No Matter Where the Journey Takes Me

One Man’s Quest for a Leprosy-Free World


Leprosy has tormented mankind since records began. For much of its long history it was without cure—a disfiguring disease that stigmatised those it affected, isolating them from society. Today there is an effective treatment, but the last mile to achieve a leprosy-free world is the hardest.

Now approaching eighty years old, one Japanese philanthropic activist has played a key role in global efforts against leprosy, both as head of a private foundation and as the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination. In this book, he lays out his personal mission and philosophy, and explains how his father, the politician and philanthropist Ryoichi Sasakawa, influenced his decision to make leprosy elimination his life’s work.

Yohei Sasakawa has visited more than 100 countries, motivating political leaders, raising awareness via the media, encouraging frontline health workers, and helping to empower persons affected by leprosy and their families to speak out for their rights. His book is a validation of the path taken by a father and son to change the course of leprosy history, and to transform the circumstances of those affected by the disease for the better.


‘Moving … the book is a rallying cry for a world free of this disease … [a] powerful account.’ — Nature

‘Yohei Sasakawa’s journey and message is clear and important, even at present, and hopefully will inspire other people to take to heart the plea of individuals with leprosy who are still experiencing stigma in their countries.’ — The Lancet

‘East Timor achieved the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem in 2010. We owe much to Mr Yohei Sasakawa, who visited the country repeatedly to encourage our health services to focus on the disease and convince us it was possible. He is an extraordinary person in the way that he has devoted himself to this humanitarian cause. This book gives you a real idea of who he is and what motivates him. I admire his commitment and dedication to improving the situation of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.’ — José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1996, and former President of East Timor

No Matter Where the Journey Takes Me is the story of a man who has selflessly dedicated his life to bettering the life of others by contributing to the elimination of leprosy, and advocating for the end of the social discrimination it causes. It is the story of disfiguring disease that has afflicted humankind since before history was written, and of a man with a destiny and a mission that are making a difference.’ — David L. Heymann,  Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

‘Yohei Sasakawa’s No Matter Where the Journey Takes Me is a moving account of efforts over almost sixty years to fight both disease and discrimination. Despite significant work, an estimated 3 million people around the world are living with disability from leprosy. The book is a rallying cry for a world free of this disease.’ –– Ann Aerts, Nature, The International Journal of Science


Yohei Sasakawa is WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Japan and among the largest in Asia. For over forty years, he has led the global struggle to eliminate leprosy and tackle discrimination against those affected by it.

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