You met all kinds of people on the roads of old Japan — throngs of them. “An incredible number of people daily use the highways of Japan’s provinces — indeed, at certain times of the year, they are as crowded as the streets of a populous European city,” wrote Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716).
Physician, scholar, naturalist, explorer, Kaempfer was in Japan from 1690-92. Fifty years earlier Japan had barred its gates against the menacing outside world — an isolation it would maintain until the mid-19th century. The only foreigners admitted were a handful of Dutch and Chinese traders confined to the little island of Dejima off Nagasaki. Kaempfer, attached to the Dutch East India Company as a physician, writhed under the confinement but twice traveled to Edo (present-day Tokyo) as part the annual delegation that the Company was obliged to send for an audience with the shogun. His “History of Japan,” published posthumously in 1727, was a bestseller — Europe’s first full-length portrait of a remote, mysterious, inaccessible “heathen” land.
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.