Giants in History: Minoru Shirota

The founder of Yakult 

Minoru Shirota (23 April 1899 - 10 March 1982)


Minoru Shirota (April 23, 1899 – March 10, 1982) was a Japanese microbiologist who invented the popular fermented drink Yakult. Shirota’s early concerns with poor nutrition and the unsanitary conditions that caused many Japanese children to die from infectious diseases, prompted him to study medicine at Kyoto Imperial University. Shirota believed in the potential of preventive medicine to improve people’s health. He discovered that a type of beneficial bacteria, lactobacillus, could suppress harmful bacteria in the intestines. Shirota successfully cultured a strain of lactobacillus – known as Lactobacillus casei – that is resistant to stomach acid and can reach the intestines alive. He subsequently began sales of a fermented beverage, Yakult, containing the newly isolated strain. In this way, Shirota transformed his discovery into a practical means of helping people maintain good gut health. (Photo courtesy of Yakult)

Kyoto Imperial University