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Engelbert Kaempfer, German physician and historian, first arrived in Japan in 1690 to take up the position of physician at the Dutch trading agency on the island of Deshima in Nagasaki Harbor. Although Japan had already secluded itself, the Dutch traders were allowed a certain amount of freedom. This included traveling to Edo (now Tokyo) on the annual tribute mission. Kaempfer went twice, in 1691 and 1692.

At that time, the middle of the Genroku period, Edo was already a metropolis, with a population of 1 million people. It was orderly, clean and “modern.” Nonetheless, in Shinagawa “the execution grounds was an ugly sight for the traveler: Several human heads and disfigured bodies were lying thrown together . . . a large emaciated dog was rummaging with its hungry snout in a decaying human body.”

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