This trailblazing study examines the history of narcotics in Japan to explain the development of global criteria for political legitimacy in nations and empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Japan underwent three distinct crises of sovereignty in its modern history: in the 1890s, during the interwar period, and in the 1950s. Each crisis provoked successively escalating crusades against opium and other drugs, in which moral entrepreneurs--bureaucrats, cultural producers, merchants, law enforcement, scientists, and doctors, among others--focused on drug use as a means of distinguishing between populations fit and unfit for self-rule. Moral Nation traces the instrumental role of ideologies about narcotics in the country's efforts to reestablish its legitimacy as a nation and empire.
As Kingsberg demonstrates, Japan's growing status as an Asian power and a "moral nation" expanded the notion of "civilization" from an exclusively Western value to a universal one. Scholars and students of Japanese history, Asian studies, world history, and global studies will gain an in-depth understanding of how Japan's experience with narcotics influenced global standards for sovereignty and shifted the aim of nation building, making it no longer a strictly political activity but also a moral obligation to society.
Moral Nation Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History
Moral Crusade in Meiji Japan
"How came any reasonable being," the writer Thomas De Quincey asked in 1821, "to subject himself to such a yoke of misery, voluntarily to incur a captivity so servile, and knowingly fetter himself with such a seven-fold chain?" De Quincey's captor was opium, and his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater became a classic of Victorian literature and the forerunner of a new genre, still vibrant today: the addict memoir. The comparison of addiction to slavery, one of the most controversial issues of the nineteenth century, invested opium with particular political significance. In an age that defined sovereignty in opposition to the contemporary reality of unfree labor, dependence of any kind appeared incompatible with nationhood. Given this resonance, opium was a logical moral target during crises of political legitimacy.
De Quincey specifically identified himself as an "English" opium eater because his compatriots typically associated enslavement to drugs with "Orientals," subjects of empire-building by Europeans and Americans. Nineteenth-century Japan, taking its cue from Britain's subordination of China in the Opium War of 1839-42, came to view the exclusion of narcotics as a precondition of maintaining independence. But mere rejection of opium was not enough to "leave Asia [datsu-A]"-that is, to distinguish a sovereign Japan from a colonizable "Orient." During the crisis of legitimacy caused by the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, moral entrepreneurs used positive abstinence from narcotics to signify the civilization of the Japanese nation. Attributing the weakness of the vanquished Qing empire to opium, they sought to sever Japan's attachment to a continent enslaved by narcotics. The acquisition of Taiwan, a spoil of war, transformed the state into an empire akin to the great powers of the West, and provided further opportunities to demonstrate adherence to global norms of nationhood by suppressing the opium market. By the time the moral crusade against narcotics subsided around the turn of the twentieth century, Japan had, in the eyes of many, achieved its goal of "entering the West [nyū-Ō]." Perhaps even more importantly, the state won the right to participate in framing the standards of civilization. The moral nation was drug-free.
In the late eighteenth century, China under the Qing dynasty grew rich exporting tea, silk, and ceramics to Great Britain. Facing a steadily worsening trade deficit, the island empire was relieved to discover a latent demand for opium in the Chinese market. The East India Company, which administered South Asia on behalf of the British government, allocated large tracts of colonized territory for poppy cultivation, selling opium to the Qing in exchange for goods desired by consumers in the metropole. By the 1830s, this so-called triangular trade had brought about a balance of exchange unfavorable to China, prompting the state to attempt to ban the drug. Britain's determination to continue the traffic ultimately enmeshed the two empires in the Opium War. Following China's defeat, the Treaty of Nanjing legalized British narcotics exports and conferred other privileges on the victor, including possession of Hong Kong island, extraterritoriality, reparations, and trade concessions.
From the perspective of early nineteenth-century China and Britain, the primary danger of opium was its financial cost to the state. After 1842, rising circulation of the drug in the Qing empire prompted attention to its social impact. Although numerous Britons and Americans earned considerable fortunes selling narcotics in China, in the decade after the Opium War, many Western observers came to consider the business unsavory, associating both traders and consumers with immorality and Otherness. Christian missionaries in China returned home to spread a gospel of horror that specifically emphasized the dangers of smoking opium, an unfamiliar practice that violated Euro-American notions of propriety. Although opium consumption was common throughout the West, the drug was generally ingested orally, in laudanum, patent medicines, or other beverages. The pipe distinguished "Oriental" narcotics use as particularly recreational and degenerate. Long after most Chinese consumers had given up smoking in favor of injecting drugs, stereotypes of dazed, recumbent "yellow" specimens wreathed in fumes continued to furnish evidence of "Oriental deviance" to the Western public.
