The freelance writer graduate from a literature science university was invited to be a visiting professor at Toho University’s Faculty of Medicine in April 2011. This was said to be an unprecedented case. Medical journalist Hiroo Matsui (61), who comments on medical issues for television and newspapers etc., is a graduate of Chuo University’s Faculty of Commerce. Overcoming the difficult era of freelancing, he established the new field of medical journalism. His keyword to success is sincerity.
Monthly wage of ￥30,000 after graduating
After graduating from university he was an assistant film producer, and then an editor for a weekly magazine. He devoted himself to reporting matters of greatest concern such as incidents and accidents, politics, entertainment, and sport. There were times he failed due to his youth, but he was treated well.
Matsui was singled out when a powerful figure set up a large project. However, the project hit a bump. High hopes withered away, and the man, who should have been a young businessman, was unemployed. This was in the autumn of his 28th year.
Matsui rented a single desk in the office of a senior. He sent out greetings to over 300 acquaintances, notifying of the circumstances and determination to become independent.
His monthly wage was ￥30,000. His former workplace helped him under the pretext of proposed plans. In 2010, his eldest son, who often watched the NHK drama Gegege no Nyobo, depicting the life of Shigeru Mizuki before he became a famous cartoonist, said, “That was us.” His wife added, “We were destitute.”
Writing constantly everyday
Sending greeting cards became a turning point in his life. A request for a contribution came from a job magazine. It was a place he had previously reported for. While the commissioned article was short, it was full of knowledge and impressed the readers. Matsui wrote several of these. The job magazine mainly published job information with boxes lined up on the pages. There were times when there weren’t enough boxes, and other times when there were open spaces. This is where commissioned articles were added.
Next, he was tapped to write stories for a study magazine. He wrote three stories. Matsui enjoyed novels from his junior high school days and hoped to become a novelist. He was appointed to program writer and director for the radio station. At Chuo University High School he was a member of the broadcasting club.
Matsui continued as newsroom researcher for famous political commentators. However, in his second year, that political commentator died suddenly… The next work he received was for a medical essay by a monthly publication. He visited 24 university medical faculties and 12 dental colleges nationwide to write articles.
“I didn’t turn down the jobs that came. I was writing furiously. I thought by writing, my writing skills would improve. Around the age of 32, I counted how much I was writing every month, and it came to 250 pages of 400 character writing paper. For a freelancer such as myself, I was writing eight to ten pages a day without a break. There was no time to sleep, but I was grateful for it.”
A second turn for the worse
It was a steady job, but one day it deteriorated suddenly. Of the seven to eight serials Matsui was writing, all but one rapidly ended. He took a huge cut in income.
“Having serial publications is great, if you have one, don’t let it go. You lose a steady income,” says Matsui of the freelance world. His fear had become reality.
Coupled with having to leave his rented home in Kanagawa Prefecture it was, “‘I have no money, what shall I do? What shall I do?’ I was holding my head every day.”
His first prominent works were Mei-i Meikan [Noted Physician Directory] (Nihon Kogyo Shimbun Publications) and Byoki-betsu Zenkoku Mei-i 730nin Tettei Gaido [Complete Guide Book of 730 Noted Physicians of Each Disease in Japan](Shufu to Seikatsu Sha Co., Ltd). These two weekly magazine and newspaper serial essays which were compiled into books soon became bestsellers. In 1992 at the age of 41, it sent him on the path to becoming a medical journalist.
“That helped. I got the deposit for my apartment.”
A pioneer in books on noted physicians was born. Since then he has penned 43 well known titles.
At the time, medical articles were mainly written by science faculty reporters or graduates. Mastering his skills in his weekly magazine reporter days and being able to write articles that even junior high school students could understand became useful, medical essays that could be understood at home entered society.
Also, in an era where there are few people living in large cities who have a regular doctor, support for the noted physicians book expanded.
Since the age of 45, Matsui has whittled his work down to the single job of medical journalist and continues to give commentary and write, standing between the doctors and patients. Of course his motto is, “to write articles that even junior high school first year students can understand.”
According to a famous doctor in Japanese medical circles, his recent publication, Konna toki do suru? Shojo kara Wakaru Anata no Byoki to Chiryoho [What Should You Do? Diseases and Cures Found From Your Symptoms] (Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, Ltd.) , gives appropriate advice. Its sales point is, “It’s dangerous to leave it as it is! Check your own symptoms before it leads to horrific results!” Matsui has become a bridge between the patients and physicians.
There are eight pages on headaches alone, and gives detailed explanations from migraines, cluster headaches and muscle contraction headaches to the life-threatening dural arteriovenous fistula. Dural arteriovenous fistula is a serious illness where a severe throbbing pain occurs behind one eye. This book provides information that patients want now.
The List of Doctors at the end of the book, which introduces 26 well known physicians, is a valuable resource that only Matsui could provide. The substantiality of this book has been well supported and has even been published in South Korea.
A freelancer with no freedom?!
“You don’t know when you will be fired, so freelance work is an anxious battle. I continually suffered with duodenal ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome,” recollects Matsui with a smile in spite of his struggles.
“Relations with people are the most important. I couldn’t work when I collected data with a poor attitude. Deal with matters sincerely. Don’t cut corners, accept the work even if you think it is uninteresting. The day when it comes in useful will come.”
One day he visited the home of a distinguished medical professor. After the interview, he ran his eyes over the bookshelf in the library and noticed many works by Naoki Award winning author Masayoshi Sato.
“Professor, you have more novels than medical books.” “They are interesting.” “Professor, I often went drinking with Sato.” “What?” “He was my senior reporter when I worked for a weekly magazine.” “Do you still have time? Let’s have a beer. What kind of person was Masayoshi Sato?”
And so the conversation picked up. Go that extra step and get inside the interviewee. You never know what might come in useful.
Mr. Hiroo Matsui
Graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University. Secretary of the Medical Journalists Association of Japan, visiting professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Toho University. Former visiting professor at Chuo University and in 2009 gave a lecture in Introduction to Working on the theme of Human Body-Friendly Medical Treatment: Standing Between the Doctors and Patients. Started a long term serial essay in Nikkan Sports from July titled Kono Gan ni Kono Mei-I [Specialists for Cancer Care]. Appears in the medical consulting corner Matsui Hiroo no Kenko Hyakka [Hiroo Matsui’s Health Digest] on Nippon Cultural Broadcasting’s Egao de Ohaten! (Mon-Fri, 5:45 pm). Born in Toyama Prefecture. 61 years old.