Ryukyu gashi

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The Ryûkyû gashi is an illustrated book by Odagiri Shunkô, depicting and describing events surrounding the passage of the 1832 Ryukyuan mission to Edo through Nagoya. The title is a play-on-words for Ryukyuan sweets, which are also called Ryûkyû gashi (琉球菓子). Odagiri also discusses & depicts these same subjects, briefly, in a separate work entitled Meiyô kenbun zue.

The book is comprised of sixteen sheets of paper, bound together to form some thirty pages. Early sections show storefronts where books and prints on Ryukyuan subjects are being sold, as well as street barkers in pseudo-Chinese costume advertising those wares. Next it shows the cleaning and repair of roofing and streets in preparation for the mission, followed by the arrival of a company of porters, carrying portions of the mission's luggage and running a few weeks ahead of the mission itself. The core of the book, for some fourteen pages, depicts the formal street processions of the actual mission through the streets of Nagoya, along with images of onlookers, and the storefront-lined streets otherwise during that time. The last few pages of the volume discuss Okinawan language, Ryukyuan court ranks, banners carried in the processions, etc.

Odagiri's volume reveals much about the Ryukyuan missions. From this, we learn how widely, actively, and enthusiastically books & prints about Ryukyuan subjects were prepared and sold, that at least some of these publications were sold simultaneously in multiple forms - e.g. as a bound book, or as individual sheets. Many of these works were published on the occasion of earlier missions, and were now republished, with only minor changes, to adapt them to the particular details of the 1832 event. Some of these were sold for as little as eight mon (paper + printing costs, total, equaling perhaps roughly the cost of two to three bowls of noodles).[1] Further, few other works depict the repair of streets and roofs, and preparations of the main avenues otherwise, this explicitly and clearly, though official documents such as furegaki and other works do describe them textually.

While much of the content regarding events in Nagoya is presumably based on Odagiri's own experiences, information on Okinawan language, the origins and history of the missions, and the contents of the mission's luggage (e.g. gifts to be presented to the shogun), are drawn largely from Morishima Chûryô's 1790 work Ryûkyû-banashi.


  • 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), 212-215n19.
  1. Yokoyama, 153.