Battleship Yamato, which Itsuro Sobue boarded in 1944, fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which took place following the Battle of the Philippine Sea. It was bombed relentlessly and continuously by US aircraft, and wounded soldiers were carried into a cramped temporary dispensary where there was not even enough room to set foot in. This young combat surgeon set the order of priority in a split second, and continued to treat the wounded in the blistering heat while being covered with blood. After returning to Kure, Sobue took up a post at Naval Academy Etajima. In April of the following year, Yamato was sunk instantly during a Kamikaze (suicide) mission off the coast of Okinawa. Sobue’s decision to assume his post at Naval Academy Etajima turned out to be a fateful crossroads. On August 6th, the atomic bomb was dropped on the opposite shore-- Hiroshima. Sobue joined an investigation team, which had been dispatched three days after the bomb was dropped, and took in the dismal hell-like scene, along with the sorrow. Following the war, he returned to Nagoya University, after serving as a crew member of a demobilization ship, among other jobs, and devoted himself to research and education at the forefront of medical research, serving as a professor and academic dean.


National Sanatorium Central Hospital at Obu City, Aichi where Sobue became director in 1984, was a sanitarium for tuberculosis located on a hillside with rich vegetation. But the number of tuberculosis patients was declining and the aging society was looming. In response to such circumstances, Sobue advocated the need for medical care for the aged and called for the hospital to be transformed into a comprehensive medical facility for the elderly. With the cooperation of the prefectural government and the Prefectural Medical Association, he engaged in active efforts to get the government to take action. Sobue was gradually able to clear a path. Today, located on the green hillside is the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, which serves as the Chukyo region’s central facility for geriatrics and gerontology. This pioneer of geriatrics and gerontology, who has fulfilled his duties as a doctor and as a leader depending on the needs of the times, enthusiastically studies the science of longevity by appropriately combining nutrition, exercise, and rest.


Itsuro Sobue

Born in Nagoya in 1921. Graduated from the Nagoya Imperial University School of Medicine in 1943. Professor emeritus at Nagoya University and Aichi Medical University. Specializes in internal medicine and neurology. Author of numerous books including Chojyu wo Kagakusuru (Studying the Science of Longevity) (Iwanami Shinsho) and Gun’i ga Mita Senkan Yamato (Battleship Yamato Through the Eyes of a Combat Surgeon) (Kadokawa Shoten).

Cooperation: Japan Foundation for Aging and Health, Kadokawa Shoten

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine

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