In the context of rising public opposition to opium trafficking, in 1853 the United States dispatched Commodore Matthew C. Perry to initiate trade and diplomatic relations with Japan, then officially closed to most foreign contact. The following year, the Treaty of Kanagawa opened five Japanese ports and political intercourse between the two states. In a critical follow-up agreement in 1858, the United States pledged to refrain from exporting opium to the archipelago. Despite its seclusion, Japan had received news of the Opium War and had come to view a ban on drugs as a necessary safeguard of sovereignty. The antinarcotics stance of Japanese negotiators, however, would likely have had little impact had America not been willing to voluntarily eschew the traffic. While the Second Opium (Arrow) War of 1856-60 raged between Qing China on one side and Great Britain and France on the other, the United States embraced the opportunity to assert its moral superiority over European rivals. Moreover, in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, some Americans feared that demand for opium might reduce Japan's ability to purchase the manufactured products they wished to export. Most European powers, including Great Britain, Holland, France, and Russia, followed the American example in signing treaties prohibiting their citizens from bringing opium to Japan. China alone did not consent to voluntary export restrictions, on the grounds that the Qing government had itself forfeited such protection by the terms of the Treaty of Nanjing.
Having observed the impact of opium on China's financial solvency and international standing, many Japanese hoped to proscribe it completely. Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the new government proclaimed, "Opium is a product that decreases a person's energy and shortens life. . . . [I]t will lead to disaster if it spreads among the public." However, the drug was too deeply embedded in the domestic medical tradition to reject altogether. Legislation in 1870 required doctors and pharmacists to record and report quantities of opium sold as medicine. Following a nationwide survey in 1874-75, the government restricted poppy cultivation to its own permit holders. The newly created Sanitation Bureau took charge of procuring raw opium (mostly from Persia and Turkey), processing it into paste, and distributing the output through a network of offices in Japan's major cities. In the wake of a series of well-publicized violations, the 1880 Criminal Code set forth penalties for the illicit import, manufacture, sale, possession, and use of opium and smoking paraphernalia. Japanese violators faced fines and prison terms. Cases involving Westerners, granted extraterritoriality by the terms of the unequal treaties of the 1850s, were decided in consular courts. The state deported Chinese offenders.
The near exclusion of opium from the home islands made the drug available as a marker of difference between Japan and its neighbors. Establishing Japan as an independent nation-state entailed "leaving Asia": separating the country from an "Orient" defined by backwardness, even barbarity, in the Western mindset, and from China in the domestic conception. In the premodern period, Japanese intellectuals had periodically attempted to distill a native essence from the contributions of Chinese civilization. This effort reached new heights at the end of the nineteenth century. Sinologists were among the first critics of opium as the origin and outcome of China's weakness. Many Japanese scholars who visited the Qing empire in its final decades professed alarm and horror at the impact of the drug on their country's historical cultural mentor. Oka Senjin (1832-1913) spent nearly a year in China in 1884-85. Although initially reverential toward Sinic civilization, Oka became disillusioned when he learned that the prominent Chinese reformer Wang Tao, whom he had long admired, was an opium smoker. Oka abhorred the sight of public smoking in Shanghai and other treaty ports. He gazed in wonder at drug users who lay prone "as though sleeping . . . as though drunk . . . or as though dead." His 1886 travelogue concluded by urging Japan to "secede [ridatsu]" from China.
With the exception of a few elites-like Oka, who could afford continental travel-the impressions of most Meiji-era Japanese regarding China were shaped at home by encounters with Qing migrants, either directly or through the media. Following the abrogation of Japan's seclusion policy, Chinese accompanied Westerners as compradors, domestic servants, and translators to treaty ports throughout the archipelago. By the mid-1890s, about five thousand Qing subjects resided in the home islands. As a percentage of all nineteenth-century Chinese emigrants, and by comparison with the number of settlers in the American West, this community was all but insignificant. Nonetheless, Chinese denizens represented the largest "foreigner" population in Japan at the time. As in Europe and the United States, Qing subjects became defined by the unfamiliar practice of opium smoking. "Of all the immoral customs of Chinese migrants, opium smoking and gambling are the most egregious and hardest to correct," lamented one Japanese sinologist.
The nineteenth-century nation demanded a rationally organized population, delineated through the negative labeling and exclusion of the Other as a deviant or social problem (shakai mondai). In the language of social Darwinism, which was introduced to Japan in the late 1870s and achieved near hegemony among the intellectual elite, the prohibition of opium in the home islands demonstrated the "fitness" of the nation and its divergence from a shamed and dependent China. Social Darwinism also supplied various biological metaphors for narcotics. The analogy of poison, an especial preoccupation of nineteenth-century society, dominated early presentations of opium in Japan. The word chūdoku (literally, "internal poisoning") emerged as a translation of the Western concept of opium addiction. Oka Senjin attributed Qing China's decline in part to suffering from the disease of smoke poisoning (endoku). "If the poisons of smoking and traditional thought are not wiped out, China will become completely impotent," he warned.
