The owner of a 116-year old former hospital ward in Chigasaki, Kanagawa, has donated the property to the city in accordance with his late father’s wishes.
‘Nanko-in’ was founded by Doctor Koan Takata (1861-1945) in 1899 as a tuberculosis sanatorium. The 18,000 sqm beachfront site in the Shonan area was chosen because of its clean air and environment. A 2-storey, wooden building with a total floor area of 230 sqm (2,475 sq.ft) was built in 1899 as the first hospital ward.
The hospital started with just ten rooms and three patients. One of those was the widow of , a samurai and politician. Author was hospitalised here before his death in 1908. His illness was reported in the Yomiuri Newspaper at the time and elevated the reputation of both the hospital and the Chigasaki vacation villa area.
Over the years several other hospital buildings were added. In the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, one of the buildings was destroyed by fire but later rebuilt. At the time the hospital had a total of 210 patients and 137 staff. By 1936, the hospital buildings occupied a 165,000 sqm site, and had treated 14,800 patients over the past 37 years.
Doctor Takata was a Christian. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the hospital issued an annual ‘guidebook’ for patients, the distribution of which was later banned after its content allegedly disrespected the Imperial household.
In February 1945, a couple of years after having his publication banned, Doctor Takata was called in by the ‘’ Special Higher Police (also called Thought Police). Two days later he collapsed during a sermon at the hospital’s chapel, and shortly after passed away. In May, the Japanese Navy confiscated the hospital and patients were sent to other sanatoriums.
In August 1946 the property came under the control of the Allies. From 1952 to 1956 part of the site was used as ‘Camp Chigasaki’ by the US Forces.
The property is now an aged-care facility operated by descendants of Doctor Takata. In March 2015, Mr. Junzo Takata, Doctor Takata’s grandson, passed away. Junzo, who understood the building’s historical importance, had taken care to preserve the building and was already making preparations to donate it to the city. Following through with his father’s wishes, his son donated the building and a 900 sqm parcel of land to Chigasaki City. The city is planning to carry out a structural inspection to determine what repairs are needed, with the goal of opening the building up to the public if possible.
Nanko-in was an integral part of the development of the Chigasaki area from the Meiji period onwards. The sleepy fishing village quickly became a glamorous and wealthy beachside resort area with wealthy residents from Tokyo and Yokohama building grand vacation villas. The sanatorium too, was considered to offer the best medical care, and many of its early patients were nobles, authors and artists.
The Kanagawa Shimbun, December 25, 2015.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, December 29, 2015.