Communal Life Practices in a National Sanatorium for Hansen's Disease
The Japanese government’s policy towards the patients of Hansen's disease was very cruel in the past. Almost all these patients were obliged to be segregated in national sanatoriums. However, the patients kept struggling for creating better living conditions. In order to make this sanatorium a better place, they had recourse to various activities among themselves, often taking informal, sometimes even non-admitted methods.
Besides clarifying the processes of the creation and development of such communal life practices, this study also examines the effects and meanings of these practices for the participants. The case in this study shows light upon that these patients kept trying new communal life practices again and again not only for financial interests, but also for the fertilization of their own lives. Concretely to say, the following meanings about their practices can be distinguished: (1) one refers to the securing of various autonomous living zones in the sanatorium, by distributing “employment” roles among themselves, (2) another one refers to the creation of slight hopes saying that their lives were worth living, and to sharing these hopes with other patients, (3) the third one pertains to the extension of their living area by making contacts between patients and non-patients. By understanding the meanings of these practices through which the patients of Hansen’s disease attempt to fertilize their lives, we become able to explore new aspects of their extremely difficult every-day life.