Obituary: Masaji Nagashima, M.D. (1929-2010)

Oct – Dec 2010 | Vol. 16, No. 4
Nishikawa, Tajeji; Shiohara, Tetsuo


Dr. Masaji Nagashima (Fig.1) passed away at the age of 81 on May 30, 2010 after having been treated for multiple myeloma for nine months.

Fig. 1

Prof. Masaji Nagashima (1929-2010), Professor Emeritus. Kyorin University Tokyo, Japan.

He was born in 1929 in Tokyo. His student life was very much disrupted by World War II, but he graduated with a medical degree from Keio University School of Medicine in 1954. After having spent one year as an intern, he entered the Dermato-Venereology Department of the same school. He subsequently chose dermatology as a specialty in 1963, when the Department of Dermatology was established at Keio University School of Medicine, headed by Professor Hitoshi Hatano.

While working as an instructor, assistant professor, and associate professor at Keio University, Masaji Nagashima trained many young colleagues in addition to serving as consultant dermatologist at the University Hospital. During that time, his research focused on histopathology.

In 1978, Masaji Nagashima was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Kyorin University School of Medicine in Tokyo. He trained numerous young dermatologists and also served as the Director of the University Hospital from 1990 to 1994. He retired in March of the same year.

Masaji Nagashima was a member of the Board of Directors of the Japanese Dermatological Association from 1988 to 1994 and also served as the President of the Japan Organization of Clinical Dermatologists from 1996 to 2002.

Prof. Nagashima was an excellent clinician. He always stressed that it was the most important for a dermatologist to observe and describe carefully the lesions seen in a patient. He became known internationally because in 1971, he described for the first time a peculiar pruriginous dermatosis with gross reticular pigmentation which he named “prurigo pigmentosa.” [1,2] This condition is now recognized by dermatologists all over the world as a distinctive inflammatory disease of the skin. No definite answers are yet available in regard to the cause of this peculiar condition. It has been suggested that a hunger status may have some relation to the occurrence of the eruption. Another important observation made by Masaji Nagashima was a new type of hereditary palmo-plantar keratosis (Nagashima type) that resembles Mal de Meleda. Up to now, this condition has solely been reported in the Japanese population.

Professor Nagashima’s favorite form of relaxation was a karaoke over glasses of Japanese sake, but he had no particular hobbies. He is survived by his wife Nobuko and his only son, Masayuki, and their three grandchildren.

Takeji Nishikawa, M.D., is former Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Keio University in Tokyo. Tetsuo Shiohara, M.D., is Professor and Chariman of Dermatology at Kyorin University in Tokyo. Contact corresponding author via email at: .

Editor’s note

In 2003, I had the great pleasure to meet Professor Nagashima in Tokyo, Japan. I had been a guest at the Department of Dermatology at Keio University by the generous invitation of Professor Nishikawa, the first author of the preceding obituary. Professor Nagashima was a very kind and modest colleague who welcomed our research and was friendly and open-minded. After I had presented the results of our study on prurigo pigmentosa, he thanked me with tears in his eyes for the efforts that we had undertaken to demonstrate that the condition described by him under the name prurigo pigmentosa was unique and distinctive. His hope that we could also clarify the cause and etiology of the disease, however, remains unfulfilled as of this day.

In a previous issue of this journal, readers find how Masaji Nagashima summarized his own life. [3]

Almut Böer-Auer, M.D.


1. Nagashima M, Ohshiro A, Shimizu N: A peculiar pruriginous dermatosis with gross reticular pigmentation. Japanese Journal of Dermatology. 1971;81:38-39.

2. Nagashima M: Prurigo pigmentosa -clinical observations of our 14 cases. J Dermatol. 1978;5:61-67.

3. Nagashima M. My life. Dermatopathology: Practical & Conceptual 2002; 8(3): 4. Available at: