Summary of and Request from the National Hansen's Disease Museum

The Hansen's Disease Museum was first opened in June 1993 as the "Prince Takamatsu Memorial Hansen's Disease Museum." Later on, the museum was reopened in April 2007 on a larger scale and its name was also changed to "The National Hansen's Disease Museum."

The basis for the establishment of the National Hansen's Disease Museum is the provision in Article 18 of Chapter 4 "Restoration of Honor and Mourning for the Deceased" of the "Act on the Promotion of Resolution of Issues Related to Hansen's Disease" (enacted in April 2009), which states that "The national government shall, in order to restore the honor of persons who were Hansen's disease patients, etc., take measures to disseminate and raise awareness of the correct information regarding the history of measures against Hansen's disease and take other necessary measures, including the establishment of a national Hansen's disease museum and preservation of historic structures (rest omitted)."

About this article, the All-Japan National Hansen's Disease Sanatoria Residents' Association explains that "the present objective of the National Hansen's Disease Museum is 'to eliminate prejudice and discrimination and restore the honor of leprosy patients and former patients through the promotion of appropriate knowledge about Hansen's disease.' While correct information about Hansen's disease is also necessary, what is really needed to restore the honor of patients and former patients is the correct information about the history of measures against Hansen's disease."

The history of measures for Hansen's disease in Japan dates back to 1897, when the proposal

However, while acknowledging the effectiveness of Promin to a certain extent, Japan did not budge on the view that quarantine was still necessary due to the fear of recurrence that could become a source of infection and continued with the isolation without giving it much thought. Rehabilitation of former leprosy patients into society was mostly left to the individual without any active support, and social awareness was neglected attributing the difficulty to deep-rooted prejudice. In 1995, the Japanese Leprosy Association officially apologized for the wrong policies during its general meeting, but it was too late.

This was how the practices enforced were completely opposite to the present-day fundamental concept of

However, regarding such history of measures for leprosy control, when we think that "Mitsuda was unfair," "The government was unfair," or "I feel sorry for the leprosy patients," are we not thinking as if we are outsiders?

In January 1951, after the eldest son was diagnosed with leprosy, nine members of a family committed suicide by consuming cyanide in a very tragic incident in Yamanashi Prefecture. The youngest daughter, who was only five at that time, also had to lose her life, probably because the family was afraid that all of them will be ostracized by the villagers, who despised leprosy.

More than half a century has passed since this incident and common knowledge about Hansen's disease has also changed significantly. At present, the bacteria lose their infectivity within a few days of starting the treatment. Unless there is a frequent close contact between untreated patients and infants, there are no chances of transmitting or contracting the disease. In other words, leprosy is an

Keeping in mind this common knowledge about leprosy, let us once again recollect the incident of the family suicide in Yamanashi Prefecture. From the common knowledge that we have today, such an incident should not have taken place. This is because, today, we know very well that there is nothing wrong in staying or living together with a leprosy patient regardless of whether the patient is currently under treatment or is a former patient.

Again, the family in Yamanashi Prefecture was forced into family suicide because the head of the family feared that the people around would look upon leprosy as <a terrible disease> and <a disease that one should stay away from>. Was this fear of being hated by the villagers unfounded? Can you clearly say now that this was a misapprehension?

If you think that you are not so sure, then probably you are also a perpetrator, who would have tried to exclude the patients and their families, in the same manner as they would have been avoided by the villagers.

Please swear from the bottom of your heart that "I will never be that kind of perpetrator." The National Hansen's Disease Museum encourages you to take this pledge. This is another reason why you must visit the museum. We look forward to seeing you.

The National Hansen's Disease Museum