The Marvelous Doctor Treats Serious Diseases (<i>Kitai na meii nanbyō ryōji</i> - 難病療治 - きたいなめい医)
The Marvelous Doctor Treats Serious Diseases (<i>Kitai na meii nanbyō ryōji</i> - 難病療治 - きたいなめい医)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) (artist 01/01/1797 – 04/14/1861)

The Marvelous Doctor Treats Serious Diseases (Kitai na meii nanbyō ryōji - 難病療治 - きたいなめい医)


9.75 in x 14 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print

Sighed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi giga ga
Publisher: Enshūya Hikobei
(Marks 055 - seal 22-005)
Censor seals: Hama and Magome

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Harvard Art Museums
National Diet Library
Victoria and Albert Museum
Drexel University, Philadelphia - right panel only
Finnish National Gallery - right panel only
The Wellcome Library
Database of Folklore Illustrations
National Museums Scotland - center panel
National Museums Scotland - left-hand panel
University of California, San Francisco Library
Hankyu Culture Foundation - right panel
Hankyu Culture Foundation - center panel
Hankyu Culture Foundation - left panel
Muzeum Sztuki i Techniki Japońskiej Manggha, Krakow
University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology - center panel only
The Bank of Japan
Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (via Ritsumeikan University)
National Museum of Japanese History (via Ritsumeikan University) - left panel only
National Museum of Japanese History (via Ritsumeikan University) - center panel only
National Museum of Japanese History (via Ritsumeikan University) - right panel only
Tokyo Metropolitan Library
British Museum - the center and left panels only
British Museum - the right-hand panel (via Ritsumeikan University)
National Gallery, Prague - center and right-hand panel only

The curatorial notes for this triptych at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston state: "The female doctor Kogarashi, daughter of the quack doctor Chikusai (Yabukusushi Chikusai musume meii Kogarashi), sits in the center in front of a floral screen; her four disciples, in black jackets, apply humorous 'treatments' to patients. Thought to be a political satire."


The curatorial files for this triptych at the Wellcome Library read: "A medico-political caricature of an historical figure, a princess, daughter to the Emperor, who was lame and did not want people to know it. She is shown in the right panel, wearing red, being attended by a doctor or surgeon in black (all the figures in black are doctors or surgeons). The yellow notice next to the princess says "Doctor no good! Quack!". At the top of the right panel a woman treats the facial effects of smallpox with a hot liquid mixture or its fumes. At the bottom of the right panel is a crouching woman with a long neck which she wants to have shortened The figures in the left panel are as follows: (top left) a dwarf who disguises his shortness with a long kimono; (right of dwarf) a man with colic; (middle left) a creditor demanding money from a debtor (the debtor is below); (lower left) a fat man whoo wants to be slim; (bottom left) "gonorrhoea" (or syphilis?), in which the mouth is eaten away; (middle right) caricature of slimming: a man is removing excess fat from a woman with the aid of a mallet and chisel; (top right) an angry woman

Other scenes depicted include: fitting a princess with a raised sandal to disguise her lameness; removing teeth with pliers."


Figures on the far right-hand panel

The woman in the right-hand panel leaning over the container of steaming water is referred to as 'Scar-face' or abata. She says: "Since my face is very scarred, I wear a metal mask and hold my face over boiling water, which improves the appearance and appearance of my scars."

Abata: Watakushi no yō na ō-abata de mo kono kane de koshiraeta mengata o hamete yu no nietatsu tokoro e mushite iru to kao ga fuyakete abata ga umatte ii kiryō ni narimasu to sa

あば: わたくしのやうな大あばたでもこのかねでこしらへためんがたをはめてゆのにへたつところへむしているとかほがふやけてあバたがうまつていゝきりやうになりますとサ

Below her is the man without a nose which he lost to syphilis. He says: "My nose fell off because of syphilis, at my request I got a nose made of paper, now I feel very well."

