Ogata Koan (緒方洪庵)

Koan OGATA (August 13, 1810 - July 25, 1863) was a Japanese samurai, feudal retainer of the Ashimori Domain, doctor, and Dutch scholar. He opened a private school named Tekijuku in Osaka to educate people.

Koan's imina (personal name) was Akira, his azana (adult male's nickname)was Kosai, and his go (pen name) were Tekitekisai and 華陰 besides Koan.

Brief Chronological List of Main Events

Born the third son to Sezaemon SAEKI, a feudal retainer of the Ashimori Domain of Bicchu Province, in Ashimori (present-day, Ashimori, Kita Ward, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture).

1825: Moved to Osaka with his father when he was appointed as a rusui (caretaker) of the Kurayashiki (Warehouse-residence) in Osaka.

1826: Learned Western studies at 'Shishisaijuku', a private school established by Tenyu NAKA, a Western medicine doctor, for four years.

1831: Went to Edo to study under Shindo TSUBOI and also Genshin UDAGAWA, both of whom were Western medicine doctors.

1836: Visited Nagasaki City to study medical science under Niemann, a Dutch doctor. It appears that he started to call himself Koan OGATA around this period.

Spring 1838: Returned to Osaka to work as a doctor in Kawaramachi (present-day, Kawaramachi, Chuo Ward, Osaka City). At the same time, he established a private school for Western studies, 'Tekitekisai juku (Tekijuku)'. In the same year, Koan got married to Yae, a daughter of Hyakki OKUGAWA, Koan's classmate of Tenyu's school. He later became a father of six sons and seven daughters.

1845: Bought a mercantile house in Kashomachi (present-day, Yodoyabashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka City) to relocate his Tekijuku. This relocation was unavoidable because Koan's fame brought so many people to the school that the place in Kawaramachi became too small to accommodate all of them.

December 21, 1849: Started vaccinating people at 'Joto-kan' (literally, vaccination house) he opened in Furutemachi (present-day, Doshomachi, Chuo Ward, Osaka City) by using smallpox vaccine obtained in the capital six days earlier.

1850: Opened another smallpox-vaccination center, 'Ashimori Joto-kan', in response to a request from the Ashimori Domain.

1858: Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) authorized Koan's smallpox-vaccination activity.

1862: Moved to Edo to serve as an inner doctor assigned to the Tokugawa family and head of the School of Western Medical Science in response to the Tokugawa Shogunate's repeated requests. He was ordered to select the doctors for foot-soldier quarters and recommended seven physicians including Ryosen TEZUKA.

June 10, 1863: Suddenly coughed up blood and choked to death at the official residence of the head of the School of Western Medical Science in Edo. His age of death was 54 (age by the traditional Japanese system).


Koan is credited with the establishment of a private school, Tekijuku, and many Tekijuku graduates including Yukichi FUKUZAWA, Keisuke OTORI, Sanai HASHIMOTO, Masujiro OMURA, Sensai NAGAYO, Tsunetami SANO, Ryoun TAKAMATSU took the lead in building a new society from the end of the Edo Period through the Meiji Restoration.

Also, Koan wrote Japan's first pathological book called "Byogaku Tsuron." He was committed to the prevention of smallpox, which he also suffered from in his childhood, by popularizing vaccination in various parts of Japan. As represented by his publication and distribution to doctors of a treatment guideline, "Korori Chijun" in response to a cholera epidemic in 1858, Koan contributed to the modernization of Japanese medical science. He suffered from smallpox himself in 1817 at the age of eight.

It is said that Koan, good-natured, almost never got angry at people.

Also, there is the following episode about Koan. Yukichi FUKUZAWA suffered from typhoid fever when he was a student of Tekijuku. When Yukichi was under treatment at the Kurayashiki (Warehouse-residence) of the Nakatsu Domain in Osaka, Koan nursed him devotedly back to health. It is said Yukichi never forgot Koan's dedication. This episode tells that Koan was very considerate and caring.

Koan was also dedicated to learning Chinese medicine, which act was unusual for someone who tried to master Western medicine. This is because Koan always tried to find treatment best suited for each patient.

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Tomozaburo OGATA, Koan's grandson, was a pathologist. Koan's great-grandson, Tomio OGATA, studied serology at the University of Tokyo and solidified the foundation of serology in Japan. In March 1948, Tomio established a foundation called, 'Society for Promotion of Serology', where various basic and applied researches on serology were conducted. The foundation was later renamed Ogata Institute for Medical and Chemical Research and has widened its investigative research areas from serology to medical science and dentistry (issuing an academic journal called Medical and Biology). Also, the Institute possesses and exhibits the so-called 'Western studies Library' including valuable Western studies materials possessed by Koan OGATA, Genpaku SUGITA, Tairo ISHIKAWA and Genzui KOISHI.