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An era free from war and venereal disease: 100-yr-old doctor's hope for Reiwa

Dr. Kichihyoe Nishio, 100, is seen in his office in Tottori on April 6, 2019. (Mainichi/Ayami Abe)

TOTTORI -- Kichihyoe Nishio, 100, a local dermatologist and urologist, has seen four Imperial eras and worked for over 70 years as a doctor. He spoke to the Mainichi Shimbun about his career and his hopes for the new Reiwa era.

Born in the seventh year of Taisho (1918), Nishio practiced medicine in the Tottori prefectural capital from the Showa era. Since the chaotic postwar period, he has devoted himself to helping patients suffering from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). On the subject of the dawn of Reiwa, he said, "I hope it will be a peaceful era free from war and the spread of venereal disease."

After graduating from Tokyo Dental School, now Tokyo Dental College, Nishio opened a dentistry clinic during the war in the early 1940s. As the conflict continued, doctor shortages became more acute. To increase numbers, requirements to admit dentists to medical colleges were relaxed, allowing Nishio to retrain at the Yonago Medical College, now the Faculty of Medicine at Tottori University, in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture.

Nishio obtained his medical license in 1947. He first encountered scores of patients with syphilis during a hospital internship. At the time, many women and even some nurses living in poverty had to sell their bodies in terrible environments just to survive, making them vulnerable to the disease. Believing the country would be done for without action to prevent the bacterial illness from spreading, he opened his own clinic in the city of Tottori the following year.

As a doctor, he often worked to his physical limit, even for patients that came knocking at his door at night, after office hours. Medical supply shortages were also common, and obtaining them took many days.

Including his time as a dentist, Nishio has lost two clinics to fire and earthquakes, and rebuilt each time. In the 1943 Tottori earthquake, he was caught in the rubble of his practice and barely managed to escape.

His appetite for life has not waned. He played gold for half a century or more, only hanging up his clubs last year after winning a bevy of trophies, now lined up neatly in an office cabinet. At 83 he took up yachting. When asked his secret to long life, he smiled and said, "Eat delicious food, and enjoy beer in moderation."

On the name of the new era, Reiwa, Nishio said, "With the character for 'Rei' you can't help but think of orders or rules. It has a strong feeling of control by the government about it." On the second character, "Wa," which can mean peace or harmony, he was more positive. "Like the 'wa' in 'heiwa (peace),' I hope it'll be a heartwarming time without war," he said, looking forward to his fourth era, Reiwa.

(Japanese original by Ayami Abe, Tottori Bureau)

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