Anatomical illustrations from Edo-period Japan

  For More Information >

Here is a selection of old anatomical illustrations that provide a unique perspective on the evolution of medical knowledge in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868).

 Pregnancy illustrations, circa 1860

These pregnancy illustrations are from a copy of Ishinhō, the oldest existing medical book in Japan. Originally written by Yasuyori Tanba in 982 A.D., the 30-volume work describes a variety of diseases and their treatment. Much of the knowledge presented in the book originated from China. The illustrations shown here are from a copy of the book that dates to about 1860.


Trepanning instruments, circa 1790 [+]
These illustrations are from a book on European medicine introduced to Japan via the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki. Pictured here are various trepanning tools used to bore holes in the skull as a form of medical treatment.

Trepanning instruments, circa 1790 [+]
The book was written by Kōgyū Yoshio, a top official interpreter of Dutch who became a noted medical practitioner and made significant contributions to the development of Western medicine in Japan.
 Tōmon Yamawaki, son of Tōyō Yamawaki, followed in his father's footsteps and performed three human dissections.

Female dissection, 1774
He conducted his first one in 1771 on the body of a 34-year-old female executed criminal. The document, entitled Gyokusai Zōzu, was published in 1774.

Japan's fifth human dissection -- and the first to examine the human brain -- was documented in a 1772 book by Shinnin Kawaguchi, entitled Kaishihen (Dissection Notes). The dissection was performed in 1770 on two cadavers and a head received from an execution ground in Kyōto.