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Keio J Med. 2001 Jun;50(2):91-9.

Modern Japanese medical history and the European influence.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Tokai University School of Medicine, Bouseidai, Isehara-shi, Kanagawa 259-1193, Japan.


Before the first European visited Japan in 1549, traditional Chinese medicine was mainly employed in Japan. Francisco de Xavier, a missionary of the Society of Jesus, tried to promote the introduction of Christianity by providing a medical service for Japanese citizens. However, Japan implemented a national isolation policy in 1639 and cut off diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, except Holland and China. For over 200 years, until the American admiral Matthew Perry forced Japan to open its doors in 1853, Japan learned about western medicine only from doctors of the Dutch merchants' office or from Dutch medical books. After 1853, Western medicine was rapidly introduced into Japan, and great achievements by Japanese medical doctors soon followed, such as the serum therapy for tetanus, the discovery of the plague and dysentery bacilli, the invention of Salvarsan for the treatment of syphilis, and the demonstration of the neurosyphilis spirochete.

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