Morishima Churyo

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A page from Morishima's Ryûkyû-banashi, published 1790
  • Born: 1754
  • Died: 1808/12/4
  • Other Names: 森羅 万象 (Shinra Banshou, Banzou, Manzou), 桂川 甫粲 (Katsuragawa Hosan), 竹杖 為軽 (Takezue Nosugaru), Tsukiji Zenkô
  • Japanese: 森島 中良 (Morishima Chuuryou, Morishima Nakayoshi)

Morishima Chûryô was a prominent writer and Rangaku scholar of the late 18th century, known as the writer of numerous popularly-published books on foreign cultures, as well as for his gesaku and kyôka.

He was born into a samurai family in Edo, the second son of samurai physician Katsuragawa Hoken (aka Kuninori). He studied the writing of gesaku (humorous literature) under Hiraga Gennai, and published a number of gesaku, sharebon, and kibyôshi under his given name, Katsuragawa Hosan, or under the pseudonym Shinra Banshô[1]. He became known as a kyôka poet as well, under the poetry name Takezue Nosugaru, employing the names Morishima Chûryô (also read as Nakayoshi) and Tsukiji Zenkô[2] in writing and publishing his Rangaku works. Some of his most significant Rangaku publications include Kômô zatsuwa ("European Miscellany") published in 1787, Ryûkyû-banashi ("Ryûkyû Conversation") in 1790, and Bango-sen, a Japanese-Dutch dictionary, in 1798. Kômô zatsuwa was perhaps the first Japanese book to describe people from different European countries as possessing different essential national character (e.g. the English as shrewd or the French as hot-tempered). Though such stereotyping is of course frowned upon today, at the time it was a significant (arguably, progressive) step for Japanese popular discourse, as readers came to imagine a diversity of European nations and identities, rather than a single, mysterious, conflated notion of the generic "foreigner."[3] Chûryô's Ryûkyû banashi, meanwhile, has been described as the most popular of all guides to Ryûkyû published in the Edo period; it was largely based on earlier texts, but was written in a more accessible Japanese, rather than classical Chinese, and due to its popularity was reprinted numerous times.[4] Nearly every work on Ryûkyû published later in the Edo period drew extensively upon the Ryûkyû-banashi. Chûryô seems to have planned a Chôsen-banashi ("Korea Conversation") as well, but this does not seem to have ever been published.[5]

Morishima's elder brother, Katsuragawa Hoshû (aka Kuniakira), served for a time as court physician to the Tokugawa shogun.


  • Timon Screech, Obtaining Images, University of Hawaii Press (2012), 319.
  • "Katsuragawa Hosan," Digital-ban Nihon jinmei daijiten デジタル版 日本人名大辞典, Kodansha, 2009.
  • "Shinra Banshô," Daijirin 大辞林, Sanseido Ltd.
  1. Alternate readings of these characters include Shinra Banzô or Shinra Manzô.
  2. Screech, 195.
  3. Gary Leupp, Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900, A&C Black (2003), 88.
  4. William Fleming, “The World Beyond the Walls: Morishima Chūryō (1756-1810) and the Development of Late Edo Fiction,” PhD dissertation, Harvard University (2011), 88.
  5. Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 225-226.