Iwao Seiichi

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Iwao Seiichi was a professor at Tokyo University for many years, and a leading scholar on Dutch-Japanese relations, on Edo period foreign relations, and related subjects. His work on Nihonmachi in Southeast Asia, and on shuinsen (red seal ships) was particularly groundbreaking.

Iwao Seiichi attended the Tokyo Imperial University--staying in Tokyo, his birthplace--and graduated in 1925.

Moving to the Taihoku Imperial University, he was assistant professor of literature and politics before he went to England and the Netherlands for two years, studying.

Back in Tokyo, he filled the role of professor of literature at Tokyo University from 1948 to 1961. In 1951, he was honored with a Doctorate of Literature.

Selected Publications


  • Nan'yô Nihonmachi no kenkyû (Studies of the Japantowns of the South Seas), 1941.
  • Early Japanese Settlers in the Philippines, 1943.
  • Shuinsen bôekishi no kenkyû (Studies in the History of the Red Seal Ship Trade), 1958.
  • Japanese Gold and Silver in World History, 1959.
  • Shuinsen to Nihonmachi (Red Seal Ships and Japantowns), 1962.
  • Siebold-sensei: sono shôgai oyobi kôgyô (Siebold: His life and accomplishments), 1967-1968 (2 parts).
  • Biographical Dictionary of Japanese History. (English language version, trans. by Burton Watson, 1978.)
  • Nihon no Rekishi 14: Sakoku (Japanese History 14: Sakoku), 2005 (latest edition)


  • "Li Tan, Chief of the Chinese Residents at Hirado, Japan, in the Last Days of the Ming Dynasty." Memoirs of the Research Department of the Tôyô Bunko, 1958.
  • "Reopening of the diplomatic and commercial relations between Japan and Siam during the Tokugawa period." Acta Asiatica, 1963.
  • "Japanese foreign trade in the 16th and 17th centuries." Acta Asiatica, 1976.

Awards and Associations

  • Japan Academy Prize (1941)
  • Asahi Culture Prize (1968)
  • Inducted into the Japan Academy (1965)
  • Inducted into the British Academy (1977)
  • Chairman of the Historical Society of Japan (Shigakkai)
  • Chairman of the Societe Franco-Japonaise des Sciences Historiques (Nichi-Futsu Rekishi Gakkai)
  • Chairman on the board of directors for the Japan-Netherlands Institute (Nichi-Ran Gakkai)
  • Director of the Institute of Eastern Culture (Tôhô Gakkai)
  • Director of the Internation Society for Educational Information


  1. Yanai Kenji et. al. "Reminiscences of the late Dr. Iwao Seiichi (1900-1988): His scholarship and personality as a pioneer in the study of the history of Dutch-Japanese relations." Tôhôgaku 80 (July 1990).