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Remembering Dr. Jushichiro Naito

Dr. Jushichiro Naito, who was called the God of child-rearing, passed away in December at the age of 101. He led a long and full life, and many will miss him, not only those who knew him personally, but also mothers who are currently in the process of raising children or who have finished as well as scholars, researchers, and professionals in the fields of child-care and child-raising. Indeed, with the passing of Dr. Naito, a shining light has been extinguished.

Dr. Naito graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1931 and worked at the Japan Red Cross Hospital and Aiiku Hospital. At Aiiku Hospital, where he served for a number of years, he became director and later honorary director. Although he was a graduate of the University of Tokyo, he spent most of his career outside the institution: offering advice and support to mothers as a pediatrician. He also served as the long-standing chair and honorary chair of the Japan Pediatric Association, Japan's first association of privately practicing pediatricians.

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to intern under Dr. Naito in clinical practice or at the hospital, but he has been an enormous influence on my life as a pediatrician.

Having been born and raised in a family of artists who specialized in Japanese painting, I had absolutely no relation to doctors, at least, not until the end of World War II. I entered a naval academy in Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture in 1943, when the war was expanding and increasingly indicated defeat for Japan. Like other junior high school students at the time, I felt a responsibility to protect my country and that is why I took that path.

It was around July 1945 when I was ordered to report to a submarine base on an island in the Inland Sea in Yamaguchi Prefecture. On August 15, however, the war ended and I never took up my post. I listened to the Imperial Rescript on Surrender, but it was hard to hear the Emperor's clearly. In that sense, you could say that my life was saved.

The next day, three special submarine boats entered the Etajima bay, flying the long kikusui (chrysanthemum on water) flag. It was an appeal from the radical faction of older naval officers who wanted to continue fighting. Astonished, I watched the small submarine boats moored to the pier. They were so flimsy that they were hardly fit for battle. They seemed to be tiny masses of steel with two torpedoes and three or four men. If I had actually reported for duty, I would have surely died in an accident during a drill or right away in battle.

Fortunately, my life was saved. At the end of August, walking through fields blackened and burnt by the atomic bomb blast, I returned to my hometown from Hiroshima Station. In 1946, I went to Tokyo and entered high school in Komaba, which was under the old education system. I studied there for four years, including one year studying for the university entrance exam and then entered medical school. That was when I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Naito.

At the time, Dr. Naito was providing child-raising advice from the second floor of pharmacy in the middle of the bombed-out section of old downtown Tokyo. I was tutoring the pharmacist's son who was in elementary school a few times a week and met Dr. Naito several times. Together with Dr. Naito, the mother, who seemed to be involved in local social welfare work, helped mothers with their child-care problems. Thinking about it now, I am very moved that such counseling services were provided so soon after the war, and no doubt, they were a tremendous support to the mothers at the time.

Personally, as I came from a family of artists, I dreamt of becoming an architect or of using my naval experience as an oceanographer. I lived in the dormitory at Komaba and was not enrolled in a medical program. Meeting Dr. Naito changed all that: I started studying medicine and in the end, decided to become a pediatrician. If I had not met Dr. Naito, I would not be a doctor now.

Immediately after graduating in 1954, I went to the United States where I interned and did research on metabolic diseases in children. After returning to Japan for a short period, I went to England where I researched immunological diseases in children and lived a very unstable life for ten years. During this time, I did not have the occasion to see Dr. Naito. But, when I returned from England in 1964 and started at working as a doctor at the University of Tokyo Hospital, and particularly after I was appointed professor in 1970, I was able to meet and talk with him several times a year at academic conferences and alumni meetings. I recalled then how earnestly Dr. Naito provided counseling on raising children in devastated neighborhood of downtown Tokyo after the war.

I later learned that Dr. Naito's philosophy and practice of child-raising was not simply based on his own experience. It is also important to note that he studied this subject with Professor Toshihiko Tokizane in neurology at the University of Tokyo and pursued a theoretical basis for his work.

Although Dr. Naito was a gentle person, because he was born in a military family in Kumamoto, one could always see a strong resolve in his words and conduct. We can know a little about his personality from the fact that although he was born during the early Showa period (1926-1989), he seems to have been a very enthusiastic cello and soccer (rugby?) player.

I am one of the many who, through the example and guidance of Dr. Naito, was able to become a fellow pediatrician. Here I would like to express my sincerest gratitude for the warm friendship I received from him during his lifetime. I intend to work to ensure that Dr. Naito's philosophy and practice of child raising continues to help people, and pray for the repose of his soul.

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