A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63. KENBUNROKU.
A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.
A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.
A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.
A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.
A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.
A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.
A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.

“This Is What I Saw & Heard”

A collection of manuscript documents in six vols., approximately 487 folding leaves, written in various hands, of the events surrounding the traumatic opening of Japan and its violent aftermath, 1848-63.

A number of illus. & maps. Six vols. 8vo (280 x 190 mm.), stitched. Japan: 1848-63.

During the time of Japan’s official policy of strict isolationism in the first half of the 19th century, the bakufu (the shogun’s bureaucracy) and many private citizens became increasingly alarmed by the frequent foreign intrusions. Dissatisfaction with the weakened bakufu system of government and social unrest, caused by famine, earthquakes, and disease, exacerbated many citizens’ concerns.

The present collection of manuscripts, written in a number of hands, is an example of the Japanese genre kenbunroku (“notes on what I have seen and heard”). They clearly were assembled for and were once part of the archive of the family or a close associate of Nariaki Tokugawa (1800-60), the strong-willed lord of Mito and the most active critic of Masahiro Abe (1819-57),the powerful head of the Senior Council to the shogun from 1845 until 1855 and leader of the kaikoku (“open the country”) faction, which ultimately prevailed.

Throughout his tumultuous life, Nariaki was the principal spokesman of the joi faction, which opted for war against outsiders. He became daimyo of the Mito fiefdom in 1829 and was determined to prepare his domain for the impending crisis with the West. He inherited the domain’s tradition of imperial loyalism and patronized a reform faction of able men committed to that cause, whose motto was “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians.” While Nariaki’s advocacy of resistance was ultimately rejected (and caused him to be put under house arrest several times), his quarrelsome and influential voice remained important throughout the years during which Japan dealt with the question of its opening. In spite of Nariaki’s opposition, Abe consulted with him on policy matters for many years and, in 1853, arranged for Nariaki to enter the bakufu and to serve as adviser on maritime defense. Nariaki’s seventh son, Yoshinobu Tokugawa (1837-1913), also became a major figure in national politics, and was the 15th and final shogun, serving just over a year (1866-67).

The upper wrapper of the fifth volume bears names from a particular branch of the Kikuchi clan, who were subservient to the lords of Mito. Other internal evidence makes it clear that these manuscripts were part of the family archives of the lords of Mito.

The manuscripts, in six volumes with a total of ca. 487 leaves, cover the years 1848-63, a crucial time in Japan’s history, during which it was forced to open to the world. While the manuscripts include copies of reports created by the bakufu of the shogun as well as various daimyo, the collection also contains many private reports created by individuals of the events of the day, including Commodore Perry’s arrival.

This is an abbreviated and selective description of the contents of the six volumes. It is only a suggestion of the riches of research material present here:

Vol. I (40 leaves) covers the years 1848-53, and much of it concerns Perry. It begins with a list of gifts given to Nariaki in 1849, along with their presenters, when he came out from house arrest and renovated his Edo mansion. We also find a series of reports and letters, written in various hands, describing the efforts of the bakufu to halt the printing of rangaku (foreign) publications in 1849, especially those on medicine; an edict from the bakufu for each fiefdom to commence training with long guns; and another edict from Masahiro Abe, the chief senior councilor to the shogun, ordering each fiefdom to undertake intense military training and prepare coastal defenses.

Vol. II (61 leaves) is concerned with the events of 1853 and 1854, the years in which Perry made his expeditions. Perry first arrived in Tokyo Bay on 8 July 1853, remaining ten days. Ieyoshi Tokugawa, the reigning shogun, died later that month and his death caused a power vacuum within the government, paralyzing any decision-making process. We find an account of the arrival of the “Black Ships” and the stunned reaction of the observer, who provides an account of the number of cannons on each ship. There are reports from various fiefdoms regarding how many cannons were ready; a report from Matsudaira Higo no kami containing translations of copies of official letters from the Americans and Russians; another report from Matsudaira Kii no kami giving his opinion of the above-mentioned letters; a detailed account of the August 1853 arrival in Nagasaki of the Russian admiral Putiatin with a squadron of four warships (giving the names of the captains of each ship, how many crew members, etc.); the contents of the official letter from the Russian government regarding the opening of Japan for trade and the determination of “the northern territories”; an account of the return of four shipwrecked Japanese sailors; a report by Hoshina, the security head of the Uraga region, describing the meeting area for Perry’s impending second visit; a document concerned with the responsibility for supplying security from each fiefdom for Perry’s visit (including members of the Matsudaira clan); communications between Abe and Ii Izu no kami and Ido Iwami no kami (who would become the two principal negotiators during Perry’s second visit); a translation of another official Russian letter; a copy of a letter from a Chinese correspondent, acquired in Nagasaki, containing news that American ships were planning to come to Japan; a copy of an official letter from the Japanese government to the Russian delegation, signed by Abe, Makino, Matsudaira Iga no kami, and others; a detailed account of the arrival of the ships of Perry’s second visit; and accounts, each with strong opinions from the heads of several fiefdoms regarding their response to Perry’s second visit; and a copy of the letter from the Japanese government to the President of the United States. There is also a copy of a letter sent to the Senior Council concerning the donation by Nariaki in January 1854 of 74 antiquated bronze Chinese cannons to the bakufu. There is also a report of the Russian visit to Nagasaki with a detailed account of the number of ships, etc.