Hananashi: Warera wa mata kasa de hana ga ochiyashita kochira negatta tokoro ga kami de hana o koshiraete tsukete kudasareta ga shigoku myō de gozaru te

はななし: われらハまたかさではながおちやしたこちらねかつたところのちかみかいはなをこしらへてつけてくだされたかしごくめうでござるて

The near-sighted fellow has been fitted with special glasses. He says:

"I'm a little nearsighted (kingan), so my name is nearsighted, I'm not a small tangerine (kinkan). Because the nearsightedness bothers me, I was advised to wear long-distance glasses so that I can see better again."

The terms for 'cumquat' (金柑) and 'myopia' (近眼) are homonyms. This man doesn't want anyone to think he is a small citric fruit.

Kingan: Iya sa sessha nado wa sukoshi kingan dchiisai no dewa gozarimasen ga chikame de komarimasu tokoro e kochira de ryōmanako e tōmegane o hamete kakero to no osashizu nakanaka bonpu waza de wa gozarimasen

きんがん: イヤサせつしやなどハすこしきんがんてござるきんがんと申てみかんのちいさいのでハござりませんがちかめでこまり升所へこちらで両まなこへとうめがねをはめてかけろとのおさしつなかなかぼんぷわざでハござりません

The tall, attractive woman is a gimp, a limper. Her 'doctor' is giving her advice on how to deal with her limp.

"You have a short and a long leg, so you limp, said the doctor, if you wear a high wooden sandal (geta 下 駄) on one foot and a flat straw sandal (zōri 草 履) on the other, these two unequal shoes will help your unequal leg length."

Chinba: Omae wa kataashi mijikai ka kataashi nagai no ka daga maa zoku ni bikko to iu no da sensei no goryōji ni wa zōri to geta o hakasero to ossharu ga zentai gata gata chiba da kara ryōhō chinba ni shite soroete mo ii ne

ちんば: おまへハかたあしミしかいかかたあしながいのかだがマアぞくにびつこといふのだせんせいの御れうぢにハぞうりとげたをはかせろとおつしやるがぜんたいがたがたちんばだからりやうハうちんバにしてそろへてもいいね

Kneeling on the ground is a woman with a long neck. "The girl with the long neck should use hair oil mixed with iron powder for her hair. Then the iron in the head is drawn in with a magnetic ore from the buttocks. So the long neck is supposed to be shortened."

Rokurokkubi: Toki ni rokurokubimusume wa kamiabura no naka e tetsu no ko o irete kami o iwase shiri no hō e jishaku o ategai atama no tetsu o suiyoseru kitai no meijutsu kore de wa rokurokubi mo naoru darō

ろくろくび: ときにろくろくびむすめハかみあふらの中へてつのこをいれてかミをいハせしりのはうへじしやくをあてがいあたまのてつをすいよせるきたいの名じゆつこれでハろくろくびもなほるだろう

A figure in the center panel

Miss Tooth decay - an older woman is being treated by a dentist: "A toothache is a very unpleasant condition. Unfortunately, you have to remove all teeth completely and insert dentures, so there is no risk of further toothache. This is an extremely fine treatment."

Mushiba:Ha nokorazu nuite shimatte ueshita tomo sōireba ni sureba isshō ha no itamu urei wa gozaranute kore wa naruhodo yoi oryōji de gozaimasu

むしば: はのいたむといふものハなかなかなんぎなものでござるこれハのこらずぬいてしまッてうへしたともそういればにすれバ一しやうはのいたむうれひハござらぬてこれハなるほどよいおりやうじでございます

Figures on the far left-hand panel

The short-tempered woman can be seen in the striped kimono glowering toward the woman seated in the center. "Your irascibility is not easy to cure. Buy lots of valuable items like ceramics and lacquer work to reduce your anger. Only when you smash things will you feel better."

