Eisai: The First 70 Years - History of Eisai -

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Eisai's Founder, Toyoji Naito

Here we present some of the life story and philosophy of Toyoji Naito,a man who not only created Eisai, but also helped to usher in a new era in Japanese homegrown pharmaceutical innovation and industry.


Part I: Childhood & Early Years

Part II: Marriage & Overseas Travel

Toyoji (far left) poses for a family portrait with his wife (second from left) and children in 1929. Yuji Naito, Eisai's second president, also appears in this photo as a young boy (fourth from left).

4) Toyoji begins a family with the love of his life, Tama Takagi

In 1914, World War I broke out in Europe. Thompson Trading was faced with the very real danger of having to close its doors, which put Toyoji and his career in a bind. Upon going to consult with Tanabe Gohei Store Co., Ltd., a major drug wholesaler in Doshomachi, Osaka, with his future in mind, he was told that they would like his help as the manager of their Nihonbashi Honcho branch in Tokyo (Tanabe Motosaburo Store Co., Ltd., now part of the Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation), who was solely responsible for foreign trade, had fallen ill. Toyoji decided right there and then to take up the offer, and in 1915 moved to Tokyo.

When Toyoji was still living in Kobe, he rented a house owned by an elderly couple. There, he met the woman who would become the love of his life. Her name was Tama Takagi, and she was the couple's granddaughter. Having both lost a parent early on in their childhood, Tama and Toyoji felt that they somehow belonged together. When writing about that time in his life in his autobiography, Toyoji noted:

“I had no one to talk to in Tokyo and couldn't stand leading such a lonesome and non-eventful life. After leaving Kobe she was all I could think about, so I decided to ask her to come to Tokyo and marry me.”

Despite being blessed with the birth of three sons and three daughters, the couple had to overcome various family tragedies as well, with their second son dying at war and their second and third daughters passing away due to illness.

Toyoji (left) looking out from his limited express train's observation car as he departs from Tokyo Station in 1937 on an observation tour of Europe and the United States. His historic mission—to introduce commercial production of synthesized vitamin C to Japan upon his return.

5) Toyoji widens his business perspective through observation tours abroad

Germany, the most advanced country in medicine at the time, had also entered the war and Japan's pharmaceutical industry was greatly influenced by this, being heavily reliant on Western imports. Against this background, Toyoji started to take an interest in developments overseas during his time working at Tanabe Motosaburo Store. In 1917, Toyoji embarked on a seven-month market research tour of India and Southeast Asia. He later followed up his business travels in 1937, when he set out on a German passenger ship for more than three months to learn about the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and the United States. According to Toyoji's memoirs, seeing the world beyond China and India had been a childhood dream. Furthermore, seeing and confirming many of the major advanced pharmaceutical conglomerates in Europe and the United States for himself on these trips was a real eye-opener for Toyoji, including in regard to the sheer scale of their new drug creation and R&D operations.

Toyoji, now passionate about focusing singly on the belief that without capable research laboratories, Japanese companies could never become the core of the pharmaceutical industry, found he was no longer able to overlook the state of Japan's pharmaceutical industry at the time, which merely consisted of companies that acted as distributors for products supplied by overseas makers. Taking action, he used his own savings to found Sakuragaoka Laboratory Co., Ltd., with the aim of developing new in-house drugs in Japan. His determination and mission of creating innovative new drugs continues to be passed down to Eisai employees today.

Toyoji, at age 87, demonstrating his original calisthenics exercises at a workshop on how to prevent the elderly from becoming bedridden

What were Toyoji's perspectives on balancing life and work, on family, and on staying in good health?

In his second year at Takefu Middle School, Toyoji discovered the book Self-Help by Samuel Smiles and the maxim “Heaven helps those who help themselves” left a deep impression on him. He himself had believed that one should strive to depend on oneself foremost of all, and he made this quote in particular his lifelong motto. Toyoji's interest in all aspects of maintaining good health also ran particularly deep and he remained extremely active into his golden years. In his eighties, he also devised and taught a series of aerobic exercises for improving blood circulation in the elderly. His original calisthenics gradually spread in popularity around the country and he went on to hold workshops throughout Japan, demonstrating the exercises in person and encouraging the elderly in particular to try out his workout for themselves.

We can also gain some insight into Toyoji Naito's perspectives on life as well as work, family and health from his writings. Some of his most memorable include:

To work capably is the greatest happiness of all. Live life to the fullest again after retirement.
(We might all want to live long but preferably not in poor health. It's best to get into the habit of looking after your body from an early age.) (Make big plans for living life to the fullest into your golden years as well, so that you'll be motivated to stay fit and strong your whole life.)
Make a habit of not going out and gorging yourself into the late hours. Be a demon in the daytime and a Buddha at night.
(It may be a minus socially but it's a definite plus in terms of your health.) (Home should be a peaceful place where you can forget all about your worries and rest easy.)
Sleep well, feel refreshed. Make making breakfast fun.
(Sleep like a baby from ten at night to around five in the morning.) (Fresh vegetables and oranges for a vitamin-rich diet, together with a soft-boiled egg.)
Walk and do stretches every morning. Live in good health and civilization.
(Keep your joints and muscles in good form with neck, hand, wrist, and stomach muscle stretches.) (Keep your kitchen, bathtub and toilet spick and span and make sure to allow plenty of sunlight and fresh air into every room of your home.)

Part I: Childhood & Early Years

Part II: Marriage & Overseas Travel