In the late nineteenth century, the steady replacement of the miasma paradigm of disease with germ theory in the new state-led science of public health generated various metaphors involving contagion. For moral entrepreneurs of the 1890s and beyond, contagion (densen), like poison, was associated with impurity, pollution, and the corruption of the body. "The drug evil," bureaucrat Andō Akimichi asserted, "spreads from China like cholera and the plague." In the words of Tazawa Shingo, head of an industrial research institute, opium was a literal vermin (mushi): "In the human body it is said that there are many germs, and in the smoker there is also the germ of opium." According to these writers, opium and the Chinese alike had to be contained for Japan to survive.
A few well-publicized instances of Westerners spreading drugs in Japan also provoked the domestic public. The outrage of these cases, however, derived not from fears of contagion, but rather from the defendant's right to be tried in a consular court and, presumably, escape justice. In the most famous incident, beginning in late 1877, Japanese customs officials apprehended British merchant John Hartley attempting to smuggle fifteen catties of opium into the treaty port of Yokohama. The British authorities put Hartley on trial, but Japanese observers reacted with fury when the judge accepted his defense that the contraband was intended for use as medicine (an exception to the ban). While the verdict was pending, Hartley was arrested a second time for further dealings in opium. In response to the public outcry, the British tried him again. The case ultimately produced no clear judgment for Hartley.
From the Japanese perspective, European and American opium smugglers were merely opportunists taking advantage of a system that could not punish them. By contrast, given Japan's fraught relationship with China, migrant Chinese smokers appeared to pose an acute biological hazard. After several Japanese prostitutes died upon ingesting opium allegedly furnished by Chinese, Japanese foreign minister Mutsu Munemitsu proposed stricter procedures for the suppression of drugs. Among other measures, he authorized police to enter the homes of Chinese denizens without search warrants. This policy resulted in several violent confrontations between Qing migrants and Japanese law enforcement. In the treaty port of Nagasaki in 1883, police killed one individual and wounded five others when a mob attempted to prevent an arrest. The Chinese consulate in Japan protested the incident, but Mutsu's policy remained unchanged.
As tension mounted in the years leading up to the Sino-Japanese War, nascent moral entrepreneurs effectively mobilized the new forum of newspapers to spread public awareness of the threat posed by Chinese opium smokers. Although the first newspaper had appeared in Japan in 1862, at that time few Japanese could read it or understand its purpose. Over the ensuing decades, however, literacy increased thanks to compulsory education, and the circulation of dailies skyrocketed. Spokesmen for the state, Meiji newspapers wooed readers with chauvinistic nationalism and advice on "civilized" behavior. As one collective voice among many in the quest to distinguish a modern Japan from a backward Asia, moral entrepreneurs in the press denounced rising levels of opium cultivation and consumption in the Qing empire, as well as the discovery of drugs handled by migrant Chinese in treaty ports or on British or American ships passing through the home islands on their way to the Americas. Many of the accused were conscripted laborers who had become dependent on narcotics during the long voyage to indentured servitude in the West. Rather than representing these hapless smokers as victims, journalists highlighted their potential to contaminate the drug-free domestic population.
In 1894, the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War provoked a crisis of legitimacy in Japan. Incipient alarm over opium flared into a full-fledged moral crusade. To moral entrepreneurs, the conflict between Japan and China was nothing less than a challenge to civilization by barbarian soldiers drained by drug use. The Japanese army allegedly forced captured Chinese opium smokers to detoxify and executed drug users among its own troops to prevent them from returning home to spread their habit. Japan's victory, which shocked its opponent and the world, intensified global convictions that opium had sapped the racial fitness and capacity for nationhood of the Chinese people. The great powers at last came to positively differentiate the Japanese from an imagined mass of "Orientals." In the words of one American writer, "the wide-spread prevalence of the opium habit among all classes of the population" was the source of Chinese inferiority, while "the superiority of Japan in energy and progress" derived from abstinence from narcotics.
Also as a result of the war, the rate of Chinese immigration to Japan slowed considerably and permanently. Many long-term merchants repatriated to the mainland, their businesses ruined by nationalist boycotts of Japanese products and their services no longer required by Western traders. Migrants who remained became the object of the "mixed residence debate [zakkyo mondai]." Japan's victory allowed the nation to reconsider the terms upon which Chinese would be allowed to settle in the home islands. Policymakers considered banning immigration from the mainland altogether or restricting Chinese to segregated neighborhoods. Opponents of these proposals objected to singling out Qing subjects from other foreigners for particular discrimination. They also cited practical obstacles: given the ethnic and geographic proximity of the Japanese and Chinese, one reporter declared, "it is not possible to hold ourselves a thousand miles apart from the Chinese race." Allowing Qing migrants to live among the domestic population, however, risked spreading "unhygienic, evil customs," including drug use, to "impressionable" Japanese. Moral entrepreneurs viewed the burgeoning population of industrial laborers, so important to the national economy, as particularly vulnerable to contamination. Narcotics, they pointed out, could compromise worker efficiency at the very moment of Japan's economic takeoff. "The Chinese who come to our country to live must be controlled according to our hygiene regulations, and their harmful behavior [using drugs] must be prohibited," one writer concluded.
