Nagasaki interpreters

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Edo period Nagasaki was served by two categories of interpreters. The Oranda tsûji (Holland interpreters) specialized in the translation & interpretation of Dutch, while a category of Tô tsûji ("Chinese" interpreters) included not only those specializing in Chinese, but also those responsible for interactions with people from a variety of other Asian countries/regions, including Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and India.

The first head of the Chinese interpreters was Feng Hui, appointed in 1604. Positions as interpreters were often passed down hereditarily, and official interpreters' students often included their direct relatives.

Some interpreters left Nagasaki to pursue other careers, including using their language skills to become teachers of Chinese language and calligraphy. Okajima Kanzan (1675-1728), who contributed to Ogyû Sorai's Chinese-language society and who compiled the first Japanese dictionary of vernacular Chinese, is an oft-cited example.[1]


  • Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 13-14.
  1. Rebeckah Clements, "Speaking in Tongues? Daimyo, Zen Monks, and Spoken Chinese in Japan, 1661–1711," The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 76, No. 3 (August) 2017: 608.