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Authors: Richard Danford Luis Frois SJ Daniel T. Reff

The First European Description of Japan, 1585

BOOK: The First European Description of Japan, 1585
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The First European Description of Japan, 1585

In 1585, at the height of Jesuit missionary activity in Japan, which was begun by Francis Xavier in 1549, Luis Frois, a long-time missionary in Japan, drafted the earliest systematic comparison of Western and Japanese cultures. This book constitutes the first critical English-language edition of the 1585 work, the original of which was discovered in the Royal Academy of History in Madrid after the Second World War. The book provides a translation of the text, which is not a continuous narrative, but rather more than 600 distichs or brief couplets on subjects such as gender, child rearing, religion, medicine, eating, horses, writing, ships and seafaring, architecture, and music and drama. In addition, the book includes a substantive introduction and other editorial material to explain the background and also to make comparisons with present-day Japanese life. Overall, the book represents an important primary source for understanding a particularly challenging period of history and its connection to contemporary Europe and Japan.

Luis Frois S.J.
was a long-time Jesuit missionary in Japan in the later years of the sixteenth century.

Daniel T. Reff
is an anthropologist and Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies in the Humanities, The Ohio State University, USA.

Richard K. Danford
is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Vice-President for Diversity and Inclusion at Marietta College, Ohio, USA.

Robin D. Gill
is a translator, author and editor, Key Biscayne, Florida, USA.

Japan Anthropology Workshop Series

Series Editor:

Joy Hendry, Oxford Brookes University

Editorial Board:

Pamela Asquith, University of Alberta

Eyal Ben Ari, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Hirochika Nakamaki, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka

Kirsten Refsing, University of Copenhagen

Wendy Smith, Monash University

Founder Member of the Editorial Board:

Jan van Bremen, University of Leiden

A Japanese View of Nature

The world of living things by
Kinji Imanishi

Translated by
Pamela J Asquith, Heita Kawakatsu, Shusuke Yagi
Hiroyuki Takasaki

Edited and introduced by
Pamela J Asquith

Japan's Changing Generations

Are young people creating a new society?

Edited by
Gordon Mathews
Bruce White

The Care of the Elderly in Japan

Yongmei Wu

Community Volunteers in Japan

Everyday stories of social change

Lynne Y. Nakano

Nature, Ritual and Society in Japan's Ryukyu Islands

Arne Røkkum

Psychotherapy and Religion in Japan

The japanese introspection practice of naikan

Chikako Ozawa-de Silva

Dismantling the East-West Dichotomy

Essays in honour of jan van bremen

Edited by
Joy Hendry
Heung Wah Wong

Pilgrimages and Spiritual Quests in Japan

Edited by
Maria Rodriguez del Alisal, Peter Ackermann
Dolores Martinez

The Culture of Copying in Japan

Critical and historical perspectives

Edited by
Rupert Cox

Primary School in Japan

Self, individuality and learning in elementary education

Peter Cave

Globalisation and Japanese Organisational Culture

An ethnography of a Japanese Corporation in France

Mitchell W. Sedgwick

Japanese Tourism and Travel Culture

Edited by
Sylvie Guichard-Anguis
Okpyo Moon

Making Japanese Heritage

Edited by
Christoph Brumann
Robert A. Cox

Japanese Women, Class and the Tea Ceremony

The voices of tea practitioners in northern Japan

Kaeko Chiba

Home and Family in Japan

Continuity and transformation

Edited by
Richard Ronald
Allison Alexy

Abandoned Japanese in Postwar Manchuria:

The lives of war orphans and wives in two countries

Yeeshan Chan

Tradition, Democracy and the Townscape of Kyoto

Claiming a right to the past

Christoph Brumann

Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan

Soka Gakkai Youth
Komeito Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen

Language, Education and Citizenship in Japan

Genaro Castro-Vázquez

Death and Dying in Contemporary Japan

Hikaru Suzuki

Disability in Japan

Carolyn S. Stevens

Ascetic Practices in Japanese Religion

Tullio Federico Lobetti

Japanese Tree Burial

Ecology, kinship and the culture of death

Sébastien Penmellen Boret

Japan's Ainu Minority in Tokyo

Diasporic indigeneity and urban politics

Mark K. Watson

The First European Description of Japan, 1585

A critical English-Language edition of striking contrasts in the customs of Europe and Japan by
Luis Frois, S.J

Translated, edited and annotated by
Richard K. Danford, Robin D. Gill
, and
Daniel T. Reff

The First European Description of Japan, 1585

A critical English-language edition of
Striking Contrasts in the Customs of Europe and Japan
by Luis Frois, S.J.

