In the 1970s while working in Sri Lanka with UNICEF on a Colombo Slum and Shanty Project Eimi Watanabe came across the story of his great-grandfather, Nagayo Sensai. Nagayo Sensai was a pioneer of public health in Meiji period Japan, who tackled these issues of public health through the concept of Eisei. Sensai’s story needs to be understood in the context of perhaps the most tumultuous period of Japan’s history around the Meiji Restoration (1868) when Japan ended 220 years of isolation, opened its doors to trade, import of new ideas, sciences, technology, combined with the establishment of a centralized rule and administration under the emperor. The government’s strategy of modernization and industrialization involved resolutely learning, absorbing and adapting western sciences, technology, institutions and systems. To this end, the government sent its top ministers, bureaucrats and technocrats on “the Mother of all Study Tours”, the 18 month-long Iwakura Mission to US and Europe, in which Sensai participated.
Eimi Watanabe holds a Ph.D. in sociology from London School of Economics. She has many years of experience in development, including assignments for UNICEF as Chief of Asia Section, NYHQ and UNICEF Representative in India and work with a UNDP as Resident Representative in Bangladesh, Assistant Secretary General and Director of Policy Bureau. In additions she also function as member and Chair of The World Bank Inspection Panel.