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.”

Unable to view this article?

This could be due to a conflict with your ad-blocking or security software.

Please add japantimes.co.jp and piano.io to your list of allowed sites.

If this does not resolve the issue or you are unable to add the domains to your allowlist, please see out this support page.

We humbly apologize for the inconvenience.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.