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Rangaku and Westernization

Author(s): Marius B. Jansen


Source: Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 18, No. 4, Special Issue: Edo Culture and Its Modern Legacy
(1984), pp. 541-553
Published by: Cambridge University Press
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Modern
AsianStudies,i8, 4 (I984), PP.541-553. Printedin GreatBritain.

Rangaku and Westernization


MARIUS

B. JANSEN

PrincetonUniversity
THE continuities between the study of the West through Dutch in

TokugawaJapan and the program of modernization in the Meiji period


seem self evident. The influence of Holland through Deshima became
the focus of the life work of Itazawa Takeo and others well before the
war, and it received detailed discussion from Charles Boxer in 1936.
Nevertheless issues of the importance and influence of Tokugawa
rangakucontinue to be debated, and that debate greatly enriches our feel
for Japanese society then and now.
Rangakuwas one of the products of a Tokugawa seclusion system that
made it difficult and intriguing to secure knowledge of the Western
world. Seclusion heightened awareness ofJapan's position on the edge of
two world orders and it made for nervousness as well as curiosity. In
some sense the very consciousness of the system came rather late and, as
Ronald Toby points out, was a product of the Dutch influence. The
word sakokuwas coined by Shizuki Tadao in 180I when he was ordered
to translate Kaempfer's defense of the system by the authorities.'
It is important to note with Toby that the seclusion system was far
from total. In fact, limiting the apertures from which the West could be
observed probably had the effect of attracting viewers to those apertures
and sharpening their focus. The visits of the Dutch provided structured
access to the import of books and information. Even Kaempfer, writing
at a time when interest in the West was minimal, could see 'scarce any
other purpose' in the Dutch presence 'but that the Japanese might be by
their means informed of what passes in other parts of the world.' The
Dutch were obliged to submit regular reports (filsetsugaki) about the
outside world. In examining these one realizes how imperfect and
1 Ronald P. Toby, 'Reopening the Question of Sakoku: Diplomacy in the Legitimization of the Tokugawa Bakufu', Journal of Japanese Studies 3: 2 (Summer 1977), p. 323.
Kaempfer's conclusion was thatJapan's peace and prosperity must persuade its citizens
'That their Country was never in a happier condition than it now is, governed by an
arbitrary Monarch, shut up, and kept from all Commerce and Communication with
foreign nations.' Kaempfer'sHistory of Japan (tr. J. G. Scheuchzer, Glasgow, 19o6), Vol.
III, p. 336.

oo26-749X/84/o70o8-090205.oo

? 1984 Cambridge University Press.


541

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MARIUS

B. JANSEN

inadequate their contents were. Particularly where Holland itself was


concerned, the self interest of the reporters made for dishonesty and
distortions. Thus the American and French Revolutions and the
Napoleonic invasion of Holland were reported belatedly in the hope of
concealing the fact that Deshima authorities were having to.charter
American ships.2 Where the self interest of the Hollanders was not
concerned, however, and as the Japanese began to develop additional
sources with which to check these reports,Jfisetsugakiincreased in value.
Nevertheless it can be said that this sort of consistent, structured access
to knowledge, and the willingness to take note of their information,
provided a striking contrast to the state of contemporary affairs in Korea
and China. Korea, despite formal diplomatic relations with Japan and
China, was truly closed, and China, while not formally closed at all, was
made so by the indifference of its elite.
In some respects Holland was an ideal bridge to the West for
Tokugawa Japan; small enough to be unthreatening, and central
enough to serve as funnel for European learning, most of which was
speedily translated into Dutch. The Nagasaki post also made the East
India Company an attractive opportunity for remarkable EuropeansKaempfer, Thunberg, von Siebold--who wished to learn aboutJapan.
One can deplore with Donald Keene the lack of intellectual curiosity on
the part of many of the Hollanders, but one must note their service in
providing the channel for so much of quality in the reports of surgeons
and occasional chief factors.3
The facts and chronology of the spread of rangakuare not in dispute,
and its relationship to the broader stream of Tokugawa intellectual life
becomes more clear with the development of scholarship in Japan.
Techniques and knowledge transmitted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were used throughout the century that followed, and
that contribution remained an integral part of Tokugawa medical
knowledge. A large-scale import of books from China included much of
scientific importance, and the flow increased in value after Yoshimune's
relaxation of regulations in I720. Dissections brought awareness of the
2 Sat6 Shasuke,
rYgakushi no kenkyu (Tokyo: Chfi6 K6ron, I980), pp. 146-8. The
French Revolution was reported, though most inadequately, in 1794. American
independence became known only in 1808 when Doeffwas interrogated after the Phaeton
incident, and when it became important for the Dutch to separate themselves from any
association with England. Fisetsugaki never clarified these problems. Honda and others
took the American ships for English. For the fusetsugaki, Iwao Sei'ichi (ed.), Oran
fusetsugaki shisei (Tokyo, Nichiran gakkai, Vol. 2, 1979), PP.
98ff.
3 Donald Keene, The Japanese Discoveryof Europe(Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1969), PP. 7-8.