Data on the criminal prosecution of drug offenses provided moral entrepreneurs with additional ammunition against the opium-smoking Other. Japanese violators of the ban on handling and consuming narcotics were said to be "so few that [they] scarcely . . . entered into the statistics" and were limited to "those who had had a close relation with the Chinese." In fact, however, Chinese offenders were hardly more numerous. In the two decades between 1890 and 1911, police arrested only 338 foreigners of all nationalities for transgressing anti-opium legislation. Given the fraught relationship between narcotics and nationhood, the Japanese judicial system spared no effort in bringing traffickers to justice. The small number of violations suggests that moral entrepreneurs considerably exaggerated the threat of Chinese opium trafficking.
In 1899, the Japanese government resolved the mixed residence debate by enacting stringent controls on the in-migration of Chinese. This policy created a vacuum in the unskilled labor market that was soon filled by Koreans, subjects of a Japanese protectorate from 1905 and a colony from 1910. Over the next decade, Koreans replaced the Chinese as the largest minority population in Japan. As they filled the economic niche the Chinese had vacated, they too came to be stigmatized as narcotics users and a menace to the national body (see chapter 3). In the age of nation building, opium was more than a drug; it was a symbolic marker of difference between the Japanese and the Other, whoever that was.
"Entering the West"
In addition to deploying opium to "leave Asia," moral entrepreneurs of the Sino-Japanese War era also sought to "enter the West," or to make Japan part of the international community of sovereign states by demonstrating "civilization and enlightenment [bunmei kaika]." The rejection of narcotics not only justified Japan as a nation, but also normalized abstinence as a criterion of legitimacy in all states.
Framing Japan as a drug-free nation prompted reflection upon how the country had avoided the social and financial catastrophe of large-scale opium use. Moral entrepreneurs tied Japan's evasion of narcotics to nearly every facet of public life. Confident rhetoric notwithstanding, frequent use of the word nigeru ("escape")betrayed ongoing uncertainty regarding the superiority and even survival of the Japanese state. Later explanations of abstinence often cited the rational character, pure blood, and developed culture of the Japanese. Simplicity and patriotism, virtues traditionally ascribed to the early modern samurai elite, were generalized to the entire population. In the context of early twentieth-century state efforts to cultivate emperor worship, several moral entrepreneurs also credited the protection of Shintō gods (kami). Imbuing the archipelago with almost magical powers in accordance with religious views of the home islands as the offspring of divinities, Kikuchi Yūji argued that physical isolation had spared the Japanese from the contagion of addiction. Japan's temperate climate, moreover, protected the people from gastroenterological diseases such as cholera, for which opium was a treatment.
Although many moral entrepreneurs commended the prescience of the pre-Meiji government in forbidding opium imports, they generally failed to credit the Western powers for voluntarily renouncing narcotics exports. The drug-free nation was a domestic triumph that set Japan apart from and above its politically weak neighbors. In the words of one sinologist, abstinence "was not due to a foreign reason. That is to say, no matter how favorable external conditions were, Japan was still the only nation [in Asia] to prohibit opium."
The incorporation of abstinence into the national identity was to some extent a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because opium smoking was not a Japanese behavior, narcotics consumers could not be Japanese. An American observer described the public stance toward drug users in the late Meiji period:
The Japanese to a man fear opium as we fear the cobra or the rattlesnake, and they despise its victims. There has been no moment in the nation's history when the people have wavered in their uncompromising attitude towards the drug and its use, so that an instinctive hatred of it possesses them. . . . [W]oe betide [a Japanese] if he resorts to the seductions of opium."
By the 1930s, the novelist Dazai Osamu, a heavy user of opiates for most of his adult life, believed that his condition permanently "branded him on the forehead as a reject" from the national community. "I presented the figure of a ragged and half-mad derelict. . . . I was the basest, most reptilian young man in Japan," he wrote. Another Japanese youth remembered his years as an addict as a time of worthlessness and hopelessness. Upon regaining his health, he asserted his intention to become a "splendid citizen [rippa na kokumin]" and join the national army.
In building a drug-free nation, moral entrepreneurs of the late 1890s skillfully engaged Western understandings of opium, demonstrating civilization through mastery of Euro-American thought. Many late nineteenth-century intellectuals viewed the use of some consciousness-altering agent as fundamental to all peoples. Substances were arranged in a hierarchy pegged to the racial status of their consumers. Representing the essence of the Occident and the Orient, respectively, drink and drugs assumed values reflecting normative rather than scientific criteria. Pursuing dissociation from China and identification with the West, moral entrepreneurs identified Japan as an alcohol- as opposed to opium-consuming nation.
