Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital was established in 1879, only 12 years after the Meiji Restoration. It was originally constructed in Ueno Park in central Tokyo as an asylum for mentally disordered people. Due to the social upheaval of the time, large numbers of people from all over the country, some of whom had mental disorders, had moved to Tokyo. It did not take long to discover that the asylum was too small to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of mentally ill individuals.
In 1919, the asylum was relocated to Matsuzawa, a village in the suburbs of Tokyo, and was renamed Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital. The director of the hospital at that time was Professor Shuzou Kure. Professor Kure had studied psychiatry in Germany, and he was deeply concerned about the poor condition of the mentally ill in Japan. In what would become a relatively famous book, he wrote that the mentally ill in Japan had two serious misfortunes: one was that they had a mental disorder, and the other was that they were born in Japan. Professor Kure secured a vast area of land for the hospital, amongst which large fields, animal sheds, and a dotting of cottage-like wards could be found. In doing so, he sought to transform the hospital from a place of seclusion to a place of treatment and rehabilitation, and to drastically improve both the standard of care and the situation of human rights for the mentally ill.
In May 2012, nearly a century after the reforms brought about by Professor Kure’s efforts, the new main building of Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital was completed. We have now 16 wards with 660 beds in the main building, 6 wards with 200 beds for chronic patients in a nearby building, and a forensic ward with 30 beds in an independent building. The fields, animal sheds, and small, cottage-like wards have all disappeared; have the concerns of Professor Kure vanished as well?
Numerous new drugs for treating mental disorders have recently been developed, some of which have proven to be very effective. Tokyo Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital is equipped with the latest medical equipment for examinations and treatment. More patients recover and are able to leave our hospital in a shorter amount of time than ever before; however, in the long term, higher rates of repeat recurrence and a gradual decrease in the ability to adapt to society are evident. Therefore, the lifelong distress experienced by these patients essentially remains unchanged. Fear and prejudice toward the mentally ill continue to represent the worst of the invisible restrains felt by such patients, and remain far from being a thing of the past. The road ahead is long and arduous, but we must continue walking forward.