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inadequacy of Chinese anatomical lore before the celebrated day when


Sugita Gempaku and his friends stood watching at Kotsugahara in
177I, though the earlier cases did not lead to a determination to work
from experiment and observation in the future. Sugita himself was
influenced by Ogyii Sorai's discussion of military strategy, with its
emphasis on the need to allow for the topography of the battlefield.
'Sorai', he wrote, 'writes that true warfare is very different from what
so-called masters of the art of war teach us. Topography may be hilly or
flat, and armies may be strong or weak. One cannot make identical
cut-and-dried preparation that will be right for all times and all
places.. .'.4 Received wisdom was to be checked against experience and
observation, and by that test Tafel Anatomia proved its superiority.
There followed the famous translation exercise, and many more by
many others. By the time Sugita completed his Rangaku kotohajimein
1815 he could observe that 'Today rangakuis very widespread. Some
people study it earnestly, and the uneducated talk about it thoughtlessly
and with exaggeration.'" Its products, he thought, could be compared
with the vast corpus of Chinese learning that had required much longer
and more official sponsorship for transmission. Yet even Sugita was
willing to grant that 'Chinese studies prepared our mind.' One can take
all this as reminder of the need to consider rangakuas a branch of, and not
a departure from, the broad stream of Tokugawa intellectual activity.
But the difficulties created by the Tokugawa system for the orderly
development of rangakuwere real enough. One major problem derived
from the difficulty of communication between separate and largely
isolated communities. At Nagasaki the guild of official interpreters that
was set up to service the trade with Deshima was headed by four senior
interpreters (oppertolken)who, with assistants, apprentices, and students
supervised a community of many more. Kaempfer reported 'no less than
one hundred and fifty persons' in Genroku times; Tsurumi counts
fifty-two interpreters (divided into three ranks) in Bunsei when Takano
Choei came to Nagasaki, and Fukuchi Gen'ichir5 gives one hundred
and forty in late Tokugawa days.6 These people had whatever access the
4 Sugita, 'Keiei yawa,' in Korin sosho (rev. edn, Tokyo, Shibunkaku, 1971), p. io6,
quoted and discussed in Sat6 Sh6suke, rYgaku kenkyijosetsu (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten
1964), p. 60. Sun Tzu, as William Atwell has pointed out to me, had said the same thing
a good deal earlier.
5 Sugita, 'Rangaku kotohajime,' in Haga T6ru (ed.), Nihon no meich6,Vol. 22: Sugita
Gempaku,Hiraga Gennai, Shiba Kbkan (Tokyo: Chfi6 K6ron, I97i), p. I3I.
6 Tadashi Yoshida, 'The Rangaku of Shizuki Tadao: The Introduction of Western
Science in TokugawaJapan,' unpub. Ph.D. Dissertation (Princeton University, 1974),
p. 66; also Tsurumi Shunsuke, Tanaki ChJei (Tokyo: Asahi, I975), p. 90.

