Explore the roots of Japanese Western study “Rangaku” in the 19 century
♣ Outlook of Siebold Museum
The “Siebold Memorial Museum” is found at the hilly site not far from Dejima, Nagasaki. The name of Siebold is widely known as a doctor and
scientist who expanded the precious knowledge of Western medical and science to Japan while staying in “Dejima” in the Edo period. He is also famous to introduce first about
Japanese real life to the European world, particularly on the Japanese fauna and flora, folklore, geography and the other subjects.
The Siebold Memorial Museum was built in 1989 as a monumental archive to praise the contribution of Siebold by the
hand of Nagasaki City government. It’s really wonderful place to visit for touching his footprints and contribution to the Japanese society. After visiting Dejima, I visited this “Siebold Memorial Museum”. This is a small description on my visit.
Home Page of “Siebold Memorial Museum”
♣ Rangaku School “ Narutaki Juku” and Siebold
In the middle of Edo period, Siebold came to Nagasaki for working at the Dejima, and at that time, opened a Rangaku school named “Narutaki Juku” (鳴滝塾) to teach medicine and other science subjects to Japanese students. It was said that this education facility Juku” had given strong impact to foster the essential thought for the modernization of Japan, particularly by the dissemination of medical knowledge and science development.
This “Narutaki Juku” was named after the place Siebold had lived. This site became a memorial compound of park for Siebold now. There a statue of Siebold was standing surrounded by many hydrangea flowers. The “Siebold Memorial Museum” was built adjacent to this park with colonial style building which has modified the old house of Siebold in Leiden, the Netherlands.
♣ Significance of Siebold Memorial Museum
When entering the memorial hall, a large bronze statue of Siebold was placed in the middle with a photo of his Japanese wife “Taki” and daughter “Ine”. These pictures indicate figures of his footprints during staying in Japan and memory of his family life in Japan.
At the exhibition corner in the Hall, we could notice a large map and chronological documents illustrating the geography image of Japan and world when Siebold came to Japan in the 19c. By these we could roughly grasp the Japanese political and geographical circumstances at the time.
The second exhibition was the introduction of Siebold’s life and activities at Nagasaki. Among them we could see the real goods and figures, paintings and the like which Siebold had left in Japan. These are the precious evidence of his lifelong research and the process of the medical education for Japanese scholars. For example, the portraits of Siebold, his letters, and medical equipment were there in addition to the eyeball models, surgical instruments, medicine baskets which Siebold had used for medical training to students.
The third exhibition contained the record when Siebold had made in the trip to Edo in 1826. They were included the paintings, letters and documents indicating how he had communicated with the Edo’s intellectual persons regarding the Western knowledge. It was also found several exhibits showing the so-called “Siebold
Incident” which said to violate the Shogunate’s law at
that time. This is a valuable material
representing the severe tension of diplomatic relation with foreign countries at the time.
The map of Japan’s coastal map made by Ino Tadataka (伊能忠敬”Great Map of All Nippon Coastal Area”), a map of Sakhalin area, and others were also displayed there. These are indicating the Japanese challenges in order to explore the scientific understanding of Japanese landscape.
Another major exhibition was on the Siebold’s scientific analysis and introduction of
the Japan to the world, such as “Japan”, “Japanese botanical magazine”, “Japanese animal magazine” (reprinted book) and so on..
All these exhibits were giving the vivid figures to our eyes of how Japanese real life situated at the time of Edo, as well as of What Siebold’s footprints and contribution were.
♣ Siebold and Dejima, and Rangaku school
As describing earlier, the knowledge of science and technology, particularly medical science, was widely spread in Japan through the route of Dejima and Nagasaki, and it brought deep impact to the Japanese people in the form of “Rangaku” 蘭学 (Dutch Learning). This is manifested well in the exhibition of his memorial hall. Rangaku has deeply penetrated in the society and spread new scientific knowledge to the Japanese intellectual circles in the Edo period. Then it fermented a fresh thought to lead social revolution in the end of Edo. In this mean, “Rangaku-Juku” (蘭学塾) school was the major source of these thoughts.
