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Honzo Zufo

The Illustrated Book of Herbalism, or Honzo Zufo, is one of the first full-fledged botanical books based on herbalism to have been written in Japan. The first edition of the book was published in 1830. It is comprised of annotated illustrations of some 2,920 medicinal plants.

Published in 92 volumes between 1830 and 1844, some of the volumes were printed using woodblocks and hand-colored. Currently only six original sets exist in Japan.

Interestingly the author, Iwasaki Kan’en, was a samurai in the service of the Tokugawa Shogunate. (1603 - 1867) He was also a botanist, a zoologist, and an entomologist. His compendium of medicinal plants dating from the Edo period is his magnum opus.

I could not find much about the history of the Honzo Zufo itself, but I did see an anecdote about the history of the medicinal opium plant in Japan.

Scholars report that Tadatoshi Hosokawa, a 17th century Lord of Kyusyu, Japan ordered the production of opium in 1629. The opium, which was imported from Nagasaki was used for medicinal purposes, such as sedation, analgesia, cough suppression, and hypnosis.

A description of opium imports written by Lord Hosokawa was found in the historical record from the year 1628, in which he said, "I am dissatisfied with the opium ordered (from Nagasaki) so it shall be returned." It may be inferred that Lord Hosokawa desired a commodity of higher quality.


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