Hibyoin (quarantine hospital) (避病院)

Hibyoin was a hospital specialized for infectious diseases built in the Meiji period in Japan.

Background of Hibyoin establishment
In 1876, cholera was brought to Japan from the U.S. Navy ship which came from Amoy, and spread all over Japan. In Japan, because cholera pandemic repeatedly reoccurred and killed many people since the end of the Edo period, the Meiji Government knew the importance of an early countermeasure, so the Meiji Government enacted "Instruction for preventing Cholera" (by prewar Ministry of Home Affairs) and "Temporary rules of Hibyoin" (by Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department). Actually, setting up of Hibyoin started in various parts of Japan to establish a system of patient accommodation and quarantine in about 1878.

Condition of Hibyoin and patients
Hibyoin was a hospital nominally, and could do little treatment for Cholera which was an unknown disease. From the standpoint of today's medical standard, shortage of healthcare professionals at that time also caused Hibyoin to be a facility that only quarantined infected patients. Moreover, at that time, patients and the civilians of Japan regarded 'cholera is a curse', so they often tried to cure it by incantations and prayers, which made the condition worse, then finally sent the patient in terminal condition to Hibyoin.
These cases intensified a rumor that 'nobody could return from Hibyoin alive.'
The government permitted the authorities to send patients to Hibyoin and regulated an incantation and a prayer for a patient by notifications.

Location of Hibyoin
Because of the nature of the situation, Hibyoin was often built in a suburb, and so many patients died one after another that it was sometimes built near a crematory. Prewar topographical maps show these Hibyoin (infectious disease hospital) by using map symbols different from those of general hospitals; this enables to track the above cases.

Because it was a so-called troublesome facility, it was intended to be destroyed as soon as possible after prevalence of a disease.

Its positive disappearance
In 1883, Robert Koch identified the bacterium that caused cholera, so the ways of prevention and treatment for cholera were gradually established and doctors and nurses were adequately provided by modern education system in the middle of the Meiji period. Hibyoin slowly came to play a part as a medical institution and dealt with other infectious diseases such as dysentery and typhoid fever to become a permanent facility.

When the Infectious Diseases Prevention Law was established in March 1897, Hibyoin was legally positioned as an infectious disease hospital and was protected by the law, but the name "Hibyoin" had commonly been used for a long time after that. An infectious disease hospital functioned well when the Spanish Flu and the like was pandemic, and then gradually became a general hospital. After the World War Ⅱ, the number of infectious disease patients dropped drastically by rapid improvement of public health. Most infectious disease hospitals positively disappeared to become general hospitals by closing their isolation wards or expanding their general wards until 1960's.

[Original Japanese]