The First European Description of Japan, 1585: A Critical English-Language Edition of Striking Contrasts in the Customs of Europe and Japan by Luis Frois, S.J., 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The First European Description of Japan, 1585

A Critical English-Language Edition of Striking Contrasts in the Customs of Europe and Japan by Luis Frois, S.J., 1st Edition

By Luis Frois SJ

Edited by Daniel T. Reff, Richard Danford


312 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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In 1585, at the height of Jesuit missionary activity in Japan, which was begun by Francis Xavier in 1549, Luis Frois, a long-time missionary in Japan, drafted the earliest systematic comparison of Western and Japanese cultures. This book constitutes the first critical English-language edition of the 1585 work, the original of which was discovered in the Royal Academy of History in Madrid after the Second World War. The book provides a translation of the text, which is not a continuous narrative, but rather more than 600 distichs or brief couplets on subjects such as gender, child rearing, religion, medicine, eating, horses, writing, ships and seafaring, architecture, and music and drama. In addition, the book includes a substantive introduction and other editorial material to explain the background and also to make comparisons with present-day Japanese life. Overall, the book represents an important primary source for understanding a particularly challenging period of history and its connection to contemporary Europe and Japan.

Table of Contents

Critical Introduction Daniel T. Reff The Tratado 1. Men, their Persons, and their Clothing 2. Women, their Persons and Customs 3. Children and their Customs 4. The Bonzes and their Customs 5. Temples, Images, and Things Pertaining to Worship and Religion 6. The Japanese Way of Eating and Drinking 7. Japanese Offensive and Defensive Weapons and Warfare 8. Horses 9. Diseases, Doctors, and Medicines 10. Japanese Writing and their Books, Paper, Ink and Letters 11. Houses, Construction, Gardens and Fruits 12. Ships, Seafaring and Dogus 13. Japanese Plays, Farces, Dances, Singing, and Musical Instruments 14. Other Various and Extraordinary Things that could not be Assigned to the Previous Chapters

About the Author/Editors

Luis Frois S.J. was a long-time Jesuit missionary in Japan in the later years of the sixteenth century.

Daniel T. Reff is an anthropologist and Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies in the Humanities, The Ohio State University, USA

Richard Danford is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Vice-President for Diversity and Inclusion at Marietta College, Ohio, USA

Robin Gill is a freelance translator, author and editor, USA

About the Series

Japan Anthropology Workshop Series

Editorial Board:
Pamela Asquith, University of Alberta
Eyal Ben Ari, Kinneret Academic College, Sea of Galilee, Israel

Hirochika Nakamaki, Suita City Museum, Japan
Christoph Brumann, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany

Henry Johnson, University of Otago, New Zealand

Founder Member of the Editorial Board:
Jan van Bremen, University of Leiden

Routledge is very proud to be publishing this important series, which has already signed up a good list of high quality books on interesting topics, and has a truly international range of authors and editors.

A key aim of the series is to present studies that offer a deep understanding of aspects of Japanese society and culture to offset the impression of constant change and frivolity that so tempts the mass media around the world.  Living in Japan brings anyone into contact with the fervent mood of change, and former residents from many other countries enjoy reading about their temporary home, but there is a demand also to penetrate less obvious elements of this temporary life.  Anthropologists specialise in digging beneath the surface, in peeling off and examining layers of cultural wrapping, and in gaining an understanding of language and communication that goes beyond formal presentation and informal frolicking.  This series will help to open the eyes of readers around the world from many backgrounds to the work of these diligent anthropologists researching the social life of Japan.

Submissions from prospective authors are welcomed, and enquiries should be sent in the first instance to the series editor Professor Joy Hendry ([email protected]).

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies