Dermatology: Big in Japan

Around the time of the International Congress in 1889, the first Japanese dermatologist came to Europe to study dermatology.  His name was Kentaro Murata, and he taught the inaugural dermatology course at the Imperial University (University of Tokyo) in 1890.  Shortly thereafter, Murata died in 1892– leaving Japan without a professor of dermatology. 

DOHI PIXThis coincided with young physician Keizo Dohi’s travels to Germany to study surgery. Upon hearing news of Murata’s death, Dohi changed his plans and instead went to Vienna to study dermatology. In Vienna, he studied under Kaposi, and he remained in Europe for training from 1892-1898.  In his travels, Dohi went to Paris to study dermatology and urology.  Dermatologist Jean Alfred Fournier (of “Fournier’s Gangrene” fame) was working at this time at the Hôpital Saint Louis. 

Dohi learned moulage while studying in Vienna, and brought the techniques back to Japan and established a very large moulage collection in Tokyo.  Dr. Dohi also founded the Japanese Dermatology Association in 1901 and published Japan’s first official dermatology journal in the same year.  Dr. Dohi was keenly interested in whether certain diseases were unique to the Japanese population.  His students included Dr. Kanehiko Kitamura as well as Dr. Ito and Dr. Ota who described two different types of nevus fucsoceruleus.  Dr. Dohi described many conditions including dyschromatosis symmetrica hereditaria and keratosis follicularis symmetrica.

Later, Japanese scholars studying pigmentary disorders under the tutelage of Dr. Kitamura were sent to the United States to the University of Oregon where Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick and Dr. Aaron B. Lerner were studying melanin synthesis and skin pigment.  Fitzpatrick later became chair at Harvard, and Lerner founded dermatology at Yale University in 1955. Both worked with Japanese dermatologists in their groundbreaking research in cutaneous pigmentation.

Dohi poem
Chinese poem written by Keizo Dohi

In a small but significant way, Keizo Dohi was an ambassador for intellectual exchange between eastern and western cultures.  He was a pioneer of international scholarly partnership and cooperation, and embodied the ideas expressed in this poem he wrote:

“The origins of the culture between the east and the west are very different.  It is my hope that both cultures can be combined; if someone can achieve this union, the people of the world and I will thank them for many hundreds of years.” -Keizo Dohi

If you care about dermatologic history: CLICK HERE to help restore the Musee des Moulages.

There’s new items in our Etsy store, the sale of which will go to preserve the moulage collection in Paris.


  1. Fukuyama K, Yasuda T. Outstanding contributions by Japanese dermatologists. JAAD; (1982) 6:173-8.
  2. Holubar K, Schmidt C, Kokert B. From Plenck to Dohi and today: Austrian Influence on Japanese dermatology. J. Dermatol. Sci. (1994): 7:iii-v.
  4. Kukita A. Dr. Fitzpatrick’s influence in Japanese dermatology. JID. (2004) 122:2; xvi-xvii.

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Faculty at the Department of Dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern. interests: cutaneous lymphomas, medical student education, the relationship between art and medicine.

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