Hideyo Noguchi is one of the scientific masters of Japan, and his birthday is November 9th! His achievements were so important and revered in Japan that he adorns the 1000 yen bill (although, that will change in the future). He was born in Inawashiro, Fukushima, and both in his hometown and nearby Aizuwakamatsu are some fun spots to visit to learn more about and celebrate the achievements of Mr. Noguchi.
Noguchi Memorial Hall and Aizu Ichiban Cafe
In the larger city of Aizuwakamatsu, Noguchi received medical treatment for severe burns on his left hand as a child. This clinic eventually became the Aizu Ichiban Cafe.
Upstairs, there is a small display of information about Hideyo Noguchi, his life, and the time he spent in Aizu. It only costs a few hundred yen, so if you have the time, it’s worth a look! When I went, I was a bit shy about taking photos, so I did without. The museum is quite small, given the space, but it is nice to poke around and learn about Noguchi’s healing journey in Aizu.
Downstairs is the Aizu Ichiban Cafe: A real time capsule of Japanese coffee culture. It looks, feels, and smells like an authentic Japanese coffee house, or kissaten. They have beautiful large cold drip coffee makers, wooden chairs, a piano, and warm gentle lighting. I love places like these, so I was enjoying myself greatly here. They have food and traditional breakfast sets, but I went with a standard latte, nice and hot, for the cold winter day.
The cafe and museum are in the heart of the city and easy to get to, so if you’re in the area, give it a look!
Hideyo Noguchi Memorial Museum
Located in his hometown of Inawashiro, near the banks of Lake Inawashiro, is the Hideyo Noguchi Memorial Museum.
Inside, you learn about Noguchi’s life, from childhood to death. They literally moved his childhood home onto the museum grounds to explore. There, you can see the fire pit where he fell in one fateful day, leading to burns that limited the mobility of his left hand for the rest of his life. This lead to his interest in medicine and healing others, as he spent a lot of time at the former Kaihiyo Clinic which is now the Aizu Ichibankan Cafe.
You can also see the house pillar where he carved his message, his vow to not return home until he had achieved his goal.
He became world-renowned for his work in bacteriology, studying across the world and working on a serum and vaccine for yellow fever in Ecuador. Many of his peers, however, noted that his discoveries affected a very similar disease, but were not, in fact, for yellow fever proper. He then traveled to Nigeria to continue his research on yellow fever, only to catch the disease and die a few days after his arrival. He was eventually buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.
In the museum, you can find lots of curious, letters, and artifacts from Noguchi’s life. They even have an animatronic Noguchi, who will give words of encouragement and talk to visitors based on which prompt you press on the control board in front of his office scene.
Both places are good fun and worth the price of admission. If you find yourself in the far reaches of inland Fukushima, give them a visit!