Kanshaku: Omae no kanshaku wa zōsa mo naku naorimasu bushitsuke nagara omae no mize ni setomono ya nurimono hako ka mata wa daijina montoki ni muyami to bukkowashinasēe sō suru jiki ni naoru shikashi sore mo hito no shiromono de wa tsumaranē

かんしやく: おまへのかんしやくハそうさもなくなをりますぶしつけながらおまへのミぜにせともやぬりものはこか又ハ大じなものをたんとかつておいてじれッてへときにむやミとぶつこわしなせへそうするじきになをるしかしそれも人のしろものでハつまらねへ

The steatopygous one, that is the one with the big butt: "As a treatment method for thick buttocks, one should constrict them tightly with a bamboo belt and go for a walk in a busy place. Because you are ashamed, your buttocks will shrink over time, and as you get old you will definitely lose weight. What a good method of treatment!"

Desshiri:Desshiri no ryōji wa shiri e take no taga o kake nigiyaka na tokoro o kenbutsu shite aruku to mittomonee kara dandan chijikomaru katachi dasunen sōshite iru uchini to yaseru wake da nan to ii ryōji no shikata darō

でツしり: てつしりのれうぢハしりへ竹のたがをかけにぎやかな所をけんぶつしてあるくとミつともねへからだんだんちゞこまるかたちだすねんそうしているうちにハだんだんとしがよるからしぜんとやせるわけだなんといゝれうぢのしかただろう

The thin man... yeah right! This is the man with the fattest face seen along the left edge of this triptych. Why is a fat man referred to as a thin one? The answer lies in the text.

"The thin man: Because I was losing weight more and more, the doctor gave me the following advice: Eat lots of raw beans and drink lots of water with them. I did it this way and actually got so fat I almost burst. This wonderful method is the same as removing dents in sake pewter bowls."

Yaseotoko: Watakushi wa yasete yasete komarimasu kara sensei ni negaimashitara nama no mame o tanto maru nomi ni shite mizu o omoire nome iwaremashita sōshita tokoro ga konna ni hachikireru hodo futoriyashita suzu no tokkuri no hekomi o naosu kufū to onaji anbai taga nan to myō de wa gozaimasenka


The syphilitic man is the one seated on the ground near the top center, looking pensive.

"Syphilis sufferer: My testicles got bigger because of an inflammation, the doctor forced the water away. They can't get any bigger that way, a truly logical treatment method."

Senki: Watashi no senki wa kintama ōkiku natte komarimashita ga sensei ga mizu o totte ato o chiisana dobin o hameteoitekudasutta ga sore kara ōkiku narimasen kore mo makoto ni rizume na ryōji da

せんき: わたしのせんきハきん玉大きくなつてこまりましたが先生が水をとつてあとをちいさなどびんをはめておひてくだすつたがそれから大きくなりませんこれもまことにりずめなれうぢだ

Shorty, the size of Tom Thumb: "Since I'm small as Tom Thumb, I have problems, but I received very good advice: Use high wooden sandals (takageta) and wear a long kimono. I did that and it succeeded very well and I no longer seem at all like a runt."

Issunbōshi: Ore wa Issunbōshi de komaru kara otanomimōshimashaite nagai kimono o kite aruke to osshatta ga shigoku myō de gozarimasu dō mitemo issunboshi to wa miemasumē


The fellow with the ugly, grimacing face is referred to as a jinmenso (人面瘡) which is a mythological growth or tumor which looks like a human face: this character is the hardest to figure out in translation. This person is complaining about how much his feet (legs or bones) hurt and how he has been advised that the cure comes from eating very expensive rice. However, part of his grimace comes, not from the pain, but from the costs he is incurring. He has been told that if only he would show the rice merchant the receipts for the high costs he might be able to get the price down somewhat - making the whole thing a little less painful.

Jinmensō: Jinmensō ni meshi o kuwareru ga setsunasa ni negattara komeya no kakidashi o misero to ossharu kara kōshimasu ga dandan naotte kimashita

人めんそう: 人めんそうにめしをくわれるがせつなさにねがつたら米屋のかきだしを見せろとおつしゃるからこうしますがだんだんなをつてきました

The man with the clap, i.e, gonorrhea, is the one munching on a chestnut near the bottom of the left-hand panel. The doctor believes that if this fellow follows the traditional instructions given in Chinese medicine then eating chestnuts will absorb the disease and thus bring about a cure.

