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In Japan, schistosomiasis was endemic in Yamanashi Prefecture and a few other hotspot areas where the Miya’iri snail lived. The parasite’s lifecycle relied on the intermediary Miya’iri snail as well as the human host. Parasite eggs passed into the agrarian environment through untreated night soil used as fertiliser or through the culture of open defecation in rural Japan. Manmade rice fields and irrigation ditches, night soil covered paddies and highly refined growing seasons put people in flooded rice paddies to intensively work the land in the spring and summer. The disease was equally dependent on human intervention in the natural world as it was on the natural world intervening in the human body. It is important to stress the role of both the environment and culture in disease causation. This study posits that we view the pre- and post-war national mobilisation to remake the environmental and reform the culture of the rural sector to align with public health mandates and notions of hygienic modernity as a case of total prevention.


This article was originally published in Medical History, volume 66, issue 2, in 2022.

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