The Kitasato Institute, the parent body of the Oriental Medicine Research Center, is a private medical research institute established in November 1914 by Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato. The aim was to improve the health of the Japanese people by identifying the causes of various diseases, conducting studies on preventive treatment methods, establishing and managing treatment and educational facilities, and manufacturing preventive treatment products. In 1891, he had founded Yojoen, the predecessor of Kitasato University Hospital and Japan’s first tuberculosis sanatorium, with the assistance of Yukichi Fukuzawa, in Shiba-Shirogane, Tokyo. The institution was rebuilt later, in December 1954, as a 5-storied, 304-bed hospital. An annex was built in 1973, and Kitasato became a general hospital with 334 beds. As part of the Shirogane Campus Redevelopment Plan, the Kitasato Institute’s new hospital wing was completed in May 1999.
Oriental medicine was banished from formal educational syllabuses after 1912 and has only barely managed to survive thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated individuals. No organizational research whatsoever was carried out. With the Japan Medical Association President Taro Takemi and several others serving as representative managers, and with the support of Keidanren President Koshiro Uemura and other officials from political and financial circles, the Oriental Medicine Research Center was established in June 1972 as an institution affiliated with Kitasato Institute Hospital. Yoshinori Otsuka was appointed as Director. As Japan’s first comprehensive research institution for Oriental medicine, the Oriental Medicine Research Center was established with the goals of providing treatment that makes use of the benefits of both Western and Oriental medicines, and of conducting research to scientifically elucidate Oriental medicine. Under the guidance of past directors, including the inaugural director, Yoshinori Otsuka and his successors Domei Yakazu, Yasuo Otsuka and the current Toshihiko Hanawa, the Research Center has been engaged in medical treatment and research, and as such, plays a central role in Oriental medical practice in Japan.
The Oriental Medicine Research Center provides two types of clinical activities: medical treatment based on Kampo medicine theory, primarily using decoctions, and acupuncture that follows our country’s traditional techniques. To prepare Kampo medicines, we have set up an exclusive pharmacy that is in charge of dispensing and formulating these medications, focusing on crude drugs. Patients come from all over the country in search of treatments based on Oriental medicine, both Kampo medicine and acupuncture/ moxibustion. Research activities are being carried out, covering three areas: basic, clinical, and medical history. The Basic Research Department utilizes the latest scientific technologies and equipment to scientifically elucidate Kampo medicine from a comprehensive perspective of immunology, pharmacology and biochemistry, and to develop new drugs by applying the theories of Kampo medicine. The Clinical Research Department carries out research to increase the objectivity of traditional diagnostic and treatment methods of Kampo medicine and acupuncture used clinically, and to establish methods for their evaluation. The Medical History Research Department conducts surveys and studies on past documents on medicine and pharmacology that are essential for the research and clinical application of Oriental medicine. It has produced numerous important achievements. In recognition of the results of its research, the WHO has designated the Oriental Medicine Research Center as a Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine, the first in Japan. As part of the plan to redevelop the Shirogane campus, the Oriental Medicine Research Center was relocated to a new, 5-story Annex Wing (the Oriental Medicine Research Center’s new wing), erected behind the Kitasato Institute’s new hospital wing, completed in March 2001. It is hoped that the Research Center will make further leaps forward in medical treatment and research.