The shogunate attempted to deal with these and other

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Unformatted text preview: rom all but a few officials and interpreters who dealt with them at their compound on the small island of Deshima in Nagasaki Harbor. There was little opportunity under the seclusion policy, therefore, for the Japanese to gain access to Western knowledge. Most of the Dutch at Nagasaki were dour tradesmen who were concerned only with making a profit, and the linguistic talents of the Nagasaki interpreters (both in Portuguese, which remained the lingua franca of communication with the foreigners until the end of the seventeenth century, and in Dutch) were so limited as to make serious exchange with the Hollanders almost impossible. Even so, sufficient information about Dutch superiority in scientific, and especially medical, knowledge did seep out of Nagasaki to stimulate the imaginations of some Japanese scholars. One reason why Western medicine became the object of particular interest among the Japanese was that the doctors regularly assigned to the Dutch contingent at Nagasaki were, unlike the Dutch traders, often men of broad intellectual background and curiosity. One was the German physician Englebert 220 Heterodox Trends Kaempfer (1651–1716), who was at Deshima in the early 1690s and twice traveled to Edo with the Dutch party that visited the shogun’s court there annually. Kaempfer was a keen student of all aspects of Japan end Japanese life (as he could observe them), and he later published in Europe his History of Japan, a book that captured the minds of Europeans just then awakening to an interest in the Far East. It was used by Montesquieu and others in their writings as a primary source for observations on Japan. By the early eighteenth century, the desire to learn about the West had become increasingly widespread among Japanese scholars and even government officials. The great Confucian rationalist and shogunate adviser Arai Hakuseki, for example, produced a book about conditions in the West based on interviews with an Italian missionary named Sidotti who, after studying Japanese in Manila, had made his way alone to Japan in 1708. One reason for this rene...
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