Osaka, the Merchant's Capital of Early Modern Japan

By James L. McClain; Wakita Osamu | Go to book overview

C H A P T E R N I N E
Ambiguous Encounters:
Ogata Kōan and
International Studies
in Late Tokugawa Osaka

Tetsuo Najita

Widely acclaimed for its brilliant accomplishments in the literary and theatrical arts, Osaka deserves to be remembered equally for its bold assertion that international trade and the accompanying search for new ideas must be unburdened of prejudice and fear.This city of commerce—this "merchants' capital" in Wakita Osamu's phrasing in his concluding chapter to this volume— was a pivotal conduit, purveying to the rest of the nation ideas and objects from other parts of Asia and the Western world, brought by the Dutch to Nagasaki.The life of Ogata Kōan reveals a rarely told story about the international character of his adopted home city of Osaka.A leading proponent of Dutch Studies— Rangaku— Kōan studied European science and medicine in Edo during the early 1830s before establishing his own private academy in Osaka in 1838. Slightly more than two decades later, with Kōan's reputation as one of Japan's leading experts on Rangaku secure beyond dispute, the Tokugawa regime commanded him to go to Edo and assume the headship of a newly founded school of Western medicine.Having moved to Edo much against his will and desire, Kōan would die there suddenly the following year, in 1863, from hemoptysis.

Kōan lived through the turbulent decades that led toward the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate.The momentous events of those years, when combined with the equally dramatic transformations that accompanied the rise of the new Meiji state, rendered Osaka (as well as dozens of castle towns across

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