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authorities permitted to the resident Dutch, who might or might not


include someone of intellectual quality and interest. No group as
concentrated could be found elsewhere in Japan, and it is understandable that for the last century of Tokugawa rule 'study abroad' in
Nagasaki posed an inviting and exciting opportunity for those who
could manage to do it. At Edo there was a smaller and more varied
community of medical specialists. For them opportunity for first-hand
contact with Hollanders could come only when a Deshima party arrived
on sankin-k6tai,something that took place annually from 1633 to 1764,
biennially until 179o, and every four years between then and 1850, the
last trip, for a total of 16
i times.7 Even those fortunate enough to be
present at one of the question and answer sessions held with the Dutch in
Edo found it difficult to receive attention. In I794 Otsuki Gentaku,
unable to pose his question, noted that he would have to wait four years
for his next chance.
Communication between the two groups of specialists was also
difficult. Some time in the I780s the Nagasaki interpreter, Shizuki
Tadao (i758-i 8o6), wrote Otsuki Gentaku that a servant of his had just
been conscripted as coolie for a daimyo procession to Edo, and so he was
taking advantage of this to write to ask him for 'any book you have there
that describes stimulating and interesting theories of physics or
astronomy, whether in Chinese or a Western language. I would
particularly like to see a mathematics book on logarithms you said you
were writing
....

Lexicographical difficulties were also severe and put a premium on


access to friendly and expert counsel. A translation of a dictionary was
completed only in I796. Later versions of this ('Halma') dictionary,
finished in 1833, were not published until
Thus for the entire
i855.
era
had
to
work
with
borrowed
or copied
rangakusha
pre-Perry
dictionaries. Nevertheless the intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm that
one sees in Shizuki and Otsuki could and did overcome such difficulties.
In fact, it sometimes seems that the very difficulty of the endeavor added
zest to the challenge for its practitioners.
Political repression proved more difficult to overcome, and this was
certain to follow as soon as rangakumoved beyond medicine and science
to discussions of national policy based upon a knowledge of world affairs.
The 'reforms' associated with regimes headed by Matsudaira Sadanobu
7 Although Sat6, in r6gakushi kenkyi~josetsu,p. o109, gives it as once in five years after
Kansei, it is clear from Hendrik Doeff, Herinneringenuit Japan (Haarlem, 1853), PP. 71,
132, and 146, that the Dutch went in I802, 1806, and I8Io.
s Yoshida, 'Shizuki', p. 201.

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and Mizuno Tadakuni made the I790s and I830s danger points for
specialists in Western learning and helped to deflect most of them into
silence and apathy or to coopt them for government service. Hirakawa
Sukehiro points out that while Sugita Gempaku was drawn to rangaku
after reading Sorai on strategy, Sugita's successors were forced back into
strategy for warfare by a regime determined to prevent private
expressions of opinion on public matters.9
There are relatively few examples of public punishment, but they
surely served to discourage many men. In 1792 the bakufu destroyed the
blocks of his book and arrested Hayashi Shihei for having published a
book that dealt with affairs of state by advocating readiness for danger
from Russia. Hayashi was silenced and rusticated, and he died the
following year. His unhappy end may be taken to signal the difficulties
that attended the broadening of language and translation studies to
consideration of the problem posed by the 'West' for Japan. Scholars
distinguish thisyJgaku from the narrower rangakuof translation exercises.
Deshima remained central and Dutch remained the primary medium,
though it was no longer the exclusive language.
For Hayashi and for Honda Toshiaki, who wisely refrained from
publishing his views, Russia was the danger. The Napoleonic era
brought a new consciousness of change in the Atlantic world. Awareness
that different (American) ships were servicing Deshima led to intensified interrogation of Hendrik Doeff and the realization that France had
occupied Holland and that America had broken away from England.
Reading in world geographies revealed an English-Russian alliance.
Rezanov appeared at Nagasaki in 1804 and had his request for trade
rejected; Russian marauders ravaged several northern coasts, and in
18o8 the Phaetonstartled the defenders of Nagasaki. Soon developments
near Canton made coast defense an urgent issue. Western learning
moved beyond the realm of specialists, and its fruits began to concern
men in positions of responsibility.
Matsudaira Sadanobu had begun this when he began to collect
Dutch books about 1792; such books in the wrong hands might do harm,
he noted; they 'should not be allowed to pass in large quantities into the
hands of irresponsible people, but it is desirable, on the other hand, to
have them deposited in a government library.' The upshot of this
tendency to control and coopt was a government translation bureau
which was set up in the Bureau of Astronomy in 18 I1. Its first charge was
to translate large portions ofa 1778-86 edition of a Dutch translation of
9 Hirakawa Sukehiro, 'Japan's Turn to the West,' forthcoming in CambridgeHistory of
Japan, Vol. V.

