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Kampo is a traditional system of medicine in Japan. It is based on Chinese medicine, which was introduced to Japan in the 400s CE. From the 600s, Chinese medicine became widely studied and practised in Japan. Acupuncturemoxibustion and herbal medicine are all used by traditional practitioners. By the late 900s medical texts were being written in Japanese rather than Chinese. There were also attempts to combine medicine with Buddhist ideas.

Different schools of traditional medicine were developed. Some were more theoretical, and others more practical. The Kohoha movement, which emerged in the mid 1600s, wanted a return to classic Chinese medical texts, but still emphasised practice and observation.

Traditional practitioners became interested in European medicine in the 1600s, which they accessed through Dutch trading posts. They were mainly interested in Western surgery, but still used Chinese concepts for treating illness. Entrepreneurs also developed patent medicines. These were sold in small shops without the need for a consultation.

In 1876 the Japanese government made the study of Western medicine compulsory for physicians. However, it did not forbid Kampo, so many doctors still practised it. The second half of the 20th century saw a Kampo revival. Most modern Japanese doctors have studied biomedicine, but they can also prescribe traditional treatments and herbs. Since 1976 the national health insurance scheme has paid for some traditional remedies.


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The name given to the medical practice that is based on the sciences of the body, such as physiology (the functioning of the body).