Korean J Med Hist.  2003 Jun;12(1):34-53.

The Making of Hygienic Modernity in Meiji Japan, 1868~1905

  • 1Department of Medical Humanities and Social Medicine, Ajou University, Korea.
  • 2Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, USA.


This article is based on conceptual and methodological understanding of hygienic modernity in the nineteenthcentury Western countries: one is the concept of modern hygiene in the context of modern state and the other is methodological relation of modern hygiene to scientific theory of germ. While modern state calls for the institutionalization of medical police as an administrative tool for consolidating the governmentality what Michel Foucault calls, scientific 'invention' of germ may be considered as 'logical, philosophical and historiographical.' Furthermore, the Meiji medicine men preferred Koch's to Pasteur's laboratory framework, not because the former was scientific than the latter but because Koch's programs were more compatible with imperial needs. The objective of this paper is to investigate four ways in which hygienic modernity had been established in Meiji Japan; (i) how Meiji imperialists perceived and managed to control Japanese hygienic condition, (ii) how Meijileading doctors learned about the German modern system of hygiene to consolidate Meiji empire; (iii) how modern germ theory functioned as the formation of imperial bodies in Meiji period; and (iv) how modern military hygiene contributed to Japanese defeat of Russia. Although I try to contend that modern hygiene was adopted as one of the most significant strategies for intensifying and extending the Meiji empire, this paper has some limits in not identifying how Japanese perception of infectious diseases were culturally adaptive to sciencebased hygienic programs the Meiji administrators had installed.


Meiji; Hygiene; Modernity; Empire; Germany

MeSH Terms

Communicable Diseases/*history
Disease Transmission, Infectious/*history
History, 19th Century
History, 20th Century
Philosophy, Medical
Public Health Administration/*history
State Medicine/*history
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