Among them, the “Ranaku-Juku” of Narutaki
in the Nagasaki which set up by Siebold, was the most influential “Juku” to disseminate the medical knowledge to the people, and nurtured the Western oriented “Rangaku medical doctor” in the Edo period. We could count prominent figures there, like Rangaku Doctor Ko Ryosai (高了齋), Ninomiya Keisaku (二宮敬作), Mima Junzo (美馬順三), and others.
The Rangaku master Ogata Koan’s (緒方洪庵) “Teki-Juku” (適塾) school in the Osaka was praised as the most influential Rangaku School which gathered many students throughout Japan who were played the important role in later Edo period. Among them, we could find people like, a military commander Omura Mashujiro (大村益次郎) who led the fall of Edo Shogunate and contributed much to form Meiji administration, and a great liberalist Fukuzawa Yukichi (福沢諭吉) who recognize as a leading figure to promote democratic thought in the Meiji time of Japan.
In Edo area, “Edo Ranakujuku” school called “Tenshinro”(天真楼) which established by Sugita Genpaku (杉田玄白), who was pioneering Japanese
anatomy science, was also found in the important line of development of “Rangaku”. Sugita is famous to write the textbook “Rangaku Kotohajime” (蘭学事始), and first to translate the Dutch medical book “Ontleedkundige Tafelen” into Japanese language titled “Kaitai Shinsho” (解体新書) describing the way of human autopsy for the first time in Japan in 1826.
It is a common understanding that the most of “Rangaku Juku” at the time were more or less influenced by Siebold or benefited by the Dejima’s “Tuji” (出島通詞), Dutch interpreters.
Furthermore, we couldn’t forget that the role of the “Nagasaki Naval Training Institute” (Nagasaki Kaigun Denshu Sho 長崎海軍伝習所) which was established with the cooperation of the Dejima commander in 1855. It was purposed to educate the young Samurai people of Daimyo in Kyushu and Shogunate on the Western sailing technology. Later the trainees of this facility became the core human resources to advance Japanese society toward the new phase to the modernization. It included Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟), Enomoto Takeaki (榎本武揚), Godai Tomoatsu (五代友厚), and so on who became major figures initiated the political movement in the late Edo period. They were also influenced from the scientific and technological knowledge based on “Rangaku” and leading personnel like Sieblod and Rangaku teachers.
♣ After visiting Siebold Memorial Museum
I could recognize well in the visiting Dejima and Siebold Hall that they have played the significant role in the Japanese modernization history as a window to the Western world. As a matter of fact Japanese cultures and the Western new
knowledge have been blending there. These roles are becoming highly evaluated these days. And the movement of the restoration works has begun and tried to show the lively scene of Edo period in Dejima and Siebold Hall. It might be a great contribution to recall our own history by ourselves.
If refer to the Siebold Memorial Museum, I could see an great role of Siebold as a doctor and scientist, and his in-depth human relation with the Japanese intellectual circles. There a plenty of valuable historical materials, exhibits and paintings on “Rangaku” were displayed. And also I have seen a lot of evidences about the contribution of Siebold to
modernization of Japan and the dissemination of scientific knowledge brought by him. I’ve learned more than anything about the Siebold’s personality which built deep friendship with Japanese leading people and his warm family relations which continued even after he had left Japan.
I felt that the visit of Dejima and visiting Siebold Memorial Museum this time has brought me really a good memory of intellectual trip. I hope many people enjoy the historic road linked to this Nagasaki, Dejima and appreciate the old scene of the premodern history of Japan there.
(Note) In the Museum it wasn’t allowed to take photo. Then the most of the pictures were substituted by other sources except some pictures taken by the author.
- 「シーボルトと日本の近代科学」宮坂正英 (Civil Engineering Consultant July 2016)
- 板沢武雄「シーボルト』吉川弘文館 1960年、
- ”鳴滝塾“ https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/鳴滝塾