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The face of the new 1,000-yen bill from 2024! Learn about the roots of modern Japanese medicine at the Shibasaburo Kitasato Memorial Museum

Translated from Japanese by
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By the first half of fiscal 2024 (April-September), the 10,000 yen bill, the 5,000 yen bill, and the 1,000 yen bill will be renewed for the first time in 20 years. The portrait on the new 10,000 yen bill will be that of Shibusawa Eiichi, a businessman who is considered the creator of modern Japanese society, the portrait on the new 5,000 yen bill will be that of Tsuda Umeko, an educator who devoted herself to improving the status of women and educating girls, and the portrait on the new 1,000 yen bill will be of Kitasato Shibasaburo, a microbiologist known as the father of modern Japanese medicine.
What kind of person was Shibasaburo Kitasato, the face of the new 1,000-yen bill? The Shibasaburo Kitasato Memorial Museum in Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo, exhibits materials related to Shibasaburo Kitasato and his research achievements. We visited the memorial museum before the issuance of the new banknotes and followed in the footsteps of Dr. Kitasato, who supported the dawn of modern Japanese medicine.

Introduction of Shibasaburo Kitasato's life and research achievements with materials

The Shibasaburo Kitasato Memorial Office, located on the Shirokane Campus of the Kitasato Institute Educational Corporation, is about a 10-minute walk from Shirokane-Takanawa Station. Buses are also available from Shibuya, Hiroo, Ebisu, and Tamachi stations, with the nearest bus stop being in front of the Kitasato Institute. The exhibition room was located on the first floor of the two-story Kitasato Shibasaburo Memorial Hall, which was completed in 2017. On the exterior wall of the memorial hall, the main building of the Kitasato Institute, founded by Dr. Kitasato, is depicted using a special process. The concrete construction method is sometimes visited by building officials to observe this process.

Admission to the exhibition rooms is free and everyone is welcome to look around. On display at the entrance were a photograph taken by Dr. Kitasato commemorating the establishment of serotherapy and a Chinese poem about his determination to establish the Kitasato Institute.

In the first area, visitors can look back on Dr. Kitasato's life from his childhood to his later years through a chronology and photos of the time. Born and raised in Oguni Town, Aso County, Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, Shibasaburo dreamed of becoming a soldier or a politician when the Meiji Restoration came, but his parents strongly advised him to enter Kumamoto Medical School. Here he met a Dutch military doctor, Mansfeldt, and under his guidance, he opened his eyes to the fascinating world of medicine.

Dr. Kitasato's favorite microscope is also on display. This microscope and his encounter with his mentor, Dr. Mansfeldt, led Dr. Kitasato to pursue a full-fledged career in medicine, and he went on to Tokyo Medical School, the predecessor of the University of Tokyo's Faculty of Medicine. The microscope was manufactured by Carl Zeiss, a German manufacturer of optical instruments, which, together with the German company Leitz, focused on the development of microscopes, and is now known for the development of lenses for smartphones.

Written by the 25-year-old Dr. Kitasato, "Iidōron" is a manuscript of a speech in which he explains that the basis of medicine is prevention. Although it has not been available to the general public until now, the full text of the valuable "Medical Doctrine" is now on view at the current special exhibition, "Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato Special Exhibition: Challenges for the Future, Originating from Shibasaburo Kitasato. The special exhibition will run through October 31.

Dr. Kitasato joined the Health Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs, where he conducted research on infectious diseases such as cholera and dysentery. From there, Dr. Kitasato achieved a variety of research results.

Culture equipment used in research and a letter from Yukichi Fukuzawa

Dr. Kitasato studied in Germany, which was at the forefront of medicine at the time, and in the laboratory of Robert Koch, a leading researcher in pathogenic microbiology, he succeeded in cultivating pure tetanus bacteria, which no one had been able to do before. Tetanus bacteria are "anaerobes" that do not like air, and Dr. Kitasato developed a unique anaerobic bacteria culture system for pure cultivation.
A replica of the culture device is on display along with an introduction to Dr. Kitasato's research findings.

