Dr. Takashi Shoji has been delivering American babies in Iwakuni, Japan, since 1971.

Dr. Takashi Shoji has been delivering American babies in Iwakuni, Japan, since 1971. (Kyle Ramirez/Courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps)

Dr. Takashi Shoji can’t remember why a pregnant American woman sought out his care at an Iwakuni, Japan, delivery clinic nearly 40 years ago.

He hadn’t studied in the United States, and he’d never lived outside Japan. Still, beginning in 1971, Shoji began providing prenatal care and deliveries for women from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

Now, Shoji estimates, he delivers an American baby about every week.

"He has been a huge asset," said Navy Capt. Kevin Moore, commander of the U.S. Navy’s medical clinics in Japan, South Korea and Diego Garcia.

After nearly 38 years in practice, Shoji said, he will have to leave the job sometime in the next few years.

"I won’t be retiring soon," Shoji said during a phone interview last week. "But I will be 74. I will gradually be unable to do my job due to my age."

Over the years, Shoji has tried to adapt to his American patients’ needs. Practices such as painless delivery and allowing fathers in delivery rooms, which have become more common in Japan, were introduced to Shoji by American mothers, he said.

Shoji said Japan has a shortage of obstetric services. In Iwakuni, the city once had 10 prenatal and delivery clinics; now it has about three. So he’s pleased base officials are looking at the matter now, before the planned expansion of the air station in 2014.

"There will be a big impact if I retire right now," Shoji said, adding that he thinks retirement is still a few years off. "I think it will work out."

Stars and Stripes reporter Teri Weaver contributed to this story.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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