Dr Nakamura Yutaka was instrumental in the overall history of the Paralympic Games and key to bringing the Paralympics to Japan. Japan was the second country to hold the Paralympic Games in 1964 and then went on to hold them for the second time – hosting the 2020 Paralympics in the summer of 2021. 

Early life

Dr Nakamura graduated from Kyushu University in 1951 and became an Orthopaedic Surgeon with a growing expertise in rehabilitation.  Aged 31 he headed up orthopaedics at the national hospital in Beppu.

Study abroad

Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann with Dr Nakamura. Image ©Japan Sun Industries

In 1960 Dr Nakamura headed to the US and UK for six months to carry out research into rehabilitation.  As part of this he visited the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and met with Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann.  Dr Nakamura was impressed and inspired by the direction Guttmann had taken rehabilitation in the UK - including sport as a method of treatment and therapy – which enabled recovery and reintroduction into society within a much shorter period of time.  This concept had not reached Japan at this stage – where bed rest and immobilisation were still common for those with spinal injuries – so Dr Nakamura returned home determined to put what he had learned into practice.

1962 Stoke Mandeville Games and Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games

Dr Nakamura met with some resistance on his return as there was fear that this would undo all the rehabilitative work that had already happened.  This changed however when Dr Nakamura personally funded a small team with two Japanese para athletes to attend the 1962 Stoke Mandeville Games.  The resulting media attention around the first ever Japanese athletes to attend the Games provided the catalyst for the decision to hold the second Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 1964.  428 athletes participated from 23 different countries, and Japan gained 10 medals in total and stood 13th in the final medal table.

Japanese participants of the 11th Stoke Mandeville Games in 1962.  Athletes Mr Yoshida Katsuya (left) and Mr Takumi Ito (right) with Dr Nakamura Yutaka (from:


Following on from the Tokyo Paralympics, Dr Nakamura went onto head up Japan’s Paralympic Delegation for a further 4 Paralympic Games until 1980.  He also introduced the first Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled (FESPIC Games) in 1975, which later developed into the Asian Para Games, and an annual international wheelchair marathon event in Oita starting in 1981.

Dr Nakamura was also determined to ensure that in all areas of Japanese society, disability was not a barrier to leading a full and independent life.  To this end he established ‘Taiyonoie (Japan Sun Industries)’ where people with a disability could find a job and become self-reliant.

Dr Nakamura died aged 57 in 1984.  His son Dr Nakamura Taro has followed in his father’s footsteps, as team doctor for the Japanese Paralympic delegation for two Paralympic Games and overseeing Taiyanoie.