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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: 100 Years of Isolation

National Sanatorium Tama-Zenshoen marks centenary of its founding.

On 28 September 2009, a ceremony was held at the National Sanatorium Tama-Zenshoen in Tokyo to mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the leprosarium there. About 180 people, including residents and local and national government representatives, attended.

Since its founding, Tama-Zenshoen has admitted a total of 9,542 patients. The population of the sanatorium today is 290, with an average age of 81.

Tama-Zenshoen was one of five leprosaria that opened in 1909 in different parts of the country as provided for under Japan's leprosy prevention law of 1907 that introduced a policy of isolating people with the disease. In April, four other sanatoriums in Japan marked their centenaries.

A special exhibition, "100 Years of Isolation . The Birth of Public Leprosaria," is being held at the National Hansen's Disease Museum adjacent to Tama-Zenshoen. It runs until 20 December 2009.


Koichi Kondo, a recipient of the Wellesley Bailey Award* in 2007, has died in Japan aged 83. Kondo developed leprosy at the age of 9 and two years later was forced to enter a government-run sanatorium. Over the next five decades, he lost all his fingers and his eyesight to leprosy. Undaunted, he taught himself to read Braille using his tongue and lips, learned music and formed a band with fellow residents. The Blue Bird Band went on to perform at concert halls in major Japanese cities, challenging public prejudices about persons affected by leprosy and inspiring residents at other sanatoriums to form their own bands. He also contributed to the revival of the band on Culion in the Philippines on the occasion of that colony's centenary in 2006.

A funeral service was held on 6 October at the Nagashima Aisei-en sanatorium in western Japan.


* The Wellesley Bailey Award is presented every other year to two individuals who overcome severe hardship and discrimination to become symbols of hope to people affected by leprosy.