A Farewell to Professor Tomisaku Kawasaki

高橋 啓
Kei Takahashi

日本川崎病学会 会長
日本川崎病研究センター 理事

Japanese Society of Kawasaki Disease

The remarkable and highly productive 95-year journey of Professor Tomisaku Kawasaki through life came to an end on June 5, 2020. Until just before his death, Professor Kawasaki continued to work hard to elucidate the etiology of Kawasaki disease and encouraged us to achieve that goal and other aspects of his life-long dream. I am deeply saddened by Professor Kawasaki’s passing and extremely disappointed that we were unable to complete the tasks he bequeathed us while he was still among us.

I first encountered Professor Kawasaki at a private family event. In 1982, in the Fall of my fourth year of medical school, I was at my sister’s wedding reception. Professor Kawasaki, who was training my new brother-in-law at the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center’s Pediatrics Department (JRCMC), was the guest of honor and spoke at the reception. I was seated in the last row of the bride’s family’s section. I next crossed paths with Professor Kawasaki two and a half years later, just after I had become a medical doctor. The occasion was the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Kawasaki Disease Study Group meeting that was organized by the JRCMC in the Spring of 1985. Professor Shiro Naoe had taken me to that meeting. It was only then that I realized that the person I had met at the wedding reception was none other than Professor Tomisaku Kawasaki, the discoverer of Kawasaki disease. Since then, I have dealt with Kawasaki disease from a pathological standpoint, and the “”pathology of Kawasaki disease”” has been my lifelong research theme. And through the Japanese Society of Kawasaki Disease (JSKD), the International Kawasaki Disease Symposium (IKDS), the Japan Kawasaki Disease Research Center, the Kawasaki Disease Parents’ Association, etc., I have been able to meet people from various fields around the world and gain valuable knowledge and experience.

Our age group represents the fourth generation of Kawasaki disease researchers. Professor Kawasaki first reported this disease as mucocutaneous lymph-node syndrome (MCLS), and it became known as Kawasaki disease only after going through many twists and turns and as a result of much hard work and discussion by earlier researchers. I remember Professor Kawasaki as a teacher who always welcomed me warmly with a smile, rather than strictness. It was my hope that Professor Naoe would be considered as the chairman of the 7th IKDS. In hopes of bringing that about, I visited Professor Kawasaki at the Japan Kawasaki Disease Research Center before the 6th IKDS was held in 1999 to explain my wholehearted support and advocacy for Professor Naoe. I was quite nervous as I presented my case. Professor Kawasaki listened to my story until the end, and then said with a smile, “”I understand.”” I remember going home feeling like I was walking on cloud nine. In the past, pathological research on Kawasaki disease was being conducted in many facilities, but these days it is being pursued only in our laboratory. Professor Kawasaki touched on this at academic conferences and research meetings, and he often encouraged us to continue our research. I was always pleased and heartened that Professor Kawasaki acknowledged our efforts, and I sincerely hope that we will continue to muster the energy to live up to Professor Kawasaki’s example and exhortations. I think that Professor Kawasaki’s attentiveness and warmth in always encouraging us is one of the main reasons why Kawasaki disease researchers around the world have such undying love and respect for him.

One of my greatest treasures is the “shikisi” (a square paper especially used for writing poetry, a motto, etc.) that says “”Medical Care is warm, Medical Science is strict”” which I received when I was Chairman of the 37th Annual Meeting of the JSKD in 2017.

And I remember, as if it were yesterday, when Professor Kawasaki spent the day at the 12th IKDS meeting in Yokohama in June 2018 and interacted?with a smile?with Kawasaki disease researchers from around the world.

Professor Kawasaki’s dream was to “”elucidate the cause of Kawasaki disease, pioneer causative therapy, establish auxiliary diagnostic methods in the laboratory, and achieve prevention using a vaccine.”” I pledge that I will continue my sincerest efforts in the ongoing battle against Kawasaki disease and to bring Professor Kawasaki’s dream to fruition.

In closing, I would like to express my deepest respect for Professor Tomisaku Kawasaki’s world-class achievements, and I pray for him from the depths of my soul as I bid him farewell.

Chair, Japanese Society of Kawasaki Disease
Director, Japanese Kawasaki disease Research Center
Professor, Department of Pathology, Toho University Ohashi Medical Center
Kei Takahashi

Dr. Kawasaki in photos

The 35th JSKD meeting in Kagoshima, October 2015
Medical Care is warm, Medical Science is strict” presented by Prof. Kawasaki
President’s meeting, the 12th IKDS in Yokohama, June 2018
Prof. Kawasaki together with participants in the 12th IKDS, June 2018

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