Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hot off the presses: The Life of Seinosuke

In yesterday's mail we received, direct from the author and hot off the presses, the new biography of 1895 University of Oregon Medical School graduate Oishi Seinosuke. In The Life of Seinosuke: Dr. Oishi and the High Treason Incident, Kyoto-based author Joseph Cronin sheds new light on the life of this important figure in Japanese history (here is more information on the High Treason Incident).

We're apparently the first American library to get our hands on this new biography. A copy will be available for check out as soon as it's cataloged.

A sampling of passages from the book to whet your appetite:

Oishi introduced a policy of not insisting on payment from his patients sometime about 1902. Prices for drugs and treatment were displayed with the notice "to the degree you can." People who were unable to pay were treated the next time without any loss of civility.... Nishimura Isaku wrote that Oishi disliked rich people and didn't ask for much money from his poorer patients.... There is a story of the richest man in town, who lived just a few doors away, asking Oishi to come and treat him. The fee Oishi later demanded was twice what would have been normal for medicine, and the fee for the house call was one whole yen. The rich man's clerk protested but Oishi said he treated others for free and this steep fee should be considered as the rich man's service to the public. [page 47]

From Oishi's interest in cooking, he opened a restaurant in October using a vacant lot owned by the Nishimura family across from his clinic. The restaurant was named Taiheiyo Shokudo, with a sign in English made by Isaku--the Pacific Refreshment Room. The name was taken from the facts that Shingu looked onto the Pacific Ocean, and that Oishi was a pacifist. Seinosuke didn't only want a restaurant but also a place where young people could gather and read newspapers and magazines. There would also be musical instruments and games for people to play. At first the restaurant did well. However Seinosuke's efforts to educate people in correct table manners led to people not wanting to go anymore. The restaurant opened in October 1904 but closed within two years. [page 56]

In an article of 1 January 1907 Oishi tells about an occasion where he heard people as shouting abunai!--Danger! when in fact they were giving three shouts of manzai!--Hurray! Oishi explains that two things he really dislikes are pickles and shouts of manzai! There's no place as dangerous for him as someplace where either of these may be served up. [page 65]

Oishi had a long piece titled Ima no kanso (My Thoughts Now) published in the 1 January 1910 issue of Muro Shimpo. In it he expresses a lack of satisfaction from his work as a doctor. "I examine the sick, give them medicine, receive money and am able to feed myself. If they get well the patients are glad. If I eat my stomach is satisfied. I presume I've fulfilled my duty as a doctor, but as a human being maybe not. Somehow I don't feel satisfied." [page 87]

From the book blurb on the back cover:

"Oishi Seinosuke (1867-1911) had a life in many acts. He was born in the town of Shingu in Wakayama Prefecture, the son of a proud and eccentric family. He attended Doshisha English School for two years in 1884 to 1886. Traveling to America in 1891, he received a medical degree from the University of Oregon Medical School in 1895. He returned to Japan later that same year but also spent two years in Singapore and India in 1899 and 1900. After his return to Japan he became increasingly radicalized and would get caught up in the High Treason Incident of 1910. In "The Life of Seinosuke" Joseph Cronin tells the basic narrative of Oishi's life. He has found an amount of new material. People who may have imagined there was little more that would be discovered about Oishi will be interested to read this book."

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