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Tokugawa Shoguns' Dutch Translators

 
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1991sudarshan
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:55 pm    Post subject: Tokugawa Shoguns' Dutch Translators Reply with quote
During the Tokugawa period, Japan traded only with few countries and Dutch was one of them. Shogun gave personal audiences to the Dutch trades and interacted with them. Were there any official Dutch translators in Tokugawa shoguns' court?
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, there were official translators, most of them based in Nagasaki.
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1991sudarshan
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Yes, there were official translators, most of them based in Nagasaki.


Popular Dutch Translator based in Nagasaki?
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
1991sudarshan wrote:
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Yes, there were official translators, most of them based in Nagasaki.


Popular Dutch Translator based in Nagasaki?
Not sure exactly what you mean, but some of the translators were historically significant individuals. If you want some names, I suggest first trying to do some research on your own.
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1991sudarshan
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
1991sudarshan wrote:
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Yes, there were official translators, most of them based in Nagasaki.


Popular Dutch Translator based in Nagasaki?
Not sure exactly what you mean, but some of the translators were historically significant individuals. If you want some names, I suggest first trying to do some research on your own.


Sure. I will.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think the confusion is in your choice of word "popular". Do you mean "well-known"? Do you mean "of the people, as opposed to the ruling elite?" Do you mean "people who are frequently studied"?

There would be no need for a Dutch interpreter to be permanently working at the Shogun's court. If it was a Japanese who spoke Dutch, he'd be working in Nagasaki regularly, as that is where the Dutch were. When they traveled to Edo to visit the Shogun's court, the interpreters would go with them. Otherwise, you're talking about having a Dutch interpreter sitting around in Edo with nothing to do most of the time. So if you're confused about why they'd be in Nagasaki, that's why. Having a Dutch interpreter in Edo would be like having a Japanese-speaking Army officer in the middle of nowhere Louisiana...
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1991sudarshan
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
ltdomer98 wrote:
I think the confusion is in your choice of word "popular". Do you mean "well-known"? Do you mean "of the people, as opposed to the ruling elite?" Do you mean "people who are frequently studied"?

There would be no need for a Dutch interpreter to be permanently working at the Shogun's court. If it was a Japanese who spoke Dutch, he'd be working in Nagasaki regularly, as that is where the Dutch were. When they traveled to Edo to visit the Shogun's court, the interpreters would go with them. Otherwise, you're talking about having a Dutch interpreter sitting around in Edo with nothing to do most of the time. So if you're confused about why they'd be in Nagasaki, that's why. Having a Dutch interpreter in Edo would be like having a Japanese-speaking Army officer in the middle of nowhere Louisiana...


Thanks for the clarification. I thought that the Dutch envoy met Shogun quite often to inform him about their activities
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
1991sudarshan wrote:
Thanks for the clarification. I thought that the Dutch envoy met Shogun quite often to inform him about their activities


Nope. They met with the Nagasaki officials (Daikan, I believe) responsible for managing their activities. Somebody better informed about trade in the Edo period (Ameth??) could tell you how often they went to Edo on an official visit to the Shogun, but it wasn't more than once a year, and probably once every 2-3 years was the norm.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
"Having a Dutch interpreter in Edo would be like having a Japanese-speaking Army officer in the middle of nowhere Louisiana..."
I have a feeling that this refers to a specific officer. No chance of getting redeployed soon? Must be frustrating. John
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Dutch translators were always present during working hours in Dejima, and most exchanges between bakufu officials and the Dutch were held at the Nagasaki magistrate's office (which have been rebuilt and are something to see.)

Visits from the Dutch were annual from 1633 to 1789 and then were reduced to once every four years from 1790 until 1850 when the practice of mandatory regular visits was ended.

In terms of the amount of trade, it was not as much as one may think. From 1715 onward, only two Dutch ships per year were allowed to enter into Nagasaki, as Japan was trying to curtail the outflow of silver.

Sudar- if you can't find the names of any of Japan's famous Dutch interpreters, let me know and I will give you the names of 3 or 4 of them that should help you look up more about them.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
shin no sen wrote:
"Having a Dutch interpreter in Edo would be like having a Japanese-speaking Army officer in the middle of nowhere Louisiana..."
I have a feeling that this refers to a specific officer. No chance of getting redeployed soon? Must be frustrating. John


I'm stuck here for another 2 1/2 years. Frustrating is one way to describe it. And I was on the short list of candidates to spend 6 months in Afghanistan, but someone else asked to go in that slot. Not that I horribly mind if it's my turn to go, but it's not exactly Shibuya over there.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:

Sudar- if you can't find the names of any of Japan's famous Dutch interpreters, let me know and I will give you the names of 3 or 4 of them that should help you look up more about them.


Thank You Obenjo Kusanosuke. Very Happy I shall try to find couple of names and then get back to you.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
Nagasaki officials (Daikan, I believe)


There may have been daikan as well, or some other officials overseeing Dejima - I'm not positive - but, I do believe the chief top officials in the city were the Nagasaki bugyô.

Up until 1790, the VOC representatives traveled to Edo every year. After that, the formal audiences with the shogun only took place once every four years, but gifts from the Dutch Republic were still delivered to the shogun annually.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, top official in Nagasaki was bugyô level. There were always two- one based in Nagasaki and the other in Edo, and they alternated attendance. This was done, I think, to help try to prevent excessive corruption, as one of the main duties of the magistrate's office, besides city administration, was to oversee all trade with the Dutch and Chinese.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
There was a translating, as opposed to an interpreting, office in Edo, though.
In 1811 a translation section was established in the shogunate Astronomy Office (Tenmongata), which was responsible for the calendar and surveying, to translate scientific works. It was called the "official service for making barbarian books understandable in Japanese" 蛮書和解御用.
The Astronomy Office was involved in the Siebolt Affair, but it (but not all the people) survived. The translation section was eventually part of Tokyo University.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, the famous cartographer Takahashi Kageyasu died in prison for his role in the Siebold Affair in 1828(?) when forbidden maps were found in the Siebold's luggage that washed ashore from the damaged Dutch ship Cornelius Houtman after a typhoon slammed into Nagasaki.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
One way to research translators in Edo would be to follow the VOC employees who wrote memoirs about their time in Japan. Timon Screech has two excellent translations with very informative introductions and notes of Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns by Isaac Titsingh and Japan Extolled and Decried by Carl Peter Thunberg. Dutch was the language by which European thought entered Japan and quite a few Japanese intellectuals studied it. These men made great efforts to meet visiting Dutchmen when they stayed at Nagasaki House in Edo.
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