Ranpoigaku (school of Dutch medicine) (蘭方医学)

Ranpoigaku (school of Dutch medicine) refers to medical science introduced to Japan during the Edo period mainly through medical officers (doctors) in Dutch Trading Post in Dejima, Nagasaki. It can also be called Komo Ryu (school of the red-haired).


Sixty-three successive medical officers were stationed in Dutch Trading Post. They were engaged in an examination and treatment of the Dutch Trading Post officers including the head, and also diagnosed Japanese patients and made medical interchanges with Japanese doctors with permission from Nagasaki Bugyo (an official responsible for administration of Nagasaki) although such activities were limited. This happened in Portuguese and Spanish medicine (surgery) called "Nanban Ryu" (southern-barbarian style), too.

Regarding a treatment approach to surgical diseases, Ranpoigaku was considered to be superior to Chinese medicine. In those days, however, it is said that an extensive operation was difficult to perform in Dejima and so topical treatment was a mainstream.

The most famous medical officers were Caspar Schamburger (1623 - 1704) who is said to have been a founder of 'Caspar-style surgery', Daniel Busch, Otto Mohnike who contributed to the success of vaccination in Japan at the end of the Edo period, and Philipp Franz von Siebold.

Although interchanges between Dutch Trading Post's medical officers and Japanese doctors were limited to Dejima or inns for the Dutch officers who visited Edo in attendance with their head, their medical knowledge, along with Dutch books on anatomy and surgery, had a great influence on Japanese medicine.

Firstly, the Dutch-school surgery was founded by interpreters who served as an intermediary between Dutch Trading Post's medical officers and Japanese doctors. This includes 'Yoshio-style surgery' by a founder Kogyu YOSHIO and 'Narabayashi-style surgery' by a founder Chinzan NARABAYASHI. Denbei INOMATA, who is said to have practically founded the school of 'Caspar-style surgery' mentioned above, was also an interpreter of Caspar Schamburger. Next, attention to Ranpoigaku was rapidly raised by the translation book "Kaitai shinsho" (New Book of Anatomy) by Genpaku SUGITA and other fellows. "Naika Senyo" (Internal Medicine Summary), also called "Seisetsu Naika Senyo" (Western Internal Medicine Summary), the translation of the Johannes de Gorter's medical book by Genzui UDAGAWA, also had as great influence as "Kaitai shinsho" had in that it extended interest in Ranpoigaku to the area other than surgery such as internal medicine. In this way, Ranpoigaku became a major school but Chinese medicine was still even more predominant from the overall perspective of the Japanese medical world. The first education of clinical medicine including surgical operation was conducted when Siebold visited Japan.

In 1857 after opening a country to the world, the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) invited Johannes Pompe van Meerdervoort as a medical science teacher at Nagasaki Kaigun Denshu-sho (Japanese Naval School). After this, the full-scale and systematic education of Ranpoigaku was started in Japan, and four years later Nagasaki Yojojo (hospital), a Ranpoigaku-dedicated medical institution, was established. In this way, Ranpoigaku took the initiative in introducing Western medicine science into modern Japan.