International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    National Sanatorium Okinawa Airaku-en 国立療養所沖縄愛楽園


    Category Leprosarium
    Organization Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor, Government of Japan
    Country Japan
    Address 1192 Sumuide, Nago-shi, Okinawa-ken, Japan (ZIP 905-1635)
    Telephone 0980-52-8331
    Fax 0980-52-8963


    National Sanatorium Okinawa Airaku-en (国立療養所沖縄愛楽園) was opened in 1938 as a provincial leprosy sanatorium. From 1946 Okinawa Airaku-en was under the administration of the US military government. In 1952, it was placed under the Ryukyu government, which enacted its own leprosy prevention law in 1961. In reality though, Okinawa remained under US administrative power until its formal return to Japan in 1972.

    Okinawa was known as a leprosy-endemic region and was severely stigmatized. Leprosy sufferers there endured extreme difficulties, and this led to the creation of the original Airaku-en, by Keisai Aoki. Okinawa also suffered thorough and exhaustive wartime damage, including bombing of the sanatorium itself. Restoration was also difficult under the Ryukyo administration. However, as the Ryukyu government, under US influence, had its own leprosy prevention law that allowed outpatient treatment and social rehabilitation to some extent, it was ahead of the rest of Japan which still had a policy of isolation until 1996.

    As of 31 December 2015, Okinawa Airaku-en had 177 residents with an average age of 82. In 2015, Airaku-en opened a history museum in a newly built two-story building. In 2008, Okinawa Airaku-en residents’ association and citizens’ groups published the Collected Testimonies of Okinawa Hansen’s Disease Sufferers, with a grant from the Okinawa prefectural government.

    Today, Okinawa Airaku-en’s medical services are open to the public.


    Name Dr. Ken NOMURA

    Leprosaria - Historical References
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