Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/299

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HEALTH-MATTERS IN JAPAN.

the poor light the people provide themselves with. A dim candle, or, at most, a tiny wick resting on the edge of a vessel of vegetable oil of feeble illuminating power, and this inclosed in a paper lantern, is the almost universal lamp of the Japanese; and with this dim light the student studies his Chinese classics, the characters of which are so confusedly wrought together, and the woman performs her sewing on the customary dark-blue cloth. The gradual introduction of kerosene-oil, which is now going on, must in some way modify these troubles.

Measles is occasionally epidemic, and, owing to the exposed life of the people, often very severe. Phthisis is not more common in Japan than in our Middle States. Articular rheumatism is not common, but muscular rheumatism is very common. Skin-diseases are common, especially the contagious forms. The universal use of the razor in shaving, and the custom of itinerant barbers, who travel from one village to another shaving indiscriminately, indicate too plainly the reason for the prevalence of contagious diseases of the skin. In Japan everybody shaves. The men shave the tops of their heads, the beard and mustache, and, curiously enough, every portion of the face, even to the eyelids (not the eyelashes), the lobes of the ears, and the nose to its very tip. Married women shave their eyebrows; widows and priests shave the entire scalp; babies even have their heads shaved in such a manner as to leave the most grotesque bunches of hair symmetrically disposed, like a fancy garden-plot, the remaining portions of the scalp being entirely denuded. It is rather the exception than the rule to find a child's head free from an eruption of some kind, and for this reason, as a general thing, the Japanese babies are unattractive.

My observations on the facts kindly furnished me by Dr. Eldridge apply only to the region about Tokio. The experience upon which these are made is based on a tour of a hundred miles to the northwest of Tokio, a good part of the inland journey being made on foot, many rambles through the streets of Tokio, and a six weeks' sojourn in a little village seventeen miles south of Yokohama. During all these trips and sojourns I have had my note and sketch book constantly with me, and have given the strictest attention to the sanitary condition of the houses and their surroundings.

In conclusion, it is gratifying to know that more solid progress has been made in medicine and surgery than in any other branch of Western science, and that the old Chinese system, with its grotesque absurdities, is doomed.

 

P. S.—Just as I am mailing this, the alarming news comes that the Asiatic cholera has made its appearance in Yokohama in the most emphatic manner. It will, of course, extend to Tokio; and, curiously enough, the very customs of the people which tend to thwart the rav-