprosy and other concerned parties, such as creating opportunities for consultation with them".

The role of the National Hansen's Disease Museum is exceptionally significant and will continue to grow. We have received a wide range of comments from various quarters, not to mention the concerned people. These are sources of inspiration for the development of the museum.

Humankind has repeatedly made many mistakes but has grown by learning from those mistakes, establishing rules from the lessons, and making those rules the foundation of our civilization. It is no exaggeration to say that passing on the lessons is the most significant mechanism to ensure the growth of humanity. I believe that the National Hansen's Disease Museum will play a role in passing on these lessons.

I think it is fair to say that the museum will function as a forum. The truth is that the people affected by the misguided forced isolation policy of the Government for Hansen's disease suffered profoundly, which is comparable to "damage of life", and these people fought bravely to change the misguided policy and restore human life. We will learn from the affected people about the truth, their lives and messages, and sometimes we will interview them and share the information through the forum of the museum with many people and citizens. We will try to ensure that the message is passed on to the people. They will become the next torchbearers.

The most important requirement when passing the message is the ability to listen and speak. I hope that all of us at the museum will work together to improve our ability to listen and speak out so that the museum can enhance its function as a forum.

In the end, once again, I request your continued guidance and encouragement as I take up the position of museum director.