Vol. III (69 leaves) deals with the years 1852-55. We find descriptions of the defensive positions at Uraga Bay assigned to each important fiefdom in preparation for Perry’s arrival (89,500 soldiers were present); a comprehensive account of the workings of a Western steamship; further accounts of the Russian ships and the food and other supplies furnished to them by the Japanese; an 1852 report from an unnamed source, probably Dutch, that American ships were intending to come to Japan; a copy of the translation of President Millard Fillmore’s letter to the Emperor; three double-page brush & ink drawings of the American ships in Uraga Bay and the beach where negotiations took place; responses to Nariaki’s famous document of 14 August 1853 in which he gives ten reasons why Japan should choose war with the foreigners; accounts of the number of weapons available for self-defense; and a letter regarding the Russian-Japanese Treaty of Shimoda of 1855.

The fourth volume (77 leaves) is concerned with the events of 1854-56. A list of all the gifts given by the Americans is present (including specific gifts such as perfume, coal, paper, liquor, and tea designated for Japanese negotiators, a scaled-down steam engine locomotive, guns and ammunition, clothes, etc.). Also provided are a list of the names of the American ships and a report containing discussions regarding whether Hakodate would be opened as a supply port for American ships.

During these tumultuous times, Japan also suffered a series of devastating earthquakes, from 1854 to 1860, and there are a number of reports regarding damage (including to a Russian ship); a survey of tsunamis that occurred and their damage; a report by Issai Sato (1772-1859), regarding defensive strategies; translations of diplomatic letters from the Americans; a detailed description of the protocol for the various official diplomatic ceremonies; a two-page brush & ink drawing of the “Black Ships” in Uraga Bay; another illustration of the American ships penetrating deep into Edo Bay for “surveying purposes”; and another list of exchanged gifts, from the Americans and the Japanese, including a telegraph machine.

Vol. V (142 leaves) describes events in 1862. Following a series of reports on the building of shrines, we find an account of the controversial wedding between the new shogun, Iemochi Tokugawa (1858-66) and Princess Kazu; accounts of outbreaks of measles and cholera; a printed sheet about the cholera outbreak and how to combat it, with recipes for medicines; many further recipes for drugs to ward off measles and cholera as well as many other diseases; a three-leaf printed pamphlet with the drop-title Bansa byo no teate narabini chiho [How to Treat Cholera]: Suifu igaku kan [the medical school in Mito fiefdom]: Oct. 1859 (WorldCat lists only the Kyoto University copy); a printed news sheet (kawaraban) telling how to deal with cholera; and a series of letters from governmental officials regarding the epidemics. There are also many copies of private letters between fellow politicians and fiefdom lords regarding issues of the day.

Vol. VI (98 leaves) describes events in 1863. There is a series of letters concerning the Tenchugumi Incident, a military uprising in early 1863 supported by the conservative emperor against the more liberal shogun. Next is a document concerning Yoshinobu Tokugawa (1866-67), the 15th and final shogun. We find a copy of the official letter sent by the 14th shogun to his cabinet, in which he proposes to refuse the demands of the English to pay reparations for the murder of Charles Lennox Richardson (the Namamugi Incident), and a folding map of the waters off Kagoshima, where the British Royal Navy squadron bombarded the city.

In very good condition, preserved in a wooden box. Some worming and soiling, especially in the final volume. The texts are entirely legible.

❧ Matthew V. Lamberti, “Tokugawa Nariaki and The Japanese Imperial Institution: 1853-1858” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 32 (1972), pp. 97-123. William McOmie, The Opening of Japan 1853-1855.

Price: $25,000.00

Item ID: 7320

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