Japan History of Exploration Part II

Over the centuries, until 1779 there are only the two voyages, of little importance, of the Russian captain M. Spanberg, who explored (1739) the eastern coasts of Hondo and the major islands of the Kuriles, and that of Count VM Benyowsky, who explored (1771) the extreme part of the Kii peninsula, the eastern and western coasts of Shikoku and the island of Ōshima. In 1779, Captain Cook’s two ships, commanded for his death by J. Gore and J. King, on their return voyage to Europe, visited the Kuriles and the northern part of Hondo, on the shores of which some points already fixed by Vries were recognized and again determined, and, once they returned to the sea, they discovered the Sulfur Islands (Iw ō – ga – shima).

Basically, towards the end of the century. XVIII, the hydrography and layout of the Japanese coasts still left much to be desired, and the western coasts of Hondo and Yezo also remained unexplored. It was La Pérouse that in the year 1767, the third of its unfortunate voyage, after having visited the southwest coasts of Formosa, surveyed the southern ones of Korea and sketched the hydrography of the Tsushima Strait, first determined a point, Capo Noto, at 37 ° 36 ‘of lat. N. and 137 ° 55 ′ 24 ″ of long. E., thereby remaining, in a certain way, the position of the western Japanese coasts with respect to the Korean and Tartar ones. But the most important result of his cruise in these seas was undoubtedly the discovery of the Sōya Channel (or La Pérouse) which, establishing the island nature of Yezo, cut short all the controversy that arose on it. However, it remained to establish the exact route of its coasts and to determine how far north Hondo extended, these questions, the solution of which was later to be reserved for WR Broughton.

Before these, in 1791, in the meantime, J. Colnett visited the northern Ryū-kyū, the north-west coasts of Kyūshū and the south-west end of Hondo, which no one else, until the Restoration, had to visit, whose geographical position was thus fixed; in the following two years, explorations of the main ports of Yezo (Nemuro, Akkeshi, Hakodate and Fukuyama) carried out by the Russian officer A. Laxman, yielded, in addition to discrete plants of these ports, also the relief of the strait that separates Yezo from the island of Kunashiri.

According to SHOEFRANTICS.COM, a work of general verification of the whole archipelago was begun by the English captain WR Broughton, in 1796, and continued in three stages during the following year. He visited all the groups of the Ryū-kyū, that of the Miyako, all the coasts of Formosa, those of Hondo up to the Tsugaru Strait, which was detected, the coasts of Yezo, with the exception of the northern ones, the Kurils up to Shimushiri, the western coasts of Sakhalin and, finally, those of the Asian continent, from the mouth of the Amur to the island of Quelpart.

Eight years later, AJ von Krusenstern, a leading figure in the history of modern hydrography, devoted eight months to that of Japan. He surveyed the island of Kyushu almost completely, charted the Tsushima Strait, visited the western shores of Hondo, almost to Tsugaru, of which Broughton had only seen the eastern entrance, visited the western shores of Yezo, where he made interesting observations on the Ainu, the northern islands of the Kuriles, up to Nadežda, and finished by completely surveying the northwestern and eastern coasts of Sakhalin.

All these surveys, while not giving a continuous layout, added new elements to the old ones and gave way to correct the surveys carried out by the Dutch. Until 1805 the coasts of the Inland Sea and the north-west of Hondo still remained undetected, from Kizuki to Cape Noto, and from here to Akita; and at this point the state of our knowledge had to remain until the opening of the town in 1868. In the early years of the century. Meanwhile, the adventure of the Russian captain WM Golovnin, held prisoner by the Japanese on the island of Kunashiri for two years, still produced, in addition to the astronomical determination of many points of the Kuriles, valuable contributions to their ethnography.

Thus came the Restoration. The opening of the country, removed the insurmountable barriers opposed to scholars by its obstinate isolation, made our knowledge enter a new, very fruitful phase. Diplomatic envoys, missionaries, European specialists in the various fields of knowledge, sent or invited to the country to do research or to set up professorships or services, they initiate studies on Japan, which also received considerable impetus from the foundation in Tōkyō, in 1872, of the Asiatic Society of Japan, and, the following year, of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur – uVölkerkunde Ostasiens. Among the pioneers we should mention WG Aston, K. Chamberlain, BH Florenz for indigenous philology, E. Baeltz for anthropology, E. Naumann for geology, JJ Rein for geography.

Only later did the truly precious collaboration of the natives begin, that is, when, after an intense preparation aimed at assimilating European scientific methods and theories, the necessary maturity was reached to make contributions in the various fields of investigation; and today in the studies on the archipelago Japanese activity is predominant.

Japan History of Exploration 2