Rangaku and Translation in the Early Meiji in Japan

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This article explores how translation contributed to delivering western studies (“Rangaku”) in Japan, especially through the “Kaitaishinsho,” a translation of “Ontleedkundige Tafelen” [Anatomical Tables] and, in particular, how translation was conducted for western medicine. Rangaku refers to western studies in the early Meiji. Japan came into contact with the western civilization in the sixteenth century, which created the necessity for translation. Interpreters were trained to conduct negotiations, and they were in charge of interpretation and translation. There was an increasing need to understand western languages as Japan began to come into contact with western countries. It was necessary to not only communicate but also read western books and capture knowledge and information. Therefore, interpreters were required to communicate, write, translate, and comprehend western books. As the number of western books increased, there was a great need to translate books on western philosophy and technology. Rangaku was actively embraced in Japan as the Tokugawa bakufu banned any form of western civilization except for Rangaku. Translated words played a critical role in spreading western knowledge in Japan, and this shows that translation played an important role in delivering and embracing foreign culture and knowledge.