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B. JANSEN

Noel Chomel's Dictionnaire Oeconomique,an encyclopedia that appeared


on Bakufu order lists repeatedly thereafter. By the time the work was
discontinued in 1846, 135Japanese volumes had been produced. Sugita
Gempaku's grandson, Seikei (1 817-59), was among those hired for this
task. 10
In contrast to Seikei, who stayed within bounds, other scholars
experienced the dangers of private dabbling in matters of public policy.
The arrest ofrangakushain 1828 for transmission of a map ofJapan to von
Siebold, and the purge of Watanabe Kazan and his friends in the Bansha
no goku affair of 1839, showed the sensitivity of the Bakufu to possible
subversion. The ease with which charges of treason could be made surely
served to discourage casual political inquiry and discussion. Even after
the appearance of Commodore Perry made it impossible to extinguish
political discussion, private violence on the part of anti-foreign zealots
served to enforce caution and quiet on scholars who feared being tarred
with the 'foreign' brush. Fukuzawa Yukichi's account of the dangers he
sensed everywhere, from barber chair to darkened streets, is familiar.
Sakuma Sh6zan and Yokoi Sh6nan met worse fates.
Unquestionably, patterns ofcooption, repression, and terror silenced
and frustrated most specialists. One gets some sense of it in the story
Otsuki Nyoden tells about Sugita Seikei. He writes that Seikei learned
about vrijheit (freedom) as an inalienable right to independence of
thought and spirit from his reading in Dutch and English,
but when he heard that Takahashi, Watanabe, Takano, Takashima and others
had been seized for spreading foreign ideas he feared that he too was inviting
trouble. He held himself in check and was very careful not to let it slip from his
mouth. The only way he could find solace for the heaviness of his spirit was
through drink, but when he was drunk he was unable to keep from shouting
'Vrijheit!'"
Even so, Seikei went on to serve in the Bansho Shirabesho. So, too, with
Sugita Gempaku's fifth son and successor, Rikkei (1787-1846), and his
adopted son, Genzui (1818-89), granted the status of Jusha for his
service in Bansho Shirabesho and Kaiseijo, who became a distinguished
private physician and hospital administrator in the Meiji period.12
1o Sadanobu quotation from Keene, Japanese Discovery of Europe, pp. 75-6. For the
Chomel enterprise, Marius B. Jansen, 'New Materials for the Intellectual History of
Nineteenth CenturyJapan,' HarvardJournal of Asiatic Studies:20, 3-4 (December I1957),
p. 575"1 Quoted by Sat5 Shosuke, rTgakushi,p. 200, from Otsuki's rTgakushinempy5.Iwasaki
Haruko first called this example to my attention.
12 Sugita biographies in Daijimmeijiten (Tokyo, 1942, III, p. 458.) In early Meiji
Sugita Genzui and his son Takeshi mixed easily in foreign circles in Tokyo. See Clara's
Diary: An AmericanGirl in Meiji Japan (Tokyo, Kodansha, I979), passim.

