Ask a Kampo Doctor! – Prof. Kenji Watanabe

Welcome to a Kampo UK’s exciting project, “Ask a Kampo Doctor!”!  In this project, a number of great Kampo doctors and Kampo specialists from different countries will be interviewed about their first hand experiences of Kampo medicine in their clinical practices.  Hoping that this will be a great space to learn and be inspired about traditional Japanese medicine, Kampo Igaku 漢方医学.

Our today’s guest is a Kampo doctor in Japan who works on international Kampo classification with WHO and tries to introduce it into international classification of diseases of WHO, Prof. Kenji Watanabe!


Dr. Kenji Watanabe
Prof. Kenji Watanabe

Kampo UK: Thank you for participating in this project.

Kampo UK:  What was the inspiration for you to start using Kampo in your practice?
Prof. Watanabe:  I started to study Kampo soon after entering medical school, because my motivation to be a physician was to be a Kampo doctor. My image of a Kampo doctor is taking care of whole patient’s body and life.

However, my mentor, Dr. Yasuo Otsuka, directed me to be an internist and also to study abroad. So I started Kampo practice after 10 years of my graduation from medical school.

Kampo UK:  What are the most common conditions/illness for which you use Kampo to treat in your practice?
Prof. Watanabe:  Because I work at the Kampo centre at the university hospital, I often have a chance to see patients with cancer, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease or other difficult diseases to treat in Western medicine.

At the same time, I see patients with common disease, such as a headache, dysmenorrhea, eczema,

Kampo UK:  What was the most memorable case throughout your entire practice of Kampo?
Prof. Watanabe:  The patient was a young lady with severe atopic dermatitis. She also had a photosensitivity and could not go out to avoid sunshine. I prescribed her Keishikaogito in decoction. She was resistant to Kampo treatment. However I encouraged her to continue the same formula because her pattern (sho) was not changed.  After 2 years, all the symptoms had gone and her atopic dermatitis was cured all of sudden. She became able to go outside even under sunshine.

I learned the importance of so called Jijyu or 持重 in Japanese (continuing with the same formula provided that patient’s sho is consistent) from this case.

Kampo UK:  Could you share one memorable experience with Kampo that it did not work as well as you would have liked?
Prof. Watanabe:  When I face a difficulty of treatment compared to my expectation, sometimes, I learn the importance of the quality of herbs. For example, Tokishakuyakusan works much better for women’s health disorders, such as dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation or premenstrual syndrome, when I use Yamato Toki in the formula instead of more regular Toki. Also the difference between Ogi and Shingi affects the effectiveness of the treatment of atopic dermatitis.  Ogi and Shingi are also the ingredients used in a certain formula.

We should learn the effectiveness of Kampo treatment is affected by not only practitioner’s skill, but also the quality of herbs.

Kampo UK:  What is the most important lifestyle advice you give patients to maintain good health?
Prof. Watanabe:  Food and exercise are most important in daily life.  Eat seasonal food and avoid stuff which makes a body cold.

In case with allergic diseases, I recommend to avoid oily food and sweets with tons of sugar.

Also the exercise is important to maintain body activity for metabolic syndrome and locomotive syndrome.

Kampo UK:  Thank you for the valuable stories!

** If you would like to read this interview in Japanese, click here.
** ここをクリックするとこのインタービューを日本語でご覧いただけます。

About Prof. Kenji Watanabe
Professor, Keio University
Faculty of Environment and Information Study
Graduate School of Media and Governance
School of Medicine

1984      Resident; Internal Medicine, Keio University Hospital
1988      Clinical Fellow; Internal Medicine (Endocrinology), Keio University Hospital
1990      Research Fellow; Department of Immunology, Tokai University School of Medicine
1991      Postdoctoral Fellow; Department of Genetics, Stanford University Medical Centre
1995      Oriental Medicine Research Centre, Kitasato Institute
2000     Associate Professor; Department of Oriental Medicine, Keio University School of Medicine
2013      Professor, Faculty of Environment and Information Study, School of Medicine, Keio University

Contact Details:
Otsuka Kampo Clinic:


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