The Struggle to Modernize Community Medicine in Late Nineteenth-Century Japan




Utilizing a series of community medical records of Shioya District in Tochigi Prefecture, this paper examines the postRestoration effort to modernize medicine on the local level and identifies both continuities and discontinuities in the daily practices of local physicians. In 1874, the Meiji government issued its first comprehensive regulations for medical practitioners, which were designed to promote the Westernization of medicine. At the same time, they undermined the position of Chinese medicine (kanpō), setting the stage for its eventual decline. Despite the implementation of official regulations, however, the effort to modernize community medicine was not immediately successful. The vast majority of the physicians who practiced in Japan before the Restoration were trained in Chinese medicine. As 'previously practicing doctors', the 1874 regulations permitted most to continue operating in their local communities. Under this process of gradual change, how did medical techniques develop on the local level? The medical environment in Shioya after the Restoration was maintained and modernized by the efforts and cooperation of doctors of various social backgrounds, including those who practiced kanpō as well as those trained in Western medicine. Former domain doctors played a leading role in dealing with the prevalence of acute infectious diseases and in forming the Medical Practitioners' Association. In the middle of Meiji period, some Westernstyle hospitals were established in Shioya, both of which had a public character. On the other hand, a kanpō physician quietly tried to adapt his practice to the modern medical system.These are the examples which show that in the transitional period in Japan, different kinds of doctors and different levels of medical training coexisted even in one small locality. In Shioya, people handed down the legacy of medical resources from the Edo period and continuously tried to maintain a medical environment throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


  • UrbanScope : e-journal of the Urban-Culture Research Center

    UrbanScope : e-journal of the Urban-Culture Research Center (10), 26-32, 2019-05