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While government service may have been distasteful to some, it also


provided access to sources and learning they would otherwise have had
difficulty finding. By late Tokugawa the official collections, especially
that of the Bansho Shirabesho, were surely the best accessible, with full
access to works on medicine, mathematics, physics, and geography and
world affairs as well as large concentrations on military technology.
Kat5 Hiroyuki wrote that after he entered the Bansho Shirabesho 'I
found other books, books not available to anyone else. When I looked
into them I found them very interesting; for the first time I saw books
about things like philosophy, sociology, morals, politics, and law . .. in
view of that my ideas began to change... .'13 Nishi Amane, sent to
Leiden in 1862 on Bakufu service, lost no time indicating to his advisor
Professor Hoffmann that in addition to the course in law 'I hope to learn
those subjects within the realm of philosophy.' Christianity was
prohibited in Japan, he went on, but he believed that it differed 'from
those things advocated by Descartes, Locke, Hegel, and Kant, so I hope
to study them too. This work is probably difficult, but, in my opinion,
there are not a few points in the study of these subjects which will serve to
advance our civilization....14
All this seems clear enough. But it leaves room for a lively controversy
in Japanese scholarship over the significance of Dutch and Western
learning.15 It is a controversy that has roots in Japan's modern history,
and it will continue for many years to come.
Were rangakuand yagaku harbingers of freedom and rationality and
agents of modernization? Some scholars have taken strong affirmative
positions in response to this question, emphasizing the 'enlightenment'
aspects of the writings and careers of well-known representatives of
Western learning. Takahashi Shin'ichi, in the 1964 Iwanami kiea series
and in his earlier 1igakuron, argues the case so directly that the section
headings of the Iwanami essay convey his message: The Growth of an
Anti-feudal World View; Rationalism; Human Equality; Transcending
Views (of foreigners) as Barbarians and Heretics; International Amity.
Unfortunately it often requires selective quotation and forced interpre13 Quoted in Numata Jir6, BakumatsuyJgaku shi (Tokyo, T6ei Shoten, 1952), PP.
198-9. For the holdings, List of Foreign Books Collectedunderthe ShogunateRegime (Tokyo,
Nichiran Shiry6 Kenkyfikai, I957), p. 96.
14 Thomas R. Havens, Nishi Amaneand ModernJapanese Thought (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1970), p. 50.
'5 The paragraphs that follow owe a great deal to rewarding debate with Bob Tadashi
Wakabayashi of Princeton University, who develops his own argument in his
unpublished dissertation 'Aizawa Seishisai's Shinron and Western Learning:
I781-1828' (1982).

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tation to make contemporary liberals of late Tokugawa figures, and


these attributions emphasize only a very long-term thrust of Western
learning. In a suspicious and partisan environment it was just as
common and perhaps more frequent to compensate for specialization in
yogaku by emphasizing the need to know the West in order to realize the
danger it posed.
The exclusively favorable emphases of some have inevitably encouraged equally negative evaluations by others. For It5 Tazabur6 and
Numata Jir6 Hayashi Shihei, Honda Rimmei, Shiba K~kan, and
Hiraga Gennai, who are at the center of the Takahashi analysis, were
dabblers on the fringes of a movement in its early stages and irritants to
the sober specialists whose work they exploited in their books. The real
professionals, they argue, relied upon the sponsorship and research
assistance of the feudal authorities during last half century of Tokugawa
rule. Far from harboring anti-feudal thought, they served to strengthen
feudal rule through the technology they made available, and if they
were more realistic in their assessment of national dangers it was not in
any sense from an espousal of human equality or foreign virtues. Their
ideological bed-rock was that of the Confucian society in which they
were born and bred. Numata's views are moderated somewhat by Sat6
Shasuke. Sat5 sees the Kansei Period as a turning point. Thereafter, he
argues, scholarship came under the control of the Bakufu, and
professional specialists took care to avoid the non-specialist generalizers
who had come so close to getting them all in trouble. Essentially,
however, his modification affects periodization more than interpretation.16
This discussion is not without its interest, and those participating in it
have produced important material in the course of seeking evidence for
the positions they take. Nevertheless it seems anachronistic and
mistaken in its assumptions, and one senses that its roots lie in the need to
explain other, more recent phases of Japanese history by identifying
roots of revolt or repression. The discussion is surely anachronistic in its
projection backward into Tokougawa times of attitudes of a 'modernism' laden with values like peace and equality, and it is mistaken in its
assumption that specialization in the study of a tradition should by
rights produce adherence to the values of that tradition. For some the
specialists in Western learning should have been, broadly speaking,
'liberal.' If they were not, a political or social reason must be found. To
explain them one can focus on the unhappy fate of a Hayashi Shihei,
16 See the summary of this debate in Tazaki Tetsur6, 'Y~gakuron saik6sei shiron,'
Shis5, 1979, November, pp. 48-72.

