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Kosawa, Heisaku (1897-1968)

KOSAWA, HEISAKU (1897-1968)

Heisaku Kosawa, a psychoanalyst who laid the foundation of psychoanalysis in Japan, was born on July 17, 1897, in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and died on October 5, 1968, in Tokyo. In 1926 he graduated from the School of Medicine of Tohoku University, where he studied under Professor Kiyoyasu Marui. And he became associate professor of psychiatry there in 1931.

From 1932 to 1933 he studied at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute, where he received training analysis from Richard Sterba and supervision from Paul Federn. During his stay in Vienna, Kosawa visited Freud at the latter's home at Bergasse 19 and presented a paper written in German entitled "Two kinds of guilt feelings." The paper explained his theory of the Ajase complex, which he contrasted with Freud's Oedipus complex. Moreover, he attended the twelfth congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Wiesbadenthe first Japanese to do so. There he met Heinz Hartmann and Karl Menninger, who became his close friends. After returning to Japan in 1934, he opened a private clinic in Tokyo. Until his death in 1968, he remained the only Japanese to practice psychoanalysis before and for a while after World War II.

While helping to publish the Japanese translation of a collection of Freud's works, Kosawa himself translated into Japanese Freud's Neue Folge der Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse (New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis ) and published it in 1953. At around the same period, he began performing training analyses on Japanese psychiatrists and psychologists. In 1955 he established the Japan Psychoanalytic Society and served as its president until 1957.

Kosawa noticed that, compared with patients in Europe and America, Japanese patients tended to regress easily to the level of a mother-child relationship, and that the fundamental conflict often seen in such relationships was the child's ambivalence toward the mother. This led to his theory of the Ajase complex. Underlying this theory is Kosawa's Buddhist views of life and people.

Throughout his life Kosawa was committed to instructing his students directly through training analyses and supervisions, and he preferred not to publish papers and literary works himself. Thus, there are few works that can be regarded as his representative literary productions. However, he is credited for having trained some of Japan's leading mainstream psychoanalysts who were instrumental in promoting psychoanalysis, dynamic psychiatry, clinical psychology, and psychosomatic medicine in postwar Japan.

Keigo Okonogi

Notion developed: Ajase complex.

See also: Complex; Japan.


Okonogi, Keigo. (1995). A history of psychoanalysis in Japan. In Peter Kutter (Ed.), Psychoanalysis international: a guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world (Vol. 2). Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, Germany: Frommann-Holzboog.

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