Theses Doctoral

Market, Medicine, and Empire: Hoshi Pharmaceuticals in the Interwar Years

Yang, Timothy

This dissertation examines the connections between global capitalism, modern medicine, and empire through a close study of Hoshi Pharmaceuticals during the interwar years. As one of the leading drug companies in East Asia at the time, Hoshi embodied Japan's imperial aspirations, rapid industrial development, and burgeoning consumer culture. The company attempted to control every part of its supply and distribution chain: it managed plantations in the mountains of Taiwan and Peru for growing coca and cinchona (the raw material for quinine) and contracted Turkish poppy farmers to supply raw opium for government-owned refineries in Taiwan. Hoshi also helped shape modern consumer culture in Japan and its colonies, and indeed, became an emblem for it. At its peak in the early 1920s, Hoshi had a network of chain stores across Asia that sold Hoshi-brand patent medicines, hygiene products, and household goods. In 1925, however, the company's fortunes turned for the worse when an opium trading violation raised suspicions of Hoshi as a front for the smuggling of narcotics through Manchuria and China. Although the company was a key supplier of medicines to Japan's military during World War Two, it could not financially recover from the fallout of the opium scandal. In 1952, the industrialist Otani Yonetaro seized control of the company from the Hoshi family. By tracing Hoshi's activities across Japan's expanding empire and beyond, this dissertation shows how private, transnational drug companies such as Hoshi played a vital role in manufacturing and selling Japan as a modern nation and empire. Like many other transnational corporations during the autarkic global climate of the interwar years, Hoshi constantly looked abroad to learn about, borrow, and translate technologies that were circulating across the globe to support the "business" of empire building. Hoshi Pharmaceuticals embodied the symbiotic connections between government and business interests; an ideology of cooperation where the "interests of capital and labor are one"; and adaptations of global, particularly American, technologies of management.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Gluck, Carol
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 18, 2013