Minoru Shirota

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Minoru Shirota
Born 代田 稔 (Shirota Minoru?)
(1899-04-23)23 April 1899
Iida, Nagano, Japan
Died 10 March 1982(1982-03-10) (aged 82)
Konkaikōmyō-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Occupation Microbiologist
Known for Invention of Yakult

Minoru Shirota (代田 稔 Shirota Minoru?, April 23, 1899 – March 10, 1982) was a Japanese microbiologist. He was the inventor of Yakult, the yogurt-like probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota.[1]


Shirota was born in Inadani, a village near River Inadani Tenryuu in the area Iida, Western Nagano, Japan. His family was prosperous in paper and silk worm-rearing business. His ambition turned to medicine as a number of children died in his village due to infectious diseases and malnutrition. In 1921 he entered Kyoto Imperial University's School of Medicine. In 1940 he earned a PhD in medicine, and joined the faculty of medicine at Kyoto University. During the Japanese invasion of China, he was appointed as a military doctor. Then he became a professor at the University Medical Harupin, China. After the war he returned to Japan to establish Shirota Research Centre in 1939. In 1950 he started Yakult company. In 1955 he moved its company headquarters to Tokyo.[2][3]


Inspired by the writings of Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov, Shirota developed a stronger strain of lactic acid bacteria which might work to destroy the harmful bacteria living in the intestines, and therefore improve and maintain the health of human beings.[4][5] In 1930, Shirota was working in a microbiology lab at Kyoto Imperial University's School of Medicine when he became the first in the world to succeed in culturing a strain of lactic acid bacteria beneficial to human health. This bacterium was named Lactobacillus casei strain shirota after Shirota.[6]

The result of his efforts was the successful culturing of Lactobacillus casei strain shirota. Shirota then began working together with supporters to make a drink incorporating the strain. This led to the development of Yakult which was introduced to the market in 1935.[1][6]

Personal life[edit]

In 1939, Shirota married Yoshie, with whom he had one son. They lived in Kamigyō-ku in Kyoto. Yoshie died in 1941.

He died in Tokyo, Japan in 1982.


  1. ^ a b "Our history". Yakult. Yakult Honsha, Japan. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  2. ^ "Success in the culture of intraintestinal lactic acid bacteria for the first time in the world by Minoru Shirota". The World’s Greatest Japanese. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "THE STORY OF YAKULT FOUNDER". Y.A.K.U.L.T. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Brown, AC; Valiere, A (2004). "Probiotics and medical nutrition therapy.". Nutrition in Clinical Care. 7 (2): 56–68. PMC 1482314Freely accessible. PMID 15481739. 
  5. ^ editors, Joshua J. Malago, Jos. F.J.G. Koninkx, R. Marinsek-Logar, (2011). Probiotic Bacteria and Enteric Infections Cytoprotection by Probiotic Bacteria. Dordrecht: Springer Science & Business Media. p. 6. ISBN 978-9-4007-0386-5. 
  6. ^ a b "Philosophy & Company Profile". Yakult Honsha Co. Retrieved 23 June 2014.