Translated from the Portuguese original and edited and annotated by

Richard K. Danford, Robin D. Gill, and Daniel T. Reff

With a critical introduction by

Daniel T. Reff

First published 2014

by Routledge

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN

and by Routledge

711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2014 Daniel T. Reff, Richard K. Danford and Robin D. Gill.

The right of Daniel T. Reff, Richard K. Danford and Robin D. Gill to be identified as authors of the translation, selection and editorial material, has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Trademark notice
: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Fróis, Luís, -1597.

[Tratado em que se contêm muito susinta- e abreviadamente algumas contradições e diferenças de custumes entre a gente de Europa e esta provincía de Japão. English]

The first European description of Japan, 1585: a critical English-language edition of striking contrasts in the customs of Europe and Japan by Luis Frois, S.J. / translated from the Portuguese original and edited and annotated by Richard K. Danford, Robin D. Gill, and Daniel T. Reff; with a critical introduction by Daniel T. Reff.

pages cm. —(Japan anthropology workshop series; 25)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

1. Japan—Civilization—1568–1600—Early works to 1800. 2. Japan—Social life and customs—1185–1600—Early works to 1800. 3. Japan—Description and travel—Early works to 1800. 4. Europe—Civilization—16th century—Early works to 1800. 5. Europe—Social life and customs—16th century—Early works to 1800. I. Danford, Richard K., 1964-, editor, translator. II. Gill, Robin, 1951-, editor, translator. III. Reff, Daniel T., 1949-, editor, translator. IV. Title.

DS822.2.F6613 2014



ISBN: 978-0-415-72757-0 (hbk)

ISBN: 978-1-315-85214-0 (ebk)

Typeset in Times New Roman PS

by diacriTech, Chennai

Table of contents

Figures and maps

Preface by Joy Hendry, Series Editor


Critical introduction by Daniel T. Reff

Jesus [&] Mary

1   Concerning men, their persons, and their clothing

2   Women, their persons and customs

3   Concerning children and their customs

4   Concerning the
and their customs

5   Concerning [Buddhist] temples, images and things pertaining to the practice of their religion

6   The Japanese way of eating and drinking

7   Japanese offensive and defensive weapons and warfare

8   Concerning horses

9   Diseases, doctors, and medicines

10   Japanese writing and their books, paper, ink, and letters

11   Houses, construction, gardens and fruits

12   Ships, seafaring and

13   Japanese plays, farces, dances, singing and musical instruments

14   Various and extraordinary things that do not fit neatly in the preceding chapters

References cited


Figures and maps

Map 1.

Jesuit Missionary Activity in Asia to 1585

Figure 1.

Photocopy of Title Page of

Figure 2.

Photocopy of First Page of Chapter 9 of the

Map 2.

Jesuits in Japan, 1585


Joy Hendry

I am delighted to introduce this new book to our series. It is quite unlike anything we have done before, and has many exciting features. It does start out as a translation, and we had one before, but this one is from Portuguese to English, rather than from Japanese to English. As it happens, we are quite late in the game for it has already been a popular book in its Japanese language translation, and has appeared in German, Chinese, French, Spanish, and modern Portuguese as well. It is, as the title would suggest, an early account of Japan, penned in a comparative fashion by a Jesuit missionary from Portugal, but this book is not just a translation of the original text; it comes with a great deal of value added by its three highly qualified editors, and makes a special contribution to the Japan Anthropology Workshop series for several reasons.

First, the original text represents a kind of early forerunner to the anthropological studies that we usually publish in the series. Written in couplets comparing Japan and Europe, the style may be very different, but the observations are based on first-hand experience gathered during a long stay, in this case of more than twenty years, and with a deep knowledge of the language, and the ways of thinking and behaviour of the people. It thus builds on a root understanding common with the anthropology of today. It also has an amazingly anachronistic ability to consider the Japanese as equally “civilized”, if not more so, than Europeans, and thus achieves an even approach still being sought by some anthropologists.

Secondly, the couplets themselves are presented with an immediate historical context, explaining both the reasons why certain aspects of the comparisons were chosen from a sixteenth-century European perspective, as well as how Japanese customs have changed since that time. Our editors comprise a team of scholars with different skills: Danford to translate from Portuguese into English; Gill, who like Frois, lived in Japan for some twenty-odd years, adding a contemporary commentary based on a similarly deep experience, though separated by more than four centuries; and Reff, who supplies the scholarship on the Jesuits of “early modern Europe”.

BOOK: The First European Description of Japan, 1585
12.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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