In Europe and the United States, critics of narcotics were isolated voices within a temperance movement that deemed drink the primary agent of social decay. A few moderate reformers even insisted that the soporific effects of opium were more benign than those of alcohol, which produced disorder and rowdiness. One doctor wrote, "That drunkenness and the immoderate use of alcohol are the occasion of greater evils, whether physical or moral, or individual and society, than those attendant on the free use of opium, however indulged in, I should be quite ready to concede." An English missionary in China fretted lest "the beer saloon shall take the place of the abolished opium dens." By contrast, many Japanese viewed rising domestic consumption of alcohol, particularly beer, spirits, and other Western beverages, as a sign of advancing civilization. Only Japan's small temperance movement argued that "the alcohol problem, which is so much deeper and has so much wider an import, should receive more attention than the issue of opium." The anti-alcohol lobby did not, however, depict sake (rice wine) consumption as a form of deviance like narcotics use. As one moral entrepreneur concluded, "There is no comparing opium to sake. If one tries opium once or twice, one descends into addiction and cannot stop oneself from smoking again."
Although narcotics in fin-de-siècle Europe and America were seen as inimical to national values such as liberty, individualism, capitalism, patriotism, and civic engagement, the great powers did not particularly identify themselves as drug-free. It was imperialist interest in China that made the West receptive to abstinence as a signifier of legitimate nationhood. Prior to the Sino-Japanese War, the great powers conducted a form of "treaty port colonialism" that sought economic rather than territorial concessions from China. Japan's victory over the formerly robust Qing dynasty, however, eroded confidence in the ability of the Chinese government to guarantee foreign privileges. Convinced that the conquest of China by any single state would fatally upset the balance of power, the nations of Europe and the United States committed to the Open Door policy, pledging to respect the integrity of the Qing empire while guaranteeing unfettered access to trade for all. The decision not to "carve the Chinese melon" left it available for informal imperialism in the form of so-called spheres of influence. Allowing Japan entry to the club of legitimate states on the grounds of national abstinence helped keep China out, and the ongoing ambiguity of Chinese sovereignty was a source of potential profit for all.
As a result of these considerations, many Westerners came to echo the Japanese in valorizing abstinence from narcotics as an indication of racial superiority. One Spanish missionary wrote, "The morality, the refinement, and the differences of society established on a more enlightened and cultured foundation call out, 'Halt!' against the adoption of the opium vice among Europeans. . . . Our society enjoys diversions of mind and body more agreeable than those of reclining upon the bed of an opium den." The great powers also adopted unprecedented measures to criminalize narcotics at home. In response to both international and domestic pressures, Food and Drug Acts in Germany (1903 and 1907) and the United States (1906) mandated the full and accurate disclosure of ingredients in pharmaceutical preparations. In 1909, the United States also passed the Smoking Opium Exclusion Act to prevent the spread of a practice identified with Chinese immigrants in the West. Meanwhile, Great Britain updated and strengthened labeling regulations for the protection of consumers with the Poisons and Pharmacy Act of 1908.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Japanese had left Asia, but whether they had entered the West remained a subject of debate. The country had Westernized but was not Western; it was an independent civilized state, but its people were not equal representatives of civilization. One British writer compared Japan's embrace of modernity to putting on a garment: despite his approving tone, the analogy made clear his conviction that the transformation was superficial. Joshua Rowntree, a Quaker leader of the anti-opium campaign, believed that "every civilized people in the world would do as the Japanese did" in rejecting opium. Yet he too questioned the degree to which the nation was truly "enlightened": "Japan had only decided to exchange the protection of isolation for the 'protection of mimicry.' It is too soon yet to reach any final conclusions as to the results." To Rowntree, the Japanese were a nation of "mimic men," Asian in race but Euro-American in tastes, opinions, ideologies, and morals-"almost the same but not white."
Abstinent Nation, Addicted Empire
The Sino-Japanese War established the victor as an empire as well as a nation. By the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which restored peace in April 1895, Japan acquired the island of Taiwan from China. During negotiations, Li Hongzhang, representing the Qing government, warned his Japanese counterpart Itō Hirobumi, "Formosa will, I think, present immense difficulties in the matter of administration, inasmuch as the people there are deeply addicted to the vicious habit of opium-smoking; and should the island come under Japan's rule, it will cause no small trouble to her." Japan's determination to take possession of Taiwan overwhelmed this appeal to its much-vaunted distaste for narcotics. After much deliberation, the Diet decided to administer the new colony according to the Meiji Constitution, promulgated six years earlier in 1889. As a result, the Taiwanese became Japanese subjects. By law, the "Japanese" were no longer drug-free.
