CSEAS mourns the sudden passing of a beloved faculty member, Mitsuaki Nishibuchi, at the age of 65. He was Emeritus Professor and a pioneering faculty member at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Kyoto University. As a recognized expert in the field of pathogenic bacteriology, researching Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, he was awarded the Japanese Society of Tropical Medicine Award of Excellence (2011) as well as an honorary PhD degree from the Prince of Songkla University (2016) and an honorary Emeritus fellowship award from the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).
Mitsuaki Nishibuchi was born in Hikari City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Due to the nature of his father’s work, in his younger years he moved to Kitakyushu city and then Osaka City before settling in Hiroshima and where he studied. In his youth he spent much time in a naturally rich environment where he cultivated a strong fascination for the natural world, and particularly fish. These experiences would come to shape his lifetime interests. With many summers spent fishing, he would later reminisce how he developed his own style of “drift and float fishing” to catch fish. Many visitors to his office would be impressed by the print of a large fish rubbing of an ugui (Japanese Dace) that adorned the wall. This encapsulated a passion for fishing that arose from his interest in the biology of fish during his high school days. This led to the development of a strong interest in oceanic environments and fish diseases which saw him enter the faculty of fisheries and animal husbandry at Hiroshima University where he specialized in the science of fisheries and fish pathology. It was during this time that he became aware of how Japan lagged behind other nations in this area of study and took to the decision to study at Oregon State University under the tutelage of John L. Fryer after receiving a study grant from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (MEXT). He would go on to do a Ph.D. in microbiology focusing on a new bacterial species of pathogenic vibrio (1979-1983). This pathbreaking research led to many research papers being published and he received the “Sea Grant Association National Student Research Award” (1981) and the “N.L. Tarter Research Award” (1982) for research on the development of new animal models for enteric infectious bacteria test. In 1982, an outbreak of Escherichia. coli in Oregon and Michigan meant he was one of the first Japanese researchers to engage in investigations.
He would go on to do postdoctoral work in the U.S. at the Department of Bacterial Genetics at the Center for Vaccine Development, University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore (1983-1986) where he went on to research the pathogenic factors of Vibrio parahaemolyticus. A chance opportunity at a U.S.-Japan conference for the Cooperative Medical Sciences Program meant that his work caught the attention of researchers in Japan. It was at this point that he decided to return to Japan to contribute his knowledge to the development of academic study and worked a short time at the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University. In 1988, he transferred to the faculty of medicine, Kyoto University, then in 1996 he was was appointed to CSEAS. In that same year, through two month's research in Indonesia, he opened up his own path of research in Southeast Asia, and began to earnestly contribute to the multidisciplinary research at CSEAS.
In his later years, he headed some of the center’s most pioneering studies including the large-scale project “Infectious Diseases Spreading Across International Borders in Southeast Asia” (2007-2011). With a focus on enteric infections in Asia, he continued to follow the spread of virulent strains of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, in collaboration with a research team at the Prince of Songkla University. His time at CSEAS allowed him to take a truly transdisciplinary approach examining cooking techniques, consumption patterns and cultural preferences for certain foods which sometimes led to the spread of enteric infections in Asia. For this work, which showed how future studies of Japanese tropical medicine should be oriented, he was awarded the Japanese Society of Tropical Medical Award of Excellence (2011). His passion for research also flowed back into his laboratory that he set up and maintained on campus. Through this he raised and taught new generations of young scholars, both Japanese and those from overseas to engage in the transdisciplinary studies of pathogens and greatly stimulated other faculty to think about the nature of research in the region.
His passion for the natural world also spilled over into CSEAS’s physical environment. The courtyard has two Sakura trees which Nishibuchi himself planted and devotedly cultivated over the years. He would ardently ‘light up’ the trees during the ephemeral cherry blossom period and take countless photos which would grace CSEAS’s newsletter. In a final speech that he gave at his leaving ceremony on retirement, he spoke of his ‘wadachi’ (轍), the track or mark left behind in the ground by a wheel that gradually fades before weathering away. His milestones, legacy and prolific research that he has left behind will not disappear any time soon and his lifetime work will continue to be both inspiration and aspiration for us all. CSEAS is deeply saddened by this loss and we miss our colleague.
Nishibuchi Mitsuaki is survived by his wife and two children.
Dr. Mitsuaki Nishibuchi (1954-2019), Professor Emeritus of Kyoto University, and our former colleague at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, passed away in the afternoon of June 24th, 2019. Professor Nishibuchi left an indelible mark on the international community working on infectious diseases, and greatly contributed to the promotion of research at our Center.We are all deeply saddened in the face of this sudden loss. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and will miss him dearly.
Nishibuchi Mitsuaki at an open fishing competition, showing off his surf casting technique to other general participants.
Nishibuchi Mitsuaki was a member of a university cycling club while in Japan. After hard training as a member of the club’s touring group, the senior members were allowed to go on solo tours. He enjoyed the area-specific nature and discussions with local people rather than conversations with the tour members.
Even during his school days, Nishibuchi Mitsuaki would return to his hometown of Osaka and climb Mount Kongo and Mount Yamato Katsuragi.
Nishibuchi Mitsuaki formed a fishery department team at the faculty soccer competition, destroyed the faculty of education high school physical education team and drank sake from the trophy cup.
Drinking with friends (the start of the first overseas beer club in Japan [Nishibuchi: to the left]).
Intense Karate training. Nishibuchi Mitsuaki couldn’t go to the Dojo during long vacations when he returned home, he would strengthen His fists by hitting a ‘Makiwara’ (a padded striking post used for training in Karate).
Prof. Mitsuaki Nishibuchi received a degree in “Doctor of Science (Microbiology), Honoris Causa” from the Prince of Songkla University (PSU) in Thailand. The diploma was handed to him directly by Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand (2016).