Rinbyō: Washi no byōki kachiguri sae kueba naorimasu to sa senkinhō to iu shomotsu ni „kachiguri rinbyō ohitsukazu“ to iu koto ga dete imasu to sa

りんびやう: わしのびやうきかちぐりさへくへバなをりますとさ千金方といふしよもつにかちぐりりんひやうおひつかずといふことがでゝいますとサ

Prominently positioned in the center is female doctor named Kogarishi (木枯らし) Her name can be translated as 'a cold wintry wind'. Her four assistants are the ones wearing black coats and administering torturous, cruel treatments. However, underlying all of this is a subversive political subtext. The elegant woman with one leg shorter than the other was believed to be Princess Sumi. She was the second wife of a future shōgun, Tokugawa Iesada (徳川家定). The near-sighted fellow with the glasses is supposed to be the Supreme Chancellor Abe Ise no kami Masahiro (阿部伊勢守正広: 1819-57), while the dwarf (Issunbōshi 一寸 法師) is probably Chancellor Makino Bizen no kami Tadamasa (牧野備前守忠正).

According to another interpretation the figure known as Kogarishi was possibly Anekōji (姉小路), the most powerful woman in the shōgun's compound. She was a power broker. Noriko Deushi Brandl wrote in German, but translated here to English: "She was the gray eminence and possessed great power, as she had relations with prominent politicians such as Chancellors Mizuno Tadakuni and Abe Masahiro, as well as the Prince of Mito, Tokugawa Nariaki 徳川斉斉, with mutual advantages. By portraying impossible therapies that patients gratefully accept, Kuniyoshi ironically criticized her extensive interference in all government activities."

Scar Face, who is portrayed as a woman, but who in fact was a man, the 12th shōgun Tokugawa Ieyoshi (徳川家慶: 1793-1853) who mainly lived among women. She, i.e., he is shown wearing a metal mask, was probably disfigured by pockmarks which was common at the time.

No Nose or Hananashi is actually two men, a father and son, represented as one. He is said to be the Chancellor Matsudaira Noriyasu (松平乗全: 1795-1870) and at the same time his son Sakyōnosuke (左京亮). The father was said to have a very flat, unflattering nose and yet he was incredibly haughty and snobbish. That is why Kuniyoshi chose to give him a long pointed 'paper' nose. Both father and son were said to wield great power and were closely allied to Anekōji.

Four Eyes, Kingan, is definitely not a cumquat, but is 'short-sighted', to be sure. This man represent the Chancellor Abe Masahiro (阿部正弘: 1819-57). Masahiro was known to be terribly near-sighted. Kingan is wearing the Abe family crest of falcon feathers "...Abe takaha 安部鷹羽) and his kimono pattern manji 卍 (swastika = holy places) refer to Masahiro, as he was very successful in his office as Jishabugyō 寺社奉行 (chief of the administrative authority for holy places) before he became chancellor... For political reasons he maintained good contacts with Anekōji."

The Gimp "...embodies the second wife of Iesato 家祥 (later 13th Shogun Iesada [徳川家定: 1824-58])... Princess Sumi-hime Hideko 寿明姫秀子 [1826-50], who lived only one year after their wedding. Despite her disability and dwarfism (she was only about 1m tall), this marriage was carried out by Anekōji to strengthen her own power. The citizens regarded this event as a great scandal and a sensation. By chance, two weeks after the publication of [this triptych], on the 24th day of the 6th month of Kaei 3 (1850), the announcement of the death of Sumi-hime took place. That was apparently why this cartoon had such a high sales figure and was [brought under closer scrutiny by the government]."

