The history of natural history in Tokugawa Japan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter introduces the complex series of social and intellectual dynamics that nourished the diversification of the discipline of honzogaku from a field of pharmaceutical research into an authoritative discipline of nature studies that, in the early modern period, matched European naturalis historia in sophistication and coverage. Similarly, although exhibitions of natural species were called yakuhinkai or bussankai (literally gatherings on “medicinal substances” or “products”), their focus was by no means restricted to medicinal substances or agricultural products. The popular craze for natural history that reached its peak in the last century of Tokugawa rule was never sufficient to guarantee economic stability to its practitioners. Finally, despite the fact that European naturalis historia stands, genealogically, as the origin of modern natural sciences, it would be a heuristic fallacy to assume it as standard of judgment in our analysis of the development and truth-claims of Tokugawa honzogaku specialists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Tokugawa World
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781000427332
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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