The acquisition of a colony fueled Japan's claims of parity with the imperial powers of the West. The metropole sought to administer Taiwan in a suitably civilized manner, replacing "backward" native customs with modern hygiene, industry, and development. But how could a nation predicated on abstinence rule an empire of addicts? Although moral entrepreneurs spoke of opium as "a matter of national honor before the entire world," initial intervention in island affairs proved both embarrassing and costly. The Japanese takeover of Taiwan ignited sustained and violent opposition, prompting a bloody "pacification" campaign by the imperial army. With the Diet in despair, prime minister Itō Hirobumi solicited the advice of Dr. Gotō Shinpei (1857-1929), a bureaucrat in the Home Ministry.
Though young, Gotō had already built a national reputation due to his rapid progress through the medical ranks and his role in developing public health. His philosophy of "biological colonialism [seibutsugaku no gensoku]" called for Japan to acquire an intimate understanding of Taiwanese customs and traditions as the basis for an organic, scientific, and unassailable campaign to modernize the island. In social Darwinist terms, biological colonialism would help the Japanese regime adapt to its environment and transform the Taiwanese from "barbarians" into civilized and enlightened subjects. Gotō's philosophy was thus a humanitarian rationalization of imperialism that cultivated legitimacy for Japanese rule through a display of concern for the welfare of the local population, including opium smokers.
At Itō's request, Gotō supervised a thorough survey of the land and customs of Taiwan, including drug use. He counted approximately 170,000 opium smokers, representing over 6 percent of the population. Quantification of the social problem of drug use fed demands for action to contain it, but the ideological entanglement of opium and nationhood in Meiji Japan constrained policy choices. Although metropolitan leaders wished to encourage Japanese migration to Taiwan, the better to subjugate and extract resources from the island, they feared that local opium smokers might lead settlers astray. Immediately upon taking power, the colonial regime, known as the Office of the Governor-General (Taiwan Sōtokufu), declared that any Taiwanese caught supplying drugs to Japanese army troops would be punished with death. The administration subsequently extended this penalty to the sale of narcotics to civilians.
The transplantation of the domestic moral crusade against narcotics to the empire bespoke the ongoing fragility of Japan's identity as a drug-free nation. The belief that the Japanese were biologically or culturally inured to opium existed alongside potent and inexpressible insecurity that abstinence could and would be breached. In his November 1895 "Memorandum on the Formosan Opium Policy" (Taiwan ahen seido ni kansuru iken sho), Gotō Shinpei acknowledged these concerns: "As the Japanese go to the island in large numbers and come in close contact with the natives, and as some of them may contract the evil habit [drug use], it is easy to see that there is a serious danger of it spreading into Japan. . . . Therefore the adoption of suppression measures in Formosa is very urgent." Gotō also pointed out the legal contradiction in severely punishing opium consumption among some imperial subjects (the Japanese), while condoning such behavior among others (the Taiwanese). The obvious way to eliminate this inconsistency and prevent the contagion of smoking to troops and civilian migrants from the home islands was to prohibit opium immediately, absolutely, and without exception (genkin shugi). Yet as colonial administrators had already discovered, zero-tolerance measures were difficult to implement: in Gotō's (likely exaggerated) estimation, enforcement might require as much as two military divisions.
Having established his opposition to opium and explained the inadvisability of an absolute ban, Gotō introduced his solution: gradual suppression (zenkin shugi) by means of a government monopoly. The monopoly would dispense falling quantities of opium to licensed individual smokers over a period of time, enabling them to wean themselves off the habit with a minimum of suffering. The monopoly would also provide a temporary source of revenue to the state, allowing Taiwan to become financially independent of Tokyo. In addition to these pragmatic advantages, Gotō highlighted the ideological appeal of gradual suppression. By the mid-1890s, all European colonial administrations in Southeast Asia, including the Dutch East Indies, French Indochina, Portuguese Macau, and British Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaya, had brought the opium market under state control. Although Gotō believed in creating institutions to suit local conditions rather than adopting metropolitan or Western models wholesale, he nonetheless hoped that, by implementing a policy ubiquitous among the European powers, Japan might demonstrate its ability to meet the norms of colonial rule.
Another moral entrepreneur, Taiwan's chief civil administrator Mizuno Jun, supported Gotō's idea of an opium monopoly. According to Mizuno, Japan had long deplored "the tragic reality of opium poisoning . . . that had ruined the nation of China and its four hundred million people." Japan now had the opportunity to save the Taiwanese from a similar fate. Mizuno suggested proceeding with caution, however: with armed resistance to Japanese rule ongoing, imperial intervention in local customs would likely stimulate violent opposition. He particularly feared inflaming settlers from the Chinese mainland, who might use the prohibition of opium as a cause to muster local support for overthrowing the colonial government. Under these circumstances, gradual rather than immediate suppression of drugs struck him as prudent. In response to critics who feared the interim contagion of opium smoking to Japanese migrants to Taiwan, Mizuno contended that the imperialists were an "active" race, drawn to the stimulant of alcohol and biologically insulated against cravings for the soporific of narcotics. Although some Japanese had been caught trafficking opium, he had learned from military police that these offenders were not using the drug themselves.
