Donnerstag, 28. November 2019, 18:30 - 20:00 iCal

The Influence of Medical Folklore

upon a Modern Society: The History of Hansen’s Disease Measures in Japan

Kyosuke Kashiwagi

Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften - Japanologie, Seminarraum Jap 1
Spitalgasse 2, UniversitätsCampus Hof 2, Eingang 2.4, 1090 Wien


This presentation deals with the relationship between medical policies and folklore by focusing on the history of Hansen’s Disease (also called leprosy) measures in modern Japan. Until the law was abolished in 1996, patients had been strictly quarantined into a leprosarium under the Leprosy Pro-tection Law and were not released even when they were cured. This inhumane measure was sup-ported by the public holding on to superstition, as some medical rituals in Japan show. People tried to remove evil spirits that affect a person’s health by dancing, burning a doll, beating the patient’s body and so on. In the case of HD, however, it was believed that the disease was not caused by an evil spirit but by the patient’s fate. Therefore, the patients were exiled to a colony near a temple or went on a pilgrimage. The measure of quarantine also follows these customs.

Kashiwagi Kyosuke, Ph.D., majored in Folklore Studies, especially the historical study of the interaction between Shinto rituals and social ethics. Since 1999, he conducted fieldwork in Aso region, where University of Vienna japanologist Josef Kreiner conducted research for the “Aso project” in the late 1960’s. Besides studies on Aso, his main focus lies on rituals in leprosariums.


Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften/Japanologie und AAJ (Akademischer Arbeitskreis Japan)


Mag. Angela Kramer
Universität Wien
Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften - Japanologie