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70219-0021 - Japanese Doctor in Meiji Period

Doctor Taking Pulse

Artist Unknown
Publisher Unknown
Medium Albumen Print
Period Meiji
Location Studio
Image No. 70219-0021
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A bald-headed Japanese doctor is taking a patient’s pulse. During the Edo (1603-1868) and early Meiji Period (1868-1912), Japanese physicians shaved heir heads.

They did so because medicine were originally administered by Buddhist priests. The image appears to have stuck.

This studio re-enactment of a doctor’s visit shows him sitting next to his medicine case and a sword. Apparently, doctors carried wooden swords to accentuate their high status in society.

His young female patient sits next to a hakohibachi (箱火鉢), a brazier encased in a wooden box. In front of the box lies what appears to be a kiseru pipe and a tray of tea cups.


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Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). 1890s: Doctor Taking Pulse, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on September 28, 2022 (GMT) from

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Kjeld Duits

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Thanks, Agata, for the great link. I actually checked with somebody who is very familiar with Edo Period Japanese medicine and he also mentioned that it was common for doctors to wear swords. According to him they shaved their head because originally Buddhist priests administered medicine and the image seems to have stuck.

Bokuto is written 木刀. It literally means wooden sword.