Nagata Tokuhon (永田徳本)

Tokuhon NAGATA (1513 - March 27, 1630) was a doctor living from the late Sengoku Period (period of warring states) to the early Edo period.
He was known as 'Tokuhon in Kai (Province)', and was also described as 'Juroku (sixteen) mon doctor' (mon is a medieval currency unit) or 'Saint Doctor.'
His sobriquets included `Chisokusai` and 'Kanshitsu`. He was a roving doctor who traveled around various provinces, providing medical services at an affordable price.

Brief Personal History

It is said that he was born in Mikawa Province in 1513, the middle of the Sengoku Period, (one of the alternative theories suggests he was born in Yamura, Kai Province). Afterwards, he became a Buddhist monk in Mutsu Province, and in Dewa Province (also called Kashima) he practiced Shugendo (mountain asceticism) and subsequently studied Ii-Zhu medicine (traditional Chinese medicine brought to Japan during the Ming dynasty) under Sanki TASHIRO, Otei, and others. He moved to Shinano Province and then to Kai Province, where it is said that he served as personal doctor to Nobutora TAKEDA and his son Shingen TAKEDA, who were the provincial lords and daimyo in the Sengoku period. It is said that after the expulsion of Nobutora TAKEDA from the territory, Tokuhon lived in Suwa, Shinano Province, and after the downfall of the Takeda clan he traveled around the provinces in Tokai and Kanto districts, offering medicines to poor people free of charge or providing them with medical care at a low price.
According to legend, Tokuhon roamed around the provinces on a cow, medicine bag dangling from his neck and, regardless of the treatment he provided he refused to take more than 16 mon (mon=old minor unit of currency/penny), or possibly 18 mon (according to some sources), lead him to be referred to as 'Doctor 16 pennies.'

He had botanical knowledge, and according to legend when he was 103 years old he engaged in the improvement of grape cultivation (using an overhead trellis method for the vines) (source: 'Koshu')
It is also said that during the Edo period he cured the Seii Taishogun (unifying commander) Hidetada TOKUGAWA of illness (for no charge) however, it is difficult to establish the veracity of this episode. He died in 1630. He was 118 years old. If the record is correct, he enjoyed outstanding longevity for that time. In his final years it is said that he was living in present day Okaya, Nagano Prefecture, and his tombstone can still be found there. He wrote "Baika Mujinzo" (anthology Baika Mujinzo) and "Tokuhon O Jukuho" (nineteen recipes of medicine employed by Tokuhon) among others.

Related anecdotes

The name of today's Japanese pharmaceutical company 'Tokuhon' derives from Tokuhon NAGATA (although there is no direct connection).

His tombstone in Okaya was said to contain a wart-removing spirit, and it was believed that if you knocked the tombstone with a small stone, you would be able to get rid of a wart. The tombstone still has an uneven surface with many pits.

Tradition says that he once admitted young Razan HAYASHI, a son of his friend Nobutoki HAYASHI, as his disciple, but observing that Razan was extraordinarily talented, he encouraged Razan to proceed to other profession.

According to the theory that he was born in Mikawa, he was a younger brother of 長田重元 (Shigemoto OSADA), a descendent of 長田親政 (Chikamasa OSADA), who defeated Yoshitomo MINAMOTO. In short, that would make Tokuhon an uncle of Naokatsu NAGAI (son of Shigemoto who changed his surname), who in turn was a close confident of Hidetada (castle guard) who became seriously ill as mentioned above.

[Original Japanese]