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silenced and disconsolate in his condemnation, instead of on the


alarming picture of a Western danger that he presented to his readers, or
on the sorry end of Takahashi Kageyasu, guilty of giving Siebold his
map ofJapan, who died during interrogation and was pickled in salt to
preserve him for the ultimate sentence of execution, instead of on the fact
that it was also he who proposed the famous 1825 edict ordering that
foreign ships be repulsed on sight (muninenuchiharairei).
The rangakushawere obviously men of their generation and society.
Awareness of the technological capabilities of Western countries might
in rare cases produce favorable opinions of Westerners, but, more often
it produced alarm. Small wonder that feudal authorities found such
scholars useful. In Tokugawa society traditions offiliation also made for
a guild consciousness among scholars that operated to confine and
channel their contacts and opinions. A Shiba Karan, who popularized
other people's scholarship and free-lanced in many fields, must have
seemed to set a dubious example for scholars working in a context of
conservative apprehension in the first part of the nineteenth century.
Rangakucould also serve narrowly nationalistic purposes in the hands of
eclectic writers like Hirata Atsutane."7 The historian who marshals
evidence for approbation or reprobation risks losing sight of his major
aim, which is to try to see the past as contemporaries saw it, in order to
throw light on their dilemmas and decisions.
What, then, can one propose as the principal significance of rangaku
and its continuities with modern Japan? The rangakushaproduced a
great deal of writing, and Sugita Gempaku was justifiably proud of his
work in sparking an age of translation. Yet comparatively little of that
writing circulated among the general public, and much of it, particularly impressive scientific contributions like those of Shizuki Tadao,
went almost unnoticed until it was inundated by the full flood of
Western learning that followed the opening of the country.
More important than the actual product, I believe, was the attitude
and mind-set that produced rangaku. Even for those to whom Dutch
studies represented an esoteric delight, rangakubrought a delight in the
new, the different, and the difficult. It was new, for it was based on the
transmission of a changing body of knowledge, one that was also in
process of growth in the West. It was different, in that it was farthest
removed from the classical knowledge of the China-centered world. And
it was difficult, difficult beyond the imagination of students who have
access to instruction, teaching tools, and dictionaries. Sugita is probably
17 Discussed by Keene, Japanese Discovery of Europe, pp. I56f.

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guilty of exaggeration in his Rangaku kotohajime,but the triumph of his


tone and the satisfaction with which he reviews his time--'When I think
back, it is almost fifty years since some of us old men set out to foster this
learning'-conveys
something of the zest for discovery that accompanied the decision he and his friends made to look beyond the world of
Chinese patterns and postulates. For many that decision involved a
conscious abandonment of the Chinese thought world. In his 1775
dialogue, Kyli no gen, Sugita's interlocutor protests:
Korea and Ryfikyufi
are not China, but at least they received the teachings of the
same sages. But this medical learning you teach comes from countries on the
northwestfrontierof the world, 9000 ri from China. Their language is different,
and they know nothing about the sages. They are the most distant of even the
barbarian countries; what possible good can that learning do us?
Sugita's response was that China was only one country, and under
barbarian rule at that.'8
On the other hand, some scholars managed to retain an affirmation of
Chinese values and portrayed their research as an extension of good
Confucian practice in the investigation of principles. Western strength
could be explained as a product of the progress of butsuri no gaku.19 For
them a more universal investigation of principles, superior to the
restrictions observed in the past, constituted an advance in learning
and science. In either case, scholars were transcending traditional
limitations.
Whether one thought Westerners good or evil, friendly or dangerous,
their work deserved attention. Even Sadanobu had said as much; 'There
is profit to be derived from them.' Medical learning was of immediate
use and application, and the same was true of much else. It was all an
extension ofjitsugaku. Coastal defense and armament, like medicine,
were also forms ofjitsugaku. And clearly they were best studied when
subsidized by government. It was natural to see the Western advance
with trepidation and fear. Even so, a realistic appraisal of Western
strength operated to discourage suicidal resistance to that advance and
to work for a longer-range response to it. Watanabe Kazan pointed out
that Europe was poorly placed, and that its principal countries were
cold, remote, and poorly endowed when compared with the benign
climate Japan enjoyed. Nevertheless they had achieved wealth and
power through the application of knowledge of the principles of matter,
18 I have discussed this in Japan and Its World: Two Centuriesof Change (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, I980), pp. 24-39.
'9 Sat6, YTgakushi,p. 153, with reference to (Watanabe) Kazan. Sh6zan, as Sat6
points out, held even more tenaciously to a Chinese cosmological focus.

