Racializing Bodies through Science in Meiji Japan: The Rise of Race-Based Research in Gynecology

  • Yuki Terazawa


In his 1908 paper discussing the reproductively active years of women of various ethnic backgrounds, physician Yamazaki Masashige (1872–1950) emphasizes the idea that many different “races” reside in the Japanese empire other than the Japanese race, which he describes as “the race descended from the imperial line” (tenson shuzoku).1 These so-called inferior races included the Ainu, the Chinese in Taiwan, Taiwanese aborigines, and the people who inhabited the Ryūkyū islands (the Ryūkyūans). Discussing the relations between the Japanese and these other races, Yamazaki draws on Social Darwinist thinking: “According to the law in which the superior conquers the inferior, weaker races will be subordinated by stronger ones. These [inferior] races would either assimilate to a superior one or perish. [As such,] they will never preserve the original racial characteristics.”2 Believing that these non-Japanese “races” would eventually become extinct, Yamazaki felt it urgent to study their racial traits, including differences among the different races in the onset of menstruation and menopause, while these racial groups still existed. Yamazaki was one of numerous Meiji scientists who appropriated from Europe and the United States the notion of race as a scientifically valid category along with Social Darwinist ideas. Focusing on Yamazaki’s paper, I examine the way sexed and racialized bodies emerged from scientific and medical discourses in Japanese history.


Racial Group Japanese Woman Chinese Woman Interracial Marriage Japanese Scholar 
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© Yuki Terazawa 2005

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