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Article 2

Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), a doctor, was posted to Nagasaki - Dejima from 1823 to 1829 as a second lieutenant of the Netherlands East India Company. From the publication of "Kaitai Shinsho" (the first Japanese language text on human anatomy translated from the Dutch volume, Tafel Anatomia, ) and for the next 50 years, the study of Western science by means of the Dutch language flourished. Siebold was not only known for his knowledge of Western medicine, he also taught natural history to the Japanese. At the same time, Siebold actively collected a great variety of specimens of Japanese flora and fauna along with samples of Japanese arts and crafts, items from daily life and various folklore materials. In so doing, he managed to inform Europeans of the high standards of Japanese culture.

From his late twenties and into his early thirties, that is to say, while still a young man, he was able to amass a truly astounding collection of articles during his 6 year stay. In the search for fame, he received the support of many Japanese. Of all the areas of Japanese studies, however, Siebold was most passionately interested in the study of Japanese botany and information was shared in both directions. The "kakko-so" specimen sample is an example of this exchange of knowledge.

Sonshin Okochi and his borther, Keisuke Ito, along with the teacher Hobun Mizutani (also known as Sukeroku) all first met Siebold in 1826 at Atsuta, a shrine Siebold visited on his way to Edo. Siebold wrote in his journal, translated by Shin Saito, that he recalled this meeting. Sukeroku, "came carrying in his hand all manner of natural objects. Among them were several extremely rare plants from the area around the shrine. They were preserved in a very fine specimen album. In it the plants' Japanese and Chinese names were recorded. ( The name written in hiragana and with Chinese characters.) I instructed M.Z. (Mizutani) in some of the more important aspects of botanical anatomy in exchange for a collection of all the region's rarest plants."

One wonders from this account whether Siebold procured the Kiryu primula specimen as a present on this occasion. "Before the arrival of Siebold, the techniques for gathering an academic collection of botanical specimens were unknown. There was a tendency to make small, easy to carry specimen books that were convenient to use," reports Takao Yamaguchi, an assistant professor at Kumamoto University.

According to Dr. Yoshishige Kato, a professor at Dokkyo University, who has encountered many of Sukeroku's specimen books, based on the size of the Japanese paper used, the attachment of a smaller piece of paper and the handwriting, "one can conclude that this is indeed Sukeroku's work." Incidentally, Sukeroku, at the age of 27, was permitted the use of medicinal herbs from the Herbal Garden in the Owari Domain (now Aichi Prefecture) and collected plants from other domains. He hoped to surpass the level of botanical scientists of his time and was enthusiastically involved in "rangaku" or the study of Western science by means of the Dutch language, a popular pursuit during the Edo period.

Unfortunately, the Kiryu primula specimen does not contain the entire plant. Specifically, the roots have not been included. It can be surmised that the specimen samples were made before Sukeroku met Siebold. At the time, Sukeroku was 47 years old. In Leiden, the well-known Keisuke Ito, called "Kaisuke" by the Dutch, was 23 years old.

Copyright (C) 2000 by Akiko Minosakii , Barbara Kamiayama
& Orijin Studio Miyamae
Kiryu Gunma 376-0046 Japan