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Facilities at Hansen's disease sanatoriums to be listed as national cultural properties

A former isolation facility equipped with a sickroom, a consultation room and a bathroom is seen at the National Sanatorium Nagashima-Aiseien in the city of Setouchi, Okayama Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of the National Sanatorium Nagashima-Aiseien)

OKAYAMA -- A total of 10 facilities at two national sanatoriums for Hansen's disease patients in Okayama Prefecture in western Japan are set to be designated as national tangible cultural properties.

According to the Agency for Cultural Affairs, this will mark a first for such facilities among Japan's 13 national sanatoriums for patients with Hansen's disease, or leprosy. The government's Council for Cultural Affairs made a proposal this month to designate the facilities as such to the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology.

The two sanatoriums are the National Sanatorium Nagashima-Aiseien and the National Sanatorium Oku-Komyoen, both located on Nagashima island in the city of Setouchi, Okayama Prefecture.

In 1930, Nagashima-Aiseien opened as the first national Hansen's disease sanatorium in Japan. The council proposed that five facilities at the sanatorium be designated as national tangible cultural properties -- an isolation facility, an administration office, a bath, a laundry room and the official residence of the director.

The isolation facility is a building where Hansen's disease patients were detained right after arriving at the sanatorium and it symbolizes the history of quarantining them.

The National Sanatorium Oku-Komyoen was established in 1938, and the government will register five of its facilities built in the 1930s and 1940s as national tangible cultural properties, including the Onshi Kaikan meeting hall, the former Mokake elementary and junior high school attached to the sanatorium, a ramp for transporting goods and the Semizo pier.

These national sanatoriums aim to be registered as World Cultural Heritage sites, together with a national sanatorium in Kagawa Prefecture, south of Okayama Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.

(Japanese original by Yuki Takahashi, Okayama Bureau)

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