Against the consensus of Mizuno and Gotō, some moral entrepreneurs advocated the adoption of immediate suppression measures. Katō Hisayuki of the Home Ministry Sanitation Bureau feared that allowing opium smoking to continue even temporarily would sap the individual and collective racial strength of the Taiwanese. He objected to the proposed monopoly for prioritizing the financial benefit of Japan over the welfare of the colonial subject. Katō called upon his country to "proclaim to the world our government's disinterest in profit" and to "follow the path of humanitarianism and righteousness." In his view, swift suppression of opium would burnish Japan's honor beneath the gaze of the international community. He believed that the abstinent nation-state simply could not accommodate an addicted colony: "Japan and opium are fundamentally incompatible. Wherever the Japanese go, they must get rid of opium."
In early 1897, Ishiguro Tadanori, chief medical inspector for the imperial army in Taiwan, summarized the argument in favor of gradual prohibition in a series of editorials published in the Yomiuri Shinbun, a leading newspaper in the Japanese home islands. Ishiguro acknowledged that a strict and immediate ban on opium was ideal. Nonetheless, as a doctor, he opposed sacrificing the health of the opium-smoking minority to protect the abstinent majority from the contagion of narcotics. If the Japanese government cracked down on drug consumption too abruptly, the moral entrepreneur pointed out, many smokers were likely to die from the agony of withdrawal. Instead of exacerbating the local security situation with an unpopular policy, he advocated cultivating the devotion of the Taiwanese to the new government by stretching prohibition over a longer time frame. As an interim measure, Ishiguro suggested restricting the in-migration of mainland Chinese, who might encourage "backsliding" among the Taiwanese. Ishiguro concluded by appealing to Japan's desire to emulate the great powers of the West, which, as Gotō had noted, all maintained opium monopolies in their Southeast Asian colonies.
Ishiguro's editorial primed Japanese readers to accept the temporary continuation of the narcotic economy in Taiwan on pragmatic grounds. It also preempted objections to the creation of a drug monopoly in the home islands. In 1897, the Diet issued new regulations to tighten state control of Japan's domestic market for medical opium. The establishment of a public monopoly over controlled substances in the Japanese archipelago was among the first but by no means only instances in which innovation in the empire brought about change in the metropole. Under the new system, a government monopoly board assumed responsibility for the importation, processing, and distribution of opium to licensed pharmacists, who recorded and reported all consumer sales. Poppies grown domestically underwent inspection by the Tokyo Hygiene Lab; if their morphine content reached a certain level, the state purchased them from cultivators for a fixed price. Crops that failed to meet the requirement were destroyed.
In Taiwan, meanwhile, the Opium Law of 1897 regulated the sourcing and marketing of drugs. By 1901, the Office of the Governor-General had established a formal monopoly bureau to fully realize control over supply. The regime authorized approximately a thousand petty distributors, mostly local elites, to sell the drug on its behalf. This measure secured the support of many Taiwanese power holders for Japanese rule, thus helping to stabilize colonial control. To regulate consumption, the bureau issued permits to all Taiwanese smokers, redeemable at intervals for a fixed, theoretically falling, quantity of drugs. Setting the price of monopoly opium below that of smuggled opium, the authorities furnished smokers with an economic incentive to join the state registry. Applicants for licenses required the approval of a doctor, but beyond an age minimum of twenty, the physical conditions that qualified a patient for a daily ration of drugs were not elaborated. To discourage nonsmokers from taking up the habit, the state issued permits for a limited time only. The Japanese government reported that the law "was received with great joy not only by the old confirmed smokers themselves, but also by the general public." Whether this "great joy" was genuine or only imagined on the part of the colonizers, the regime found compliance satisfactory. Arrests for violations of the Opium Law dwindled from over a thousand in 1901 to barely fifty in 1905.
Moral entrepreneurs applauded the success of their crusade against narcotics. Naitō Konan was a sinologist of some renown when he arrived in Taiwan in the spring of 1897. As the editor of a Japanese-language daily, the Taiwan nippō (Taiwan news), he made Japan's progress in extirpating opium a headline issue. Under his direction, the paper regularly published (falling) tallies of smokers, traffickers, and retail establishments in the colony. Naitō believed that the eradication of "shocking" practices like opium use would create a more favorable environment for Japanese settlement in Taiwan. Like Gotō, he upheld Japan's responsibility to gradually civilize the Taiwanese. Naitō depicted the Opium Law as a triumph of Japanese humanitarianism over the looming threat of Taiwanese racial extermination. In his words, "Originally, smoking harmed the people of the Qing empire, and drug use drained the state's strength. Naturally, in our country, narcotics are strictly prohibited. Now the Opium Law will, over a period of many years, save the lives of the Taiwanese from the peril of drugs." Although Naitō had once believed that "the predilection of the natives for opium smoking is stronger than the attraction of the Japanese to alcohol," in early 1898 he debuted a more hopeful stance, observing that drinking establishments had grown more numerous over the past year as the Taiwanese, "in the manner of Japanese," substituted sake for narcotics. Meanwhile, another journalist reported that Japanese settlers were successfully resisting the contagion of drugs: of fifty thousand migrants to the island, only two were confirmed smokers. "When I heard this I could not help feeling proud of my race," he applauded.