The man holding the large magnetic lodestone near the woman's butt is said to be "...Sakai Wakasa no kami Tadayoshi 酒井若狭守忠義 [1813-73], the prince of Obama 小 浜. His coat of arms Wakasa ken katabami 若狭剣片喰 [points to] Tadayoshi. From Tenpō13 to Kaei 3 (1842-1850) he was employed as governor in Kyoto and as chief of the administrative office of the imperial court. In order to take advantage of the mutual political support, he had a very close connection with Anekōji, who came from a noble family of Kyoto. It is likely that the depiction of the long neck rokurokkubi is intended as an ironic symbolic representation of the distant Edo-directed power of Anekōji at the imperial court with the assistance of Tadayoshi."

Shorty, the Tom Thumb-like fellow, according to Noriko Deushi Brandl "is said to be Chancellor Makino Bizen no kami Tadamasa 牧野備前守忠正 [1799-1858], as the coat of arms mitsugashiwa 三つ柏 (three oak leaves) refers to him. Two months after Abe Masahiro became Chancellor, he too became Chancellor, he supported Masahiro, but always remained in his shadow[s]. After the sudden death of Masahiro, he left the Chancellery on his own [free] will. In Kuniyoshi's eyes, Tadamasa was a petty, simple, insignificant person."

The syphlitic toward the upper left is "...Natsume Sakon no shōkan Nobuaki 夏目左近将監信明, the chief steward of [the shōgun] Iesada.... The coat of arms kiku (chrysanthemums) refers to the Natsume family. He played a major role in the private sphere of the shogun. He probably had sexual contact with Anekōji, so he was ironically portrayed as [having] a venereal disease."

The Jinmensō "...was interpreted by Tsuboi as Finance Minister Kusumi Sadonokami Hiroaki 須美佐渡守裕明. The grimace that is greedily eager to eat rice can also serve as a symbol for other government tax officials who lavishly managed the budget. The coat of arms kuromochi 黒 餅 (black mochi cake) does not exactly match the family crest mokkō 木瓜 (pumpkin cuts) of the finance minister. It cannot be clearly defined and therefore it can be assigned to several officials."

Yaseotoko (痩せ男), the “slim one”, is the chubby-faced fellow in the lower left of the triptych. In reality he was tall and plump and always seemed sleepy, is supposed to be Ido Tsushima no kami Kakuhiro 井戸対馬守覚 弘. "He rose, at the instigation of Anekōji, after he had been governor of Nagasaki, surprisingly to governor of Edo, which meant a great leap in his career. His illness and its surprising healing ironically symbolize this situation. Kuniyoshi purposely painted Kakuhiro's coat of arms and his kimono pattern indistinctly so that it, which was well known to the citizens, would not be immediately recognizable."

The man with gonorrhea eating the chestnut is thought to be the Chancellor Toda Yamashiro no kami Tadayoshi (1823-51: 戸田山城守忠温). His coat of arms, the rokuyōsei (六 曜 星) (a constellation with six stars on the periphery) decorates his robe.

"Deshi, the "assistant" with a mallet and chisel is said to be Endō Tajima no kami Taneo 遠藤但馬守胤緒. His coat of arms kikkō ni hanabishi 亀甲に花菱 (flowers in tortoise shell) indicates Endō, who probably had a special relationship with Anekōji."

We would like to give special thanks to the research conducted by Noriko Deushi Brandl in her 2009 doctoral dissertation 'Die nishiki’e-Karikaturen von Kuniyoshi' at the Universität Wien. It helped us to unlock the mysteries and the joys of this triptych.



1) in black and white in 原色浮世絵大百科事典 (Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten), vol. 5, p. 136.

2) in a small black and white reproduction in "L'ukiyo-e come arte «di uso e consumo»" by Manuela Capriati, Il Giappone, Vol. 41 (2001), fig. 11, p. 58.

3) 'The Formation of an Impure Genre—On the Origins of "Manga" ' by Miyamoto Hirohito, Review of Japanese Culture and Society, Vol. 14, Meiji Literature and the Artwork, December 2002, p. 41.


There is also another copy of this print in the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden.

Enshūya Hikobei (遠州屋彦兵衛) (publisher)
mitate-e (見立て絵) (genre)
comic prints (giga - 戯画 / kyōga - 狂画) (author)