Event Report: Open Seminar "Considering the Never-ending Issue of Leprosy: Movie 'Leprosy and Three Acts'"

published: 2016-02-16

On October 24, 2015 (Sat.) the open seminar entitled “Considering the Never-ending Issue of Leprosy: Movie 'Leprosy and Three Acts'” was organized in Kinugasa Campus of Ritsumeikan University by the study group on narrative and qualitative studies concerning ars vivendi, a project for enhancing research quality of young researchers of the Research Center for Ars Vivendi.

The study group invited A/Prof. Ichiro Takahashi, who took the movie. And after the screening the movie, A/Prof. Takahashi had lecture, two graduate students asked him designated questions, and Prof. Yoko Yamada made some comments. The movie deals with stories of witnesses, including persons affected by leprosy and plaintiff attorneys, by tracing the history of leprosy in Japan, starting from the “Matter concerning the Prevention of Leprosy” in 1907 through the “repeal of the (New) Leprosy Prevention Law” in 1996 and the Kumamoto court's decision in 2001, ordering the state to pay in compensation to former leprosy patients who claimed the state violated their human rights by forcing them into isolation under the Leprosy Prevention Law. And in the end the movie conveys the message to audience that leprosy issue never ends.

The theme of A/Prof. Takahashi's lecture was “To overcome the narrative of 'leprosy': False image and real image of leprosy”. He talked about transition of the names of leprosy in Japan, details of discriminatory laws, the opportunity he met the leprosy issue, and how the narrative of the leprosy issue should be handed down from generation to generation while the narrative of leprosy in Japan is rewritten. The opportunity he knew the leprosy issue for the first time was a book entitled Jimen no sokoga nuketandesu (the bottom of the ground came out) which was written by Ms. Toshi Fujimoto with leprosy herself in 1974 when he was a university student. The book enabled him to know the actual condition of severe discrimination against leprosy and the issue of the state policy, which made him surprised. At the same time, he was fascinated by the woman who lived strongly under such environment.

Prof. Yamada pointed out the importance of focusing on “strength” of persons such as the above mentioned Ms. Toshi Fujimoto as well as “suffer”. Also Prof. Yamada examined this issue from the connection with resilience based on survey experiences at relocation centers of Japanese American. Also it was found out that living with various narratives as well as fixed narratives based on the narrative theory approach made human survival rich.

Many of persons affected by leprosy who witnessed in the movie become aged and about half of them already passes away. Moreover, new issues including treatment of persons with dementia and the issue of nursing arise at national sanatoriums. Also the issue of reducing the necessary number of national public servants affects on the sanatoriums. The council for leprosy residents at sanatoriums, which is supposed to improve these situations, is endangered due to aging. In addition, there is an issue of how sanatoriums should be kept after their death. We have to keep considering the leprosy issue. The leprosy issue never ends. It never ends easily.

(The original report in Japanese is prepared by Mr. Hidemitsu Aoki, student of the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Ritsumeikan University. It is translated into English by the Research Center for Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University.)