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which had made enormous strides in recent times. To argue thatJapan


should take that course was by no means to admire the West, but it was
more rational. At points elements of universalism could also enter to
dilute the parochial concern for country. Kazan saw each of the five
great faiths (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Confucianism) as
having originated in Asia, having produced its sages there, and equally
worthy of respect. Under such conditions the Sinic tradition could never
loom as large again.20
As the consciousness of danger grew steadily in the nineteenth
century, scholarship became less individual, less free, and more
structured than it had been in Sugita's days. Yet it grew astonishingly in
amount. rYgakuprovided a form of self realization and social mobility
for the able. Sugita Gempaku's disciples numbered IO4, and they were
from thirty-eight provinces. The interlude of relaxation during which
Siebold was in Nagasaki found him lecturing to 56 students. During that
stay Siebold, like many Meiji foreign teachers, had his students write
essays in Dutch about Japan as the basis for his own publications.
Thirty-nine of these survive. He himself drew up testimonial 'diplomas'
for his students certifying to their proficiency in the subjects of his
instruction. At the time of the crackdown occasioned by the discovery
that he had been given a map, 23 of his students were taken into
custody.21 These numbers were eclipsed in the famous Osaka school of
Ogata Koan (1810-63) which opened in 1838. Extant records begin in
I844 and record a total of 637 students, and it is reasonable to estimate
that over one thousand pupils passed through its gates. They included
Omura Masujir5, Hashimoto Sanai, Mitsukuri Shfihei, and of course
Fukuzawa Yukichi, whose autobiographical account of his student days
remains a classic source.22
In short, there was a steady spread and diffusion of study and
knowledge of the West, despite the curbs of fear and force. That diffusion
made for ever increasing awareness of the utility of Western science and
technology. By the 185os Western medical training was a standard part
of medical training.
It is true that more and more of this scholarship was directed toward
the fields of medicine and defense. Neither specialization is commonly
associated with political liberalism. But each is characterized by concern
for practicality and efficiency. Concern for defense preparation and
20 Discussed in ibid., pp. I59-60o.
21 Tsurumi, Takano Chiei, p. 67.
22 Ban Tadayasu,
Teki'ukuo meguruhitobito: rangakuno nagare (Osaka, S6gensha, 1978),
p. 89.

