In the 1850s, US President Millard Fillmore used “gunboat diplomacy” to deliver an ultimatum to Japan: either end their isolationist policy and open Japanese ports to US trade, or face a possible attack from the US Navy.
Japan was forced to comply—a concession that led to the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate. In its place rose a new ruling power in Japan: the Meiji emperor. During the Meiji Era, Japan underwent a rapid transformation that included industrialization, an overhaul of its military, and a reformation of professions. Whereas Japanese medical students in the Tokugawa period trained in kampo (classical Chinese medicine), students in the Meiji Era trained in ranpo (allopathic “western” medicine).
Many Japanese medical students traveled to Germany to study ranpo, while others sought their education elsewhere—including Cooper Medical College in San Francisco.