Tetanus bacillus is a bacterium that lives in soil and other places, and produces a powerful neurotoxin as a metabolite during the process of growth, which causes tetanus and can be fatal if a person is infected. The year after Dr. Kitasato succeeded in pure culture of the tetanus bacillus, he discovered immune antibodies against the toxin and established serotherapy. He became a world-renowned researcher.

After returning to Japan, Dr. Kitasato founded the Private Research Institute for Infectious Diseases and the Dohushigaoka Yoseien, Japan's first hospital specializing in tuberculosis, with the support of Yukichi Fukuzawa and others. On display is a letter written by Fukuzawa Yukichi to the Yoseien's administrative director. In this letter, he condemns from a hygienic standpoint the presence of human hair on a bottle of milk delivered from the Yoseien to Yukichi Fukuzawa's home, and Dr. Kitasato took this reprimand to heart.

Dr. Kitasato's many other research achievements, including the discovery of the plague bacillus, made him a finalist for the first Nobel Prize in 1901. Although he did not win the prize, his lifelong commitment to research and sanitation projects was highly regarded, and he was subsequently decorated with orders from Japan as well as Germany, France, Norway, and other countries.

The exhibit includes a section dedicated to Dr. Satoshi Omura, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Kitasato University, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015 for the development of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. The Nobel Prize medal (replica) on display is an official reproduction by the Nobel Foundation.

Posters for the prevention of infectious diseases that are still relevant today

Dr. Kitasato, who considered raising the public's hygiene awareness important, also devoted himself to educational activities. One such effort was a poster for the prevention of infectious diseases. Typhoid, dysentery, and cholera bacteria in a contaminated river. The posters, which visualize pathogenic bacteria, have a great impact! Please take a closer look.

When the plague bacillus enters the human lung, it becomes pneumonic plague, which can be transmitted from person to person by droplets. The poster depicts people wearing protective clothing and the importance of social distance, reminiscent of recent new coronavirus infections.

The "Tuberculosis Extermination Pictorial Guide" uses pictures to introduce the importance of hand washing, disinfection, and other infection-prevention measures that are still common today. It is easy to understand at a glance, even for children and people from overseas. These posters were displayed at community centers, hospitals, and other facilities where many people gather.

Other exhibits in the exhibition room include panels introducing Dr. Kitasato's friendships and portrait photographs. In fact, the portrait on the new 1,000-yen bill uses 3D hologram technology that changes its orientation depending on the angle. The Kitasato Institute provided several portraits of Dr. Kitasato for the creation of the new banknote.

There is also a goods corner in the exhibition room. In addition to books, postcards, sticky notes, and clear files with the mascot character "Shiba-chan" on them are also available. The cute "Shiba-chan" was created by students of Kitasato University.

The Shibasaburo Kitasato Memorial Museum is said to be visited by a variety of people, from students to overseas tourists. Through valuable materials and easy-to-understand exhibits, we were able to learn about the development of modern Japanese medicine led by Dr. Kitasato. If you have any questions about any of the exhibits, you can ask the exhibition room staff. For more information about the museum's opening days and holidays, please visit the official website. We are just a few days away from the switchover to the new banknotes. Now may be a good time to learn about the achievements of Shibasaburo Kitasato, whose portrait will appear on the new 1,000-yen bill.

The special exhibition "Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato Special Exhibition - Challenge to the Future, Originating from Shibasaburo Kitasato -" ends on Tuesday, October 31.

Kitasato Shibasaburo Memorial Hall, The Kitasato Institute
5-9-1 Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Open: Monday-Friday 10:00-17:00 (admission until 16:30)
Closed: Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays, summer vacation, anniversary of the opening of the museum (April 20), anniversary of the founding of the Kitasato Institute (November 5)
Admission: free of charge.

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