Number of Visitors to National Hansen’s Disease Museum Reaches 400,000Milestone reached during spring exhibition in 24th year

The aggregate number of visitors to the National Hansen’s Disease Museum, located in Higashimurayama City in western Tokyo and operated by The Nippon Foundation on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, reached 400,000 on June 27, 2017. This milestone was achieved during the spring 2017 exhibition, which aims to promote social awareness of leprosy, and a ceremony was held to mark the occasion.

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Risako Hagiwara (center), the museum’s 400,000th visitor, is welcomed by museum Director Minoru Narita (right) and Michiyasu Fujisaki (left), Secretary General of the National Leprosy Sanatorium Residents Council

The National Hansen’s Disease Museum opened in June 1993 as the Prince Takamatsu Memorial Hansen’s Disease Museum. As the museum’s activities expanded, a new building was constructed and reopened as the National Hansen’s Disease Museum in April 2007.

On June 27, Risako Hagiwara, a fourth-year student at the University of Tsukuba School of Medicine, became the 400,000th person to visit the museum since the opening of the original Prince Takamatsu Memorial Hansen’s Disease Museum. Ms. Hagiwara was visiting with nine other students and a professor as part of their social medicine course. Upon entering the building, Ms. Hagiwara, Minoru Narita, the museum’s director, and Michiyasu Fujisaki, Secretary General of the National Leprosy Sanatorium Residents Council, pulled open a kusudama ball to reveal celebratory streamers and a commemorative banner, and Mr. Narita presented her with a certificate, a memento, and a bouquet of flowers. Ms. Hagiwara commented, “I was surprised, but I am honored. This is my first time to visit the museum, to learn about the history and current situation of leprosy. I will never forget this day. I will take the issues related to leprosy to heart, and will study diligently.”

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Minoru Narita (right) presents a bouquet to Risako Hagiwara (left)
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Risako Hagiwara (center) poses for a commemorative photograph with her fellow students and professor

There are 14 leprosy sanatoriums – 13 national sanatoriums and 1 private facility – in Japan today. According to the National Hansen’s Disease Museum, in recent years the national facilities are focusing on functioning as museums and libraries. Each sanatorium houses documents and historical relics, and promotes awareness of leprosy and exchanges with local communities, mainly through exhibitions and lectures. There are now 14 of these museums nationwide.

The sanatoria seek to deepen understanding of this unique, important history, safekeep documents and relics, promote awareness, and foster ties with local communities. These activities are presented in the National Hansen’s Disease Museum’s spring exhibition, which is titled “Welcome to the Hansen’s Disease Museum” and runs from April 29 to July 30, 2017.

The National Hansen’s Disease Museum is open from 9:30 to 4:30, with last admission at 4:00. The museum is closed on Mondays (unless Monday is a national holiday, in which case the museum is open on Monday and closed on Tuesday), the day after national holidays, the New Year holidays, and occasionally to set up new displays. Admission is free.

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The National Hansen’s Disease Museum

The Nippon Foundation has a long history of working to eliminate leprosy-related discrimination. In addition to our activities to eliminate the disease medically, we also emphasize that social discrimination is an issue of human rights, and work to restore the dignity of persons affected by leprosy and their families. The Foundation was entrusted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare with the operation of the National Hansen’s Disease Museum and the Jyu-kanbo National Museum of Detention for Hansen's Disease Patients (located in Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture) for fiscal 2016 (April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017) and again for fiscal 2017 (April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018).

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