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552

MARIUS

B. JANSEN

adequacy brought with it ideas about social organization. In response to


military technology, samurai levies were supplemented with nonsamurai units in many parts of Japan, and in the Bakufu military
reforms of the I86os changes were set in motion that would have
changed political relationships drastically if they had been allowed to
continue, even if there had not been a political overturn.23 The
distinction between defense specialization and modernization which is
implicit in arguments that rangakuwas abortive because it was deflected
into government service seems badly mistaken.
It is useful, however, to note Sat5 Shasuke's distinction between
Western learning 'specialists' and 'enthusiasts,' or yogakusha and
yagakukei. The former supplied, the latter consumed; yogaku became
relevant to political problems when people like Watanabe Kazan,
Sakuma Shazan and Yokoi Sh6nan worked it into their framework of
political thought. The differing degree of rationality and realism
contained in the responses of Watanabe Kazan and of Takano Ch5ei,
who translated for him, with regard to the Morrisonincident is notable,
and provides a useful warning against confusing scholar specialists with
socio-political generalists.24
An interplay between official and private, and reform and reinforcement of government, can be seen in case after case in mid-nineteenthcentury Japan. Fukuzawa Yukichi began in government service and
ended a private individual. His education in rangakubegan in the Ogata
academy. Upon his arrival in the newly opened port he discovered that
he had learned the wrong language. In answer to Omura Masujir5's
argument that the Dutch translated everything, Fukuzawa replied,
'that's one side of the argument. But do you think the Dutch will
translate everything? The other day I went to Yokohama and what
happened? I couldn't speak with the foreigners or read the signs of the
shops at all. Dutch alone is not enough. English is going to be
necessary.'25 The voyage to the United States with the i860 mission
surely closed the argument for Fukuzawa. Practical experience, and a
second trip, produced the material that gave Japan in SeiyJ-jfio, the
fullest and friendliest account of the West yet available. But Fukuzawa
23 Conrad Totman, The Collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1862-1868 (Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, I980), describes these reforms.
24 Sat6, YTgakushi,p. 166.
25 Autobiography
Yukichi(tr. Eiichi Kiyooka) (Tokyo, Hokuseido, 1948), p.
ofFukuzawa
Io9. Clara's Diary, however, leaves room for doubt about his ability to 'speak with
foreigners' in 1879: 'Mr Fukuzawa has a comical way of speaking, using English and
Japanese in the utmost confusion .... For example, speaking of the Governor: "Mr.
Kuriyama is hont5 ni kind man, keredomohe is tais6 busy kono setsu, yes?"' p. 221.

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'RANGAKU'

AND

WESTERNIZATION

553

was also in Bakufu employ, alarmed by the violence of anti-government


jii sentiment, and wrote a memorandum advocating Bakufu reliance on
French help against its internal enemies. His Meiji career as private
educator and his criticism of Bakufu retainers like Katsu and Enomoto
who entered service for the new government, show that that advocacy of
'modern' individualism was reinforced by lingering 'feudal' loyalty.
Nishi Amane's path was different. His orientation began with Sorai
philosophy, to which was added an overlay of Chu Hsi Confucianism.
There followed medical and Dutch training, including study with
Sugita Seikei, before he gave up his fief commission and entered Bakufu
employ. Study of English began in I856, and a stay at Leiden came in
1862. Nishi's last assignment under the Bakufu was to draw up a sort of
constitution for the last shogun. Temporary despair at what seemed the
victory of anti-foreign elements in the Restoration change was resolved
by employment for the new regime, in which he became an organization
man for Yamagata Aritomo.
Rangakuthus served as a bridge between the world of Tokugawa and
Meiji thought and action. Though its products were less important than
that passage, they served to prepare the travellers for access to, and
utilization of, the range of choices on the farther shore, and once the
shore was reached the bridge was expendable. Study of Dutch gave way
to that of English, French, and German. Even before Nishi and Tsuda
had reached Leiden in I862, Matsuki Koan (Terajima Munenori)
showed what the future would bring in a letter designed to keep them
from going. Holland, he had discovered, was a pleasant but rather
unimportant little country whose citizens preferred to read their books
in French and German. 'I must honestly say that the country is so small
and insignificant as to startle one,' he wrote, 'In all things Holland,
when compared with England, France, and Germany, is about one
hundredth of what they are.'26 A century after Sugita Gempaku and his
friends had struggled to understand the Dutch of Tafel Anatomia,
Netherlands diplomats were communicating with the Meiji government
in English. Rangaku was a thing of the past.
26 Quoted from Ihi nyuk5roku (Tokyo: Nihon Shiseki Ky6kai, 193 I, I, pp.
Jansen, 'New Materials,' p. 596.

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244-50)

in