Governor Yuji Kuroiwa gave the inaugural talk of his US visit at the Nippon Club on Monday, May 6th, speaking on Kanagawa Prefecture’s recent efforts to develop a Special Zone (tokku) devoted to medical research and the development of new technologies and new approaches to improving the health of and healthcare provision for Japan’s rapidly aging population, with the ultimate goal of being able to export these innovations around the world. The Governor spoke about the Eastern approach to medicine that views health and illness as gradations of degree along a continuum, where illness should ideally be treated before it becomes severe, utilizing medicines and methods tailored to each individual patient. He also emphasized that treatment should address the entirety of underlying causes of illness rather than just the symptoms and surface effects. On the other hand, Western medicine has had some promising breakthroughs with iPS cell technology and individually tailored treatments based on analysis of a patient’s DNA that also provide powerful tools in treating illness. He explained his vision for bringing specialists in various fields of medical technology together in the prefecture’s new Keihin Seaside Life Innovation International Strategic Zone, located near Haneda International Airport within the Keihin Industrial Zone, to investigate new approaches drawing from both Eastern and Western practices in order to avoid illness whenever possible and treating it more effectively when necessary.
Kanagawa Prefecture is also working to develop a special district for robotics, which could complement that for medical technology. The Sagami Robotic Industry Special Zone is envisioned as a base for utilizing artificial intelligence and other technologies employed in the Hayabusa space probe, which recently returned samples to Earth from a comet and whose control center was located in Kanagawa, to create robots and other devices to aid in the provision of care to the elderly and disabled. Several robotic devices have already undergone extensive development to serve as therapeutic devices, assist caregivers, and enhance rehabilitation therapy.
Governor Kuroiwa emphasized the importance of this effort both for the benefits it will provide to the people of Kanagawa and as a manifestation of Prime Minister Abe’s policy to develop and implement policies that will lead to structural reform in the Japanese economy and produce long-term growth. Since taking office in 2011, Governor Kuroiwa has worked aggressively to move these projects forward and take advantage of the current special zone policy, and he is clearly serious about producing concrete results as soon as possible to help further promote innovations in health care and growth in Kanagawa’s economy.
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