HOMEAbout UsHistory

History

Interview with Dr.Shigekoto Kaihara about the history of Ronald McDonald House in Japan

  • Prologue

    Citizens’ power was needed to change the healthcare system in Japan. That meant the creation of a new medical culture.  

  • Where to build facility?

    Three years through 2000 were spent to settle the land issue.

  • Establishment of foundation

    The application was a difficult process and we were worried we couldn’t meet the deadline.

  • House building and operation

    Ronald McDonald House was a totally new venture in Japan, and means the start of a new healthcare culture in which ordinary citizens will support people in illness and hospitals.

Prologue

Citizens’ power was needed to change the healthcare system in Japan.
That meant the creation of a new medicine culture.

Around the summer of 1996, immediately after I took over the post of director of the National Okura Hospital, Ms. Yumiko Nishimura, sociologist at the Stanford University, dropped by our hospital. The Okura Hospital had just launched a project to build a hospital for children and mothers, named the National Center for Child Health and Development, along with a state-operated pediatric hospital. Ms.Nishimura asked me why there was no Ronald McDonald Houses in Japan while every hospital for children in the U.S. has one. I thought such a facility could change the Japan’s healthcare environment and promised her to build one in Japan.
Support from the McDonald’s Japan was essential to us in order to realize our dream, but Ms. Nishimura and I just knew the name of the president of the company but didn’t know what to do to actually meet him, Mr. Fujita. At that time, Mr. Hiroshi Koshida, then vice president of Daiwa Asset Management, helped us overcome this hurdle, and we met president Fujita for the first time in December 1996. We talked to Mr.Fujita about the necessity of changing the healthcare situation in Japan with citizens’ cooperation, which meant to create a new culture in the medical care industry. Mr. Fujita carefully and silently listened to our story and then said, “I thought the central government has been doing a good job in the medical field, so there is no need for the private sector to provide support nor an environment for volunteer groups to do their jobs. But the environment seems to be changing these days.” He said he was considering setting up a RMH in Japan. I still remember Ms. Nishimura and I felt like we were walking on air. In February next year, Mr. Fujita sent us an official letter which said it had been officially decided to build a House near the National Center for Child Health and Development.

Where to build facility?

It took as long as three years to settle the issue of land acquisition.

Once it was officially decided, we now needed to think about an organization which would operate the Ronald McDonald House facility, and I, chief of the Okura Hospital, was the one responsible for that. The first question was where should we built the House. There was an adequate private property in the back of the hospital and we visited and asked the landowner to sell part of the land. Given the great nature of the project, we expected the owner to sell it at a reasonable price. The landowners, however, had their land taken away by the Imperial Japanese government during the war and that bitter memory was still fresh in their minds, forcing us to give up the idea. Then, we came up with the idea of using the premise of the hospital which was a national property, but that idea also encountered a number of institutional challenges. The rules stipulated that when you built a something on a national land, you were required to donate it to the government. But that would prevent the House from doing as it liked. There came this proposal: The RMHC purchases part of the national property. This idea met many challenges, too, about how the land should be sold and so on. But the secretariat of the Okura Hospital and officials from the Health Ministry made serious efforts to settle the problems, finally putting an end to the three-year land issue in 2000.

Establishment of foundation

The application to the authorities was also a tough process and I was once worried that we had to change the construction schedule.

The building of a Ronald McDonald House required setting a new foundation as the mother body to operate the House. But these days establishing a new foundation has been very difficult and the unspoken rule said that a new foundation was only allowed when an existing one had gone. We thought the governing body would be the Health Ministry but didn’t know which section of the ministry would be in charge of the issue. At that time, Mr.Shigeru Sumitani, Social Support bureau chief who once served as the section director at a national hospital, paid much attention and gave valuable advice to us. Having understood our volunteer activities well, he proposed building a foundation under the jurisdiction of the bureau. The following process was never an easy walk and I once worried whether we could meet the deadline. But thanks to the efforts made by Mr.Kodo Tago, who was in charge of the matter at McDonald’s, and the understanding of the Health Ministry’s department, the foundation was successfully launched on 1st April, 1999, with excellent people as the board members, including Dr.Shozaburo Kimura as the Chairman, and Ms.Toshiko Nagase from the University of Tokyo as Managing Director. It took almost three years, too, to start the foundation.
(excerpts from the information magazine “McDonald’s House No.2” issued by RMHC in 2000)

House building and operation

Ronald McDonald House was a totally new project in Japan,
and meant the start of a new healthcare culture in which ordinary citizens will support people in illness and hospitals.

Through the process mentioned above, we succeeded in launching the House. With a little break after that, we opened the RMH Setagaya in winter 2001, immediately followed by the RMH Sendai, RMH Kochi and RMH Osaka-Suita, providing many families with a place to feel safe. The period of time required to open the first House was rather longer that we had expected. In retrospect, however, we are now sure that everyone involved understood the great causes of the business at the end of the day and helped us go a long way. The greatness of the venture are: The idea to provide children with illness with a place to spend time with their family; the operation method with which volunteers support families with sick children; and the fact that there are nearly 300 Houses around the world. The Ronald McDonald House is a totally new venture in Japan and means the start of a new healthcare culture in which ordinary citizens will support people in illness and hospitals. This new concept, we believe, will encourage people to cooperate with the business after they listened to our stories.

About Us

  • Messages
  • Mission
  • Overview
  • History
  • Our People
↑Top