Meiji & Taisho Period


Meiji & Taisho Period

Dawn of a New Age

The Meiji government promulgated a health care system in 1874 and approved guidelines regarding the establishment of medical education based on Western medicine, the establishment of a modern pharmacist system, and the preparation of a medical system with separate pharmacy and clinic functions
In terms of pharmaceuticals, the government regulated commercial drugs sold without verification of any special effects, and produced the Japanese Pharmacopoeia, which became the accepted standard for drug formulation. In 1889, the Drug Sales and Drug Handling Regulations established the basis for a modern pharmaceutical system, which regulated pharmacists, druggists, drug manufacturers, and drug handlers.

Drug Production and World War I

The distribution of Western drugs based on accurate medical knowledge was essential to the development of Western medicine, and during this period, many companies that started out as pharmacists and druggists established the foundations of business that are today’s pharmaceutical wholesalers(Oroshi).
The drug manufacturing industry became established in Japan with the Japan’s entry into the First World War. With the participation in the war, Western medicine supply imports from Germany were halted, and this had a severe impact on drug supplies. To ensure its own supply of Western medicines, the government established a temporary drug manufacturing department, disclosed manufacturing methods, issued subsidies to private companies, and nullified German-owned patent rights, thereby greatly promoting the nationalization of new drugs.

Meiji & Taisho Periods Timeline

  • Medicine and Pharmaceuticals
  • Society
New government announces acceptance of Western medicine
First year of the Meiji period
Transfer of capital to Tokyo
Abolition of feudal domains, establishment of prefectures
School system promulgation, opening of Japan's first railway
The Department of Medicine is established at Tokyo Medical School
Establishment of a shiyakujo (national medical and pharmaceutical products test laboratory organization) in Tokyo Medical system promulgation
Publication of drug sales regulations
The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan is established
Nagayoshi Nagai discovers ephedrine
Hirobumi Ito appointed to serve as the first prime minister
Publication of the first version of the Japanese Pharmacopoeia
Publication of the Drug Sales and Drug Handling Regulations Enactment of the pharmacist examination regulations
Promulgation of the Meiji Constitution
First general election
Japan Pharmaceutical Association is established
Jokichi Takamine discovers Taka‐Diastase
Sino-Japanese War (1894–95)
Founding of the Osaka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Merger of Osaka Pharmaceutical and Dainippon Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Russo-Japanese War (1904–05)
Umetaro Suzuki discovers oryzanin (Vitamin B1)
Drug imports are disrupted, exports are prohibited Temporary drug manufacturing departments are established in Tokyo and Osaka
World War I (1914–18)
Promulgation of a law promoting dye and drug manufacturing
Rice riots due to the rising cost of rice
Launch of the League of Nations, start of the postwar depression
Promulgation of the Health Insurance Act
Great Kanto Earthquake

Reference materials: Doshomachi, a Town of Drugs (Doshomachi Resource Preservation Society)
55 Years of the Drug Wholesaling Industry (Federation of Japan Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Association)
History of Clinical Drugs (Hiroshi Amano, Yakuji Nippo)
History of the Pharmaceutical Industry in Japan (Japanese Society of History of Pharmacy, Ed.; Yakuji Nippo)
Company histories of companies mentioned


History of Wholesalers

Traces the history of drug distribution, which has supported the development of medical society, and throws a light on the role of the wholesalers

For the Next Generation. For the Patients.