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Kaempfer’s History of Japan (Coursework Sample)


[A] What do Engelbert Kaempfer’s descriptions in Japan Today (1727) reveal about his attitudes to the Japanese? What do they also reveal about Japanese attitudes to the Dutch, both in general and more specifically relating to Dutch knowledge? To what extent do you judge Kaempfer to be a trustworthy or unreliable source? Say why. OR [B] Imagine you are Imamura Gen’emon – Engelbert Kaempfer’s interpreter on Dejima Island. Describe the exchange of knowledge between you and Kaempfer, and your opinion of the Dutch. Explain why you risked your life to help Kaempfer smuggle information and objects out of Japan. Relevant Sources you need from class (no outside or internet sources please): Japan lecture #1 Kaempfer, Japan Today (1727) extracts, trans. Bodart-Bailey Yu-Ying Brown, “Japanese Books and Manuscripts” Your answer should be 2 pages in length double-spaced, 12pt. Answer each part of the question in turn. Advice: Demonstrate focused engagement with the specific questions through analysis of the relevant primary and secondary sources and use of evidence, including quotation, to support your answers. Always subordinate your use of evidence to answering the question. Demonstrate awareness of key themes and issues from secondary sources and lectures on historical context. Use a clear and precise writing style. Brainstorm and plan before writing and proofread before submission. Avoid vague wording: always use specific dates, terms, place-names, etc. CITATION GUIDELINES: All quotations or ideas specifically taken from texts must be cited (down to page number). Use the same citation practices as in the Merian Paper: cite source and page number after quotations and specific evidence in parentheses throughout. NO OUTSIDE OR INTERNET SOURCES – THE PAPER MUST BE COMPLETELY YOUR OWN PERSONAL WORK AND WRITING


Kaempfer’s History of Japan
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Kaempfer’s History of Japan
Engelbert Kaempfer was a physician, explorer and a writer of German origin known for having travelled many places in the world during the period of 1683 to 1693.Of all the places he toured, Japan remains a country that he seemed to have developed much interest. This is illustrated by his descriptions in Japan Today (1727) which consists of detailed account of Japanese politics, religion and social system as well as its flora and fauna. Kaempfer’s History of Japan brings to fore his attitudes towards Japanese and the latter’s attitudes towards the Dutch. This research will discuss what Kaempfer a description in Japan Today (1727) reveals about his attitudes to the Japanese, Japanese attitudes to the Dutch, both in general and more specifically relating to Dutch knowledge and why Kaempfer was a reliable source and authority to that effect.
Exceedingly Suspicious Nation
Even though Kaempfer described Japan as a peaceful and civilized nation, there is one thing that he found appalling and equally interesting about the country. He described it in his own words as “exceedingly suspicious nation” (Kaempfer, 1999). This is with regards to Japanese relations with the Dutch. According to him, the Japanese who were assigned to attend to their affairs in Deshima, especially the licensed interpreters were all bound by solemn oath not to have a discourse with them (Yi-Yung, 1989). Japanese were not allowed to discourse with the Dutch simply because the authorities thought that would reveal the secrets of the country. This is fortified by the fact that even the licensed interpreters were tied down to betray another. Interpreters were their own colleagues’ watchmen all done in the interest of the country. In fact, no Japanese who appeared friendly to the Dutch was looked upon as an honest man.
However the Dutch were very resilient people who would stop at nothing just to get what they had set their eyes on and put their mind to. This can be seen where they became subservient to the Japanese to earn their trust and have ample time for living and trade with these exceedingly suspicious people. Kaemper notes that “the Dutch showed the utmost subservience in everything, even wrongful imposition to stay in the good books of this nation and conduct profitable trade” (Kaempfer, 1999, 187). This not only demonstrated the good attitude that the Dutch had towards the Japanese but their determination to exploit the resources of the empire.
Cruelty, Envy and Intolerance
It would appear that Kaempfer was quick to judge Japanese as well behaved people with good manners when the so praised Japanese turned against the Dutch. This is evident in Kaempfer’s History where things started going south for the Dutch. Things change

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