Yasue, Akio
EAJRS Conservation/Preservation Working Group. Preservation consultant

The Kirishitan-ban and the Japan-Europe cultural interchange

In 1590, Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano introduced the Western printing technology to Japan with which the Kirishitan-ban or the Jesuit press publication was issued as the first movable metal type printing there. Several tens of tittles were published from 1591 until the promulgation of the edict of 1614 against professing Christianity.

Although the Kirishitan-ban itself is the outcome of the Japan-Europe relation, several important cultural interchanges between them have progressed since then with it.

Many Kirishitan-ban books were shipped to the West as the first European arrival of Japanese books. Many books were prized as precious while some were used to study Japanese language.

Much later in 19th century, two titles of the Kirishitan-ban, the Japanese grammar book written in Portugal and the Japanese-Portugal dictionary, were translated into French. The French translation of Kirishitan-ban had become the essential tools to study Japanese language in modern Europe. At about the same time, having recognized its cultural and historical importance, Earnest Satow, famous English diplomat and Japanologist, issued in 1888 a Kirishitan-ban bibliography entitled Jesuit mission press in Japan 1591-1610, which contained 14 Kirishitan-ban titles.

The introduction of the Satow’s bibliography in the end of the 19th century in Japan evoked the study of the Kirishitan-ban there. Japanese scholars have carried out research projects on the Kirishitan-ban over more than a hundred of years. It would be worth noting that in the course of visiting the library and archives collections in Europe, Japanese scholars discovered some new irreplaceable Kirishitan-ban books there.

In my presentation I will review the Japan-Europe cultural interchange related to Kirishitan-ban over the last 4 centuries and examine the significance of ‘books’ in that interchange.