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
Purchase Digital File

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.


Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). 1890s: Doctor Taking Pulse, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on January 20, 2022 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/419/doctor-taking-pulse

I have a small favor to ask

Old Photos of Japan aims to be your personal museum for Japan's visual heritage to increase our understanding of Japanese culture and society.

Finding, acquiring, scanning, restoring, researching and conserving these vintage images, and making the imagery and research freely available online, takes serious time, money and effort.

We do this without charging for access, selling user data, or running ads.

Your support helps to make this possible, and ensures that this important visual heritage of Japan will not be lost and forgotten.

If you can, please consider supporting Old Photos of Japan with a regular amount each month. Or become a volunteer.

Thank you,
Kjeld Duits

save our heritage

Explore More


Family in Formal Wear

Ceremonial Taisho era (1912–1926) photo of a family in formal wear for family members’ fiftieth wedding anniversary (金婚記念, kinkon kinen).


Ainu Chief

An Ainu chief in traditional clothing.


Woman in Kago

Group portrait of an elegant Japanese woman in a kago (palanquin) carried by two bearers.

Add Comment


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.