Otsuki Gentaku

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  • Japanese: 大槻玄沢 (Ootsuki Gentaku)

Ôtsuki Gentaku was a Rangaku scholar.

His 1799 Ransetsu benwaku (蘭説弁惑, "Clarifying Errors in Theories about the Dutch") was perhaps the first major Japanese work to assert that Africans were "no different from the rest of mankind," and that they were not, on the whole, as a group, less intelligent or otherwise of inherently lower birth, but rather that Africans, like anyone else, included "the noble and the lowly, ... the wise and the foolish." This text was also among those which challenged the prevailing notion that dark skin came from extended contact with the water (and that blacks were particularly adept at swimming), suggesting instead that their dark skin derived from their hot, southerly climate, and from lengthy exposure to the sun.[1]

Along with Shimura Hiroyuki, Ôtsuki produced in 1807 a set of interviews called Kankai ibun, which recorded the experiences of a group of Japanese castaways who had seen the Atlantic, the Straits of Magellan, and Hawaii.[2]

He studied Chinese music briefly under the tutelage of Sai Hôkin, a member of the 1796 Ryukyuan embassy to Edo.[3]


  1. Gary Leupp, Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900, A&C Black (2003), 94.
  2. Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), 27.
  3. Itaya Tôru 板谷徹, “Kafu ni mirareru geinô shiryô 2: Edo nobori” 「家譜に見られる芸能資料2:江戸上り」, Musa ムーサ 9 (2008), 172, from the kafu of 蔡姓 (2088) 十四世邦錦.