Watanabe Kazan

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Watanabe Kazan was a prominent Rangaku & literati scholar and painter of the early 19th century.

A karô of Tahara han in Mikawa province, Kazan is known for his relatively realistic portraits - one by Ichikawa Beian showing, rather than erasing, his goiter, is a famous example - and for his involvement in literati and Rangaku pursuits otherwise. Kazan was an active member of cultural and intellectual social circles of his time, networking with many other significant figures of the time. Encouraged by Tani Bunchô, Kazan occasionally hosted painting & calligraphy salons, bringing people together to enjoy these pursuits together with one another.

He is also known for his involvement in advising the lords of Tahara han in management of the domain's economy, defenses against potential foreign threats, and so forth. Kazan fell victim, however, to a shogunate crackdown on Rangaku in 1839 - a set of incidents known as Bansha no goku, in which Kazan and a number of other prominent Rangaku scholars were arrested and imprisoned, perhaps partially under suspicion of sedition or critique against the government.

Kazan committed suicide on 1841/10/11, possibly as a result of this persecution.


  • Christine Guth, Art of Edo Japan, Yale University Press (1996), 124-125.