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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy


This panoramic model of Nagashima Aiseien, a leprosy sanatorium on an island in Japan's Inland Sea, was built by Heihachiro Takano, a patient, between 1951 and 1955.

Takano entered the sanatorium in 1946 at the age of 26. He began work on the model to commemorate the awarding of the prestigious Order of Culture to Dr. Kensuke Mitsuda, the sanatorium's director, in 1951. Dr. Mitsuda, who was the country's most influential leprologist, served as director between 1931 and 1957.

Everything was made by hand. The hills were fashioned from paper clay made by boiling newspapers and adding starch. The buildings were carved from wood.

Takano had been a sign maker before entering Nagashima Aiseien and later worked as a carpenter. He also became a star of Kabuki plays performed at the sanatorium. He lived there twice: from 1946 to 1962 and again from 1996 until his death in 2001 aged 81.

The model is a faithful recreation of Nagashima Aiseien as it looked in the mid-1950s. Patients and staff lived in separate areas, demarcated by a red line on the model. Other features shown include a punishment cell for those who violated the sanatorium's rules, as stipulated under the Leprosy Prevention Law.

In 2003, with the opening of the sanatorium museum, the panoramic model was repaired by an expert and repainted. Today it forms one of the central exhibits, serving as an important aid for explaining life at Nagashima Aiseien in times gone by and as testament to Takano's skilled craftsmanship.

Tomohisa Tamura