Japan Press Weekly

Providing information of progressive, democratic movements in Japan
HOME  > 2014 May 14 - 20
Prev Search Next

2014 May 14 - 20 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

In memory of Kodama Yuji, leader of leprosy patients’ movement

May 14, 2014
Akahata ‘current’ column

At the end of last year, an old man said to Welfare Minister Tamura Norihisa in the Diet building, “Even though we have gone through unspeakable anguish for a long time, authorities have neither apologized to us nor made efforts to improve conditions at sanatoriums. Are you waiting for us to die out?”

The man was Kodama Yuji, who devoted his life to the fight for restoring human rights to Hansen’s disease patients. The average age of inmates at sanatoriums was 83. He protested to the authorities over the state’s cutting the number of staff at the facilities while former leprosy patients were growing older. “I don’t mind if I die while sitting in protest in front of the Diet building,” he said.

After Japan’s Golden Week holidays in early May, an Akahata reporter visited Kodama at the state-run sanatorium Kuryu Rakusenen in Gunma Prefecture. He was confined to bed, and no longer able to answer visitors’ calls. However, when the visitor introduced himself as a reporter of Akahata, Kodama opened his eyes slightly. On the early morning of May 11, the tenacious fighter passed away. He was 82 years old.

Kodama contracted leprosy at the age of seven and was forced into a “concentration camp”. After World War II, in 1955, he joined the Japanese Communist Party. At that time, the 23-year-old man was deeply impressed by the JCP’s struggles to remove disciplinary cells dubbed “death jails” from the facilities as well as to get patients Promin, a specific medicine to treat that disease.

For more than half a century since then, Kodama had led leprosy patients’ human rights movement and worked to increase the JCP’s influence. To Kodama, who was forcibly isolated from society by the state, the party was his “home” and party members were his “family”.

Kodama’s wishes for creating a society free from any discrimination, prejudice, and suppression will be taken over by the younger generations. While alive, he wrote this poem:

I will surely win
from the state
signs of human dignity
and of lives we lived

Past related articles:
> Hansen’s disease sanatorium hosts summer camp for Fukushima kids [August 5, 2013]
> Training of guides to Hansen’s disease sanatorium urgently needed [February 26, 2013]
> Ex-Hansen’s disease patients need more sanatorium staff [November 4 & 6, 2012]
Prev Next
Mobile  PC 
Copyright (C) Japan Press Service Co.,Ltd. All right reserved