Although the Opium Law resolved the controversy over immediate versus gradual suppression, moral entrepreneurs continued to deliberate the issue of medical treatment for smokers. A Taiwanese religious society, the Feiluan Jingbihui (Society of the Flying Phoenix and the Divine Will), grew rapidly after advertising a cure for opium "cravings." Members seeking relief placed a pipe in front of an enshrined deity and requested divine assistance. After this ceremony, they received a quantity of holy water containing incense, ashes, and opium. They were told that their desire for drugs would disappear by the time the water had been completely consumed. By 1901, the Feiluan Jingbihui had established branches throughout Taiwan, attracting adherents among the elite as well as common people. A survey by the Japanese administration in September of that year found that the organization had helped 34,370 individuals to quit smoking, out of a total opium user population of 169,064. These remarkable results led the Office of the Governor-General to fear for the profitability of its new Opium Monopoly Bureau. Denouncing the Feiluan Jingbihui as a religious front for anticolonial mobilization, the government swiftly suppressed it.
Japanese doctors, meanwhile, sought to bring addiction treatment under the purview of the state. Public physicians (kōi) experimented with treatments for drug users suffering from withdrawal and overdose. These migrants from the home islands were not technically government employees, but received state subsidies for their work at the district level. In late 1897, they founded a medical society to study the pathology of drug users, among other topics. Already, one public physician claimed, over one hundred opium smokers per day were demanding attention at the new Japanese hospital in Taipei. In 1903, a member of the society published the first Japanese-language research paper on addiction in its journal, the Taiwan Igakkai zasshi (Journal of the Taiwan Medical Association, henceforth referred to as the TIZ). The author unfavorably compared the height and weight of one hundred Taiwanese opium smokers to a control population of abstinent Japanese. Many of his successors, as well as moral entrepreneurs outside the medical discipline, used this tactic of juxtaposing unhealthy subject bodies with robust Japanese to validate imperialist claims of racial superiority.
Despite initial enthusiasm, interest in the clinical treatment of addiction soon waned. The cure of raging tropical diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, came to occupy many doctors. Meanwhile, the suppression of the Feiluan Jingbihui and institutionalization of "civilized" drug regulation helped to legitimize Japanese rule over Taiwan, obviating the moral crusade against opium. Moral entrepreneurs began to call attention to the resolution rather than the crisis of narcotics. From a peak of nearly 170,000 licensed users, accounting for 6.3 percent of the population of Taiwan in 1900, the number of smoking permit holders fell below 100,000 in 1910, 50,000 in 1920, and 25,000 in 1930 (0.5 percent of the population, see Table 2).
Accepting Japan's progress against narcotics at face value, reformers in China and the West applauded and even sought to emulate imperial policy. In 1906, the Qing empire adopted a six-year plan for gradual prohibition, declaring its intention to "Cut [opium] off, root and branch. . . . Know the shame of not being like Japan." To reformers in Europe and the Americas, Japan's success in Taiwan offered lessons for both the metropole and the empire. "The Japanese government puts to the blush our Christian administrations by its prohibition of the importation of opium, not only into Japan, but into Formosa as well," wrote one Canadian missionary. A reporter for the London Times advocated using Japan's antinarcotics campaign as a prototype for alcohol control in Great Britain. Another article about opium suppression appeared in both the London Times and the New York Times under the headline "Savage Island of Formosa Transformed by Japanese: Wonders Worked in a Few Years with a People That Others Had Failed to Subdue-A Lesson for Other Colonizing Nations." Upon asserting control over the Philippines in 1898, the United States appointed an Episcopalian bishop, Charles H. Brent, to lead a survey of nearby colonies in search of the optimal model of drug regulation. In 1903, the report of the Philippine Commission's Opium Investigation Committee praised Japan:
What has been done during the past eight years by this quick-witted, enterprising nation for the benefit of the Formosans . . . has resulted in a state of peace such as probably the history of the island has never before known, even temporarily. Not least in the Japanese campaign of progress has been the attempt to grapple with the opium problem and solve it so far as it touches Formosan life.
Through opium, moral entrepreneurs transformed Japan from an indistinguishable part of the "Orient" and the object of Euro-American imperialist designs into a legitimate, even model, nation-state and empire.