Toyama Pref.

Why is Toyama famous for traditional pharmacy?

Why is Toyama famous for traditional pharmacy?

The city of Toyama has been widely known as “a capital of medicine”.

Ahthough there are many rival medicine makers in Japan such as Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, ltd. and SHIONOGI & CO., LTD. and so on, Toyama’s medical industry still enjoys the excellent reputation.

Let me tell you why.

The pharmaceutical business started from Edo period

It was Maeda Masatoshi who established and encourage the medical industry in Toyama domain.

He was a feudal lord to control Toyama domain. There were two reasons why he decided to encourage pharmaceutical business in Toyama.

  1. Toyama clan was financially fragile
    Toyama domain, which became independent after the partition of Kaga domain governed by Maeda head family, were not blessed with sufficient land resources like rice, vegetables and minerals because the land was not developed enough (It should be noted that the former Toyama Domain does not correspond to the current Toyama Prefecture); It had to invent some ways to make money.
  2. Lord Masatoshi was not phisyically strong
    It motivated him to study in-depth knowledge about medicine. In fact, he invited a well-known medical expert from Kyushu and had him teach pharmaceutical sciences.

An episode which made Toyama famous for medicine

In Edo period when Tokugawa bakufu (military administration center) ruled the nation with the strongest military power, every feudal lord was obliged to periodically visit the city of Edo for his work or audience to shogun (the head of bakufu).

When Masatoshi was in the waiting hall for the audience, he heard someone groan from the outside of the hall.

He found the groan was given by his fellow lord called Akita Terusue. No sooner than he found Terusue was suffering from serious stomach pain, he gave Terusue a pill of medicine which he always carried in his seal case.

As soon as Terusue took it in, he found himself recovered from his stomachache.

The news quickly spead throughout the castle; Masatoshi was flooded with requests from many lords who wanted him to sell it.

This was the important episode which gave a chance to Toyama to become famous for medicine.

Toyama established the pharmaceutical industry after the episode

After the event, Masatoshi earnestly started his policy to encourage pharmaceutical business. He encouraged the towners to be involved with the business and expand their business nationwide.

Toyama people is considered to be naturally tenacious and have strong business spirit.

Actually, you could often see a Toyama merchant at that time who traveled all the way to Kyushu or Tohoku regions to sell medicines carrying a heavy box of medicines equivalent to a bale of rice.

Northbound trade ships enhanced pharmaceutical business

The northbound trade ships, which was known as “kitamae-bune“, was utilized between late Edo period and early Meiji period. It also played an important role to make the pharmaceutical business greater.

Toyama domain luckily faced a very convenient sea route of Japan sea which enabled Toyama to trade with Kyushu, China and Hokkaido. It was not difficult for Toyama to import Chinese medical materials through Kyushu, invent quality medicine and sell it nationwide.

I hope this article clarifies the mystery of why Toyama became famous for medicine and prospered for so long.

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National Licensed Guide Interpreter / Web Creator
Hi my name is YUICHI. I'm from Toyama city, Japan. I guide foreign tourists with a passion to promote the popularity of Hokuriku & Hida region. I'm a friendly person who like to listen to the story of your country such as food, culture and history. I also like walking, cooking, drinking and traveling.
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