Memories of Dr Yoshiomi Temmyo 1932-2022
Our friend Dr Yoshiomi Temmyo died on May 30, 2022 after a long and full life. He was a lodestar for campaigners not only in Japan but throughout Asia and indeed the world.
Dr Temmyo addressing Tokyo asbestos conference November 19, 2004.
As Chair of the Global Asbestos Congress Organizing Committee 2000, he helped pioneer the worlds first international public event in Asia to highlight the growing crisis caused by asbestos use throughout the region: the Global Asbestos Congress 2004.1
Bringing the GAC 2004 to a close on November 21, 2021 Dr Temmyo summed up the relief of the hundreds of conference organizers, volunteers and sponsors in three simple words: We did it! Reminding delegates that much remained to be done, he said: the idea of an asbestos-free world is no longer a dream but a realistic goal. With a sense of hope he uttered the final words: Working together we can make a difference for the future.
Dr Temmyo and his family after the successful completion of the GAC 2004.
Dr Temmyo was a calm and gentle presence who has been fondly remembered this week, with Professor Emeritus Dr Domyung Paek (Korea) recalling his spirit and wisdom, and Sanjiv Pandita from the ANROEV2 network citing his unceasing support for the victims movement in Asia:
He was a wonderful and gifted person and we had the great honor to interact with him during his visits to Hong Kong and also in Japan; each time our admiration for him grew. He was visionary and beyond doubt the founding father of the OSH movement in Asia, yet a very humble person. He will be deeply missed.3
Of course, Dr Temmyos loss will be most keenly felt in Japan where he was, said Sugio Furuya:
a font of knowledge and wisdom for generations of activists. As Chair of the Global Asbestos Congress Organizing Committee, the Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Centre and the Kanagawa Occupational Safety and Health Centre, Dr Temmyo facilitated grassroots efforts to address occupational hazards faced by Japanese workers and not only improve workplace conditions but also support the injured. The network of civil society partners who were privileged to work with Dr Temmyo will continue this work; this is his legacy. Dr Temmyo was an inspiration to us all.4
Professor Ken Takahashi (Japan) concurred with Mr Furuyas assessment adding that Dr Temmyo was someone determined to act against injustice. Yet I remember him to be a very considered gentleman. He will stay a giant in my mind.
In November, 2012, I was privileged to catch up with Dr Temmyo and his family during a visit to Japan. Reminiscing about our involvement in the landmark event which was GAC 2004, we took a group photo below one of the conference posters which was hanging in pride of place on his living room wall.
From left: Rie Monika Ikeda,5 Reiko Temmyo, Laurie Kazan-Allen, Dr Temmyo and Dr Ryuta Saito.
Dr Temmyo told me that as a young doctor he had been thrilled to meet Dr Irving Selikoff a US medical researcher who was the first to document and publicize the high incidence of asbestos-related diseases amongst industrial workers in the US; a picture of the historic Tokyo meeting was hastily summoned up to substantiate the event which showed a beaming Dr Selikoff, his assistant and a very young Dr Yoshiomi Temmyo.
During our visit, Dr Temmyo showed me his study which was, as can be seen from the photo below, full of books and papers documenting a lifetime of humanitarian work.
From left: Dr Temmyo and Dr Ryuta Saito in his home office.
In 2021, Dr Temmyo was recognized as a Person of Cultural Merit at a ceremony in Akita Prefecture for his long-time commitment to providing healthcare for migrant communities in northern Japan.
Dr Temmyo (third from the left) at closing session of Akita Ceremony October 29, 2021. Photograph provided courtesy of Rie Monika Ikeda.
Dr Temmyo was a family man with a strong sense of honor and a commitment to making the world a more equitable place. At an age when most medical practitioners had long been retired, he continued to progress outreach healthcare for seasonal workers from Yamagata and Akita Prefectures with his colleagues Dr Hirano, Dr Saito, Dr Miyata, Dr Haruta and other doctors and medical staff from the Minatomachi Clinic in Yokohama City.6 At the time of his death, Dr Temmyo was working on a book about the health problems of seasonal migrant workers and the outreach program of the medical mission.
Our sincere condolences to the family of Dr Temmyo, his colleagues, friends and patients and all those whose lives he had touched during his lifetime of service to humankind.
June 3, 2022
1 Kazan-Allen, L. Global Asbestos Congress (GAC 2004). February 11, 2005.
Kazan-Allen, L. Global Asbestos Congress 2004: Eight Years On. January 2, 2013.
2 ANROEV: Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims.
3 Email from Sanjiv Pandita. May 31, 2022.
4 Email from Sugio Furuya. June 2, 2022.
5 Rie Monika Ikeda, took part in the GAC 2004, as a representative of the Kanagawa Occupational and Safety Health Centre and a member of the Yokosuka Pneumoconiosis and Asbestos Victims' Group.