Combining cutting-edge—yet incision-free—cancer therapy with resort-level accommodations, Medipolis is a place for recovery and relaxation
Please, do not call it a research facility, a clinic, or a hospital. It is a place for therapy, it is for recovery, and it is for the future.” Yoshio Hishikawa has a gentle yet insistent voice. Hishikawa has been the director of Medipolis since it opened on January 1, 2011. He has been studying particle therapy as a form of cancer treatment for almost 30 years.
“Cancer rates are rising. We need to watch out for everything—even milk, and the increasing amount of hormones used. Then there’s the concern after receiving diagnosis. Many go untreated because of the pain, the cost, and slim chance of full recovery. We have a solution.”
On paper, it sounds remarkable. And as of now, only a few countries have a handful of clinics that provide this form of treatment.
“We call it Proton Beam Therapy.” It irradiates and destroys cancer cells in just three to seven weeks, depending on the size and the type of cancer.
There are several steps to go through before being treated using the center’s proton beam therapy. First, the patient must be diagnosed early. “The best and most effective way to detect cancer early are thorough personal checks, regular check-ups with your doctor, and better technology, including usage of PET cameras,” Hishikawa explains. “Blood detection is best for the earliest results.”
Second, the tumors must be small: only a few millimeters in diameter. “Currently, we treat almost all types of cancer—most commonly, pancreatic, stomach, prostate, and lung. We are developing ways to treat breast cancer. Brain cancer is not [immediately] treatable using our method.”
Third, the patient must apply for and receive a check-up at Medipolis. They don’t accept National Health Insurance at the moment, but do “take all forms of private health insurance—even international.”
Work can begin after receiving full clearance. “Sometimes the patient’s family comes down with them. Our facility doesn’t have beds or rooms like in a hospital. Patients stay at Bay Terrace Hotel next door in their rooms, surrounded by friends or family.”
The location, Hishikawa proclaims, is prime resort land; the pride of Kagoshima, and perfect for those recovering from cancer. “We have the fewest earthquakes of any region, and the warmest climate, and the most nature. It’s peaceful; it’s a peace our patients feel when they’re here.”
Patients (on average, 40 a day) only need to see one of the three doctors on-site and receive the proton treatment for 30 minutes daily. “We are closed Saturday and Sunday,” he says with a smile. “Even cancer gets a holiday.”
We are treated to a tour of Medipolis. The mood is completely different from that of a hospital; there are rich colors everywhere. Staff members are wearing Hawaiian-print shirts. There are plants and flowers and stuffed toys on counters. “I love Hawaii.” Hishikawa can’t resist a grin. “I want…our patients to feel at ease.”
He introduces us to Tadataka Shimotakehara, who is aiding with the business side of Medipolis, and runs both Bay Terrace Hotel and Hakusuikan Resort—he also happens to be a patient.
Shimotakehara speaks just as positively as Hishikawa. “Sure, it was a shock to realize I had cancer. Did my life change? No. All I do is wake up, get my 30 minutes of treatment, then go to work.”
Morale around the facility is positive: they have treated over 1,500 patients with overwhelmingly positive results. “We want to make life as normal as possible, and turn this more into a vacation than anything else,” Shimotakehara speaks with pride in his voice while waving to the staff. He points to the big metal bed under the small particle projector that looks like a microscope.
“Our patients lie here. When I do, I feel like the naked king. There’s nothing to fear. No heat, no pain, nothing. The hardest part is staying awake—you’re so bored. So I had the staff play jazz music. It helps pass the time.”
The enormous proton beam machine was provided, and is now maintained daily, by Mitsubishi staff to make sure nothing goes awry. The accelerator, Synchrotron, is just as impressive. “It accelerates the particles nearly to the speed of light. It takes 70 seconds to complete the process. We use computers to 3D-map the cancer, and pinpoint the location. Then, it’s 15 minutes to line up the proton beam. After that, the light is beamed every two seconds for one minute. Then the process repeats once more. And that’s it.”
There is no physical cutting, penetration, or incision made. And in Japan, which has deep roots in Buddhism and Shintoism, there is still a reluctance to cut open the human body, so the treatment method aids sensitive and private patients, says Hishikawa. “We irradiate the cancer and the fear.”
Hishikawa has a specific routine he follows to stay healthy. “I rise with the sun and walk to the beach. I eat tomatoes daily. I never smoke—smoking is one thing that guarantees cancer. I go to work and meet patients. Sometimes the kids are here and saying ‘You can do it, mommy/daddy!’ And that is so nice—to know we have a place for everyone to be together.”
He pauses and considers the future. “Treatment for proton therapy is expensive at the moment. That’s why it’s not as popular. In the future, I believe there will be a drug available that can treat cancer. But right now, our service is indispensable. We are guaranteeing a quick, painless solution to a problem. And that is priceless.”
To learn more, visit the website: medipolis-ptrc.org/english
Bay Terrace Resort
Cinematic surroundings and comfortable interiors are an ideal complement to the therapy at Medipolis
Bay Terrace Resort is a wonderful complement to Medipolis. Built by the Japanese National Tourism agency decades back and sold to Shimotakehara’s family just a few years ago, it’s an impressive, monolithic building. Only a 15 minutes’ drive from downtown Ibusuki, the view overlooking the city is splendid and refreshing; the ocean, the sailboats, the mountains and islands in the distance—it’s something out of a movie.
Surrounded by a terrace, visitors can relax outside just as much as inside. The low lights at night make it a great spot for stargazing when it’s warm. Outdoor hot springs and hiking trails make it an ideal place for those who enjoy nature and light adventure. Paths outside, and small bathhouses, are connected to the hotel via stilted patio boardwalks that wind among the trees.
Inside, the grand hall has a high-vaulted ceiling, and canals with koi fish. Rooms are on the upper floors, and all come furnished with Western-style beds, tatami rooms, cozy dens for the guests, private balconies, and and plenty of closet space for lengthier stays. As important as patients’ comfort is to staff, their well-being is an even higher priority. The newest technology for patients to monitor their own vital signs—as well as emergency communication systems—have been installed, and room layouts are kept simple for guests of all ages and capabilities in mind.
Tennis courts, restaurants, and even a sand bath facility are all available for residents. In the lobby, there is even a large projector that shows films; small shops are on the first floor, along with a café filled with dozens of books to read at guests’ leisure. Of course, Bay Terrace is not exclusive to Medipolis patients: visitors are more than welcome to stay at Bay Terrace, whether they’re being treated or not.
Address: 5000 Higashikata, Ibusuki, Kagoshima-ken, 891-0304
Tel: 0993-23-5552 | Web: www.ibusuki-bay-terrace.com