Mold Cultures: Traditional Industry and Microbial Studies in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

  • Victoria LeeEmail author
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 40)


This chapter traces the development and adoption of pure culture in the Japanese fermentation industries as a window onto the relationship between the modernization of the traditional brewing industries and the institutionalization of Western microbiology in the later part of the Meiji period (1868–1912). It argues that skilled workers in the brewing industry—especially the tanekōji makers who specialized in selling dried spore preparations to seed the making of kōji, the rice mold used in sake and soy sauce brewing—shared concerns with academic scientists for isolating, identifying, and preserving microbial strains and investigating their properties. Both the adaptation of foreign technology and the expansion of microbiological research in Japan relied on the close exchange between the two. It further suggests that local industry helped to shape a relatively autonomous and lasting scientific tradition of seeing microbes as living workers as much as pathogens in Japan.


Fermentation industry Japanese science Microbiology Meiji science Sake brewing Soy sauce brewing Yeast culture 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

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