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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Yoshimune appreciated the disadvantage of such a restriction

It is to be observed that in the days of Yoshimune's shogunate the philosophy of Chutsz (Shu-shi) was preferred to all others. It received the official imprimatur, the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming (O Yo-mei) being set aside. One consequence of this selection was that the Hayashi family came to be regarded as the sole depositories of true Confucianism. Yoshimune himself, however, was not disposed to set any dogmatic limits to the usefulness of men of learning. He assumed an absolutely impartial attitude towards all schools; adopting the good wherever it was found, and employing talent to whatever school it belonged. Thus when Kwanno Chqkuyo established a place of education in Yedo, and Nakai Seishi did the same in Osaka, liberal grants of land were made by the Bakufu to both men. Another step taken by the shogun was to institute a search for old books throughout the country, and to collect manuscripts which had been kept in various families for generations. By causing these to be copied or printed, many works which would otherwise have been destroyed or forgotten were preserved.

It is notable that all this admirable industry had one untoward result: Japanese literature came into vogue in the Imperial capital, and was accompanied by the development of a theory that loyalty to the sovereign was inconsistent with the administration of the Bakufu. The far-reaching consequences of this conception will be dealt with in a later chapter. Here, it is sufficient to say that one of the greatest and most truly patriotic of the Tokugawa shoguns himself unwittingly sowed the seeds of disaffection destined to prove fatal to his own family.


Yoshimune was fond of astronomy. He erected a telescope in the observatory at Kanda, a sun-dial in the palace park, and a rain-gauge at the same place. By his orders a mathematician named Nakane Genkei translated the Gregorian calendar into Japanese, and Yoshimune, convinced of the superior accuracy of the foreign system, would have substituted it for the Chinese then used in Japan, had not his purpose excited such opposition that he judged it prudent to desist. It was at this time that the well-informed Nishikawa Masayasu and Shibukawa Noriyasu were appointed Government astronomers.

Previously the only sources of information about foreign affairs had been the masters of the Dutch ships, the Dutch merchants, and the Japanese interpreters at Nagasaki. The importation of books from the Occident having been strictly forbidden by the third shogun, Iemitsu, Yoshimune appreciated the disadvantage of such a restriction, and being convinced of the benefits to be derived from the study of foreign science and art, he rescinded the veto except in the case of books relating to Christianity. Thus, for the first time, Japanese students were brought into direct contact with the products of Western intelligence. In 1744, Aoki Konyo received official orders to proceed to Nagasaki for the purpose of seeking instruction in Dutch from Dutch teachers. Shibukawa and Aoki are regarded as the pioneers of Occidental learning in Japan, and, in the year 1907, posthumous honours were conferred on them by the reigning Emperor of their country.

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