[Hansen’s Disease Patients in Yunosawa Village and Their Relationship with the Wider Community: 1869-1941].Nihon Hansenbyo Gakkai Zasshi. 2016 Aug; 85(2):75-8.NH
This paper explores the history of Yunosawa Village for Hansen’s disease patients in Kusatsu Town, which is famous for its hot springs and located in a mountainous area of Gunma Prefecture, Japan. Yunosawa Village was initially formed by Kusatsu Town government as a settlement for a small number of patients in 1869, but later became the biggest “open leprosy colony” for Hansen’s disease patients in modern Japan. Patients in Yunosawa gradually constructed their own regional community and expanded their presence in Kusatsu as part of the town. Although townspeople in Kusatsu made several attempts to remove patients in Yunosawa to a more remote area away from the town center so that they would be out of sight of visitors, townspeople in Kusatsu had a long history of treating Hansen’s disease patients as customers of the hot springs, which enabled them to understand the nature of the disease through their own experience. This “folk epidemiology” created a “symbiotic” relationship between patients in Yunosawa and townspeople for nearly 60 years until the national government finally closed Yunosawa in 1941.