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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: Japan’s Leprosy Museums

Health ministry hands operation of national museums to The Nippon Foundation.

View of Tama Zenshoen, home of Japan’s National Hansen’s Disease Museum

From April 1, The Nippon Foundation has been entrusted by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare with the running of the National Hansen’s Disease Museum in the Tokyo suburb of Higashi-Murayama City and a second national museum dedicated to a former punishment block for leprosy patients in Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture.

The National Hansen’s Disease Museum was established in 1993 as the Prince Takamatsu Memorial Hansen’s Disease Museum in the grounds of National Sanatorium Tama Zenshoen; it was re-launched as a national museum in 2007. The Jyu-Kanbo National Museum of Detention for Hansen’s Disease Patients opened in 2014 in the grounds of National Sanatorium Kuriu-Rakusenen.

The purpose of the museums is to educate the public about leprosy, promote proper understanding of what people affected by leprosy have endured and what they have achieved, help restore their dignity as well as promote respect for human rights and the need to end discrimination and prejudice.

The Japanese government opted to transfer operational control of the museums to The Nippon Foundation, given the foundation’s decades-long experience of working in leprosy. Making use of its extensive international network, the foundation has aspirations to turn the museum in Higashi-Murayama into a world museum of leprosy, working close with the museum’s existing staff and curators.

By working to enrich each museum’s offerings and increase the amount of information they disseminate, the foundation aims to boost annual visitor numbers, which currently stand at 30,000 for the National Hansen’s Disease Museum and 8,000 for the Jyu-Kanbo National Museum.



The Centre for Global Health Histories, a WHO Collaborating Center at the University of York, has published Leprosy: A Short History. The book presents a collection of vignettes that provide critical perspectives on the disease, exploring leprosy’s impact on society at different times, from the medieval period up to the present day, and from regional, national and local perspectives. The editors hope the book will “inspire debate and further attention towards the disease and its significant role in the history of public health.*



* The book can be downloaded from York Digital Library