Thesis (Ph.D)

An investigation of the medical use of thermo-mineral springs found in Misasa (Japan) and Jáchymov (Czech Republic)


This thesis presents an analysis of the beliefs and practices surrounding balneotherapy, a technique that uses waters of natural mineral springs for healing. Balneotherapy as employed in the treatment of mainly chronic, incurable and painful disorders will be used as a tool for revealing the pluralistic medical belief systems in the two cultures chosen for this study, the cultures of Japan and the Czech Republic. This is an ethnographic study based on fieldwork which was carried out in two locations - Misasa Onsen in Japan and Jáchymov in the Czech Republic. Linked by the presence of natural mineral springs with similar properties, by historical connections and by the existence of medical establishments practicing balneotherapy these spas made suitable locations for the study of medical practices and beliefs in different cultural systems of medicine. The two countries support a pluralistic cultural system of medical care into which both cosmopolitan and ethnomedical sets of values are incorporated. While the involvement of cosmopolitan medicine showed great similarities between the two cultures the patients’ constructed experience of illness showed many differences. This thesis argues that these differences are due to cultural factors belonging to the domain of active response to illness acquired during acculturation and deeply embedded sets of cultural notions of illness, health and healthcare. The thesis investigates these cultural factors and sets them in the frameworks of several cultural constructs some of which are common to both cultures but most of which are unique. The practice of balneotherapy in the two countries has developed and changed since the adoption of its theory in the nineteenth century. What has emerged in both cases is a complex method of holistic healing comprising both physiological and psychological elements. It is hoped that this study added to the knowledge of the meanings contained within the medical cultural systems of Japan and Czech Republic.

Attached files


Fraser, A

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Department of Social Sciences


Year: 2012

© Fraser, A
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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