Ryukyu zatsuwa

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  • Date: 1788, Kabô Sozen
  • Japanese: 琉球雑話 (Ryuukyuu zatsuwa)

Ryûkyû zatsuwa is a 1788 text by the Confucian scholar Kabô Sozen or Motoyoshi, discussing various aspects of the history, culture, and geography of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, as well as containing a fictional story of travel to exotic parts of the world, and a discussion of sea creatures.

A copy in the Sakamaki-Hawley Collection at the University of Hawaii at Manoa may be the only known extant copy. The core of the book covers Okinawan climate, geography, people, customs, and local products; this is followed by a fictional travel tale, and a section on sea creatures. The sections on Ryûkyû are based largely on a combination of things the author heard of (i.e. conventional wisdom, and rumors), and extensive borrowings directly copied out of Nishikawa Joken's Ka'i tsûshô kô. Placenames in the text for locations supposedly in Ryûkyû appear to have been borrowed from a book of war tales such as the Ryûkyû seibatsu ki (an account of the 1609 Invasion of Ryûkyû)

The Ryûkyû zatsuwa represents Ryûkyû as being a series of islands strung out across the seas, but located near Japan, and as having abundant harvests. It also describes the kingdom as having been previously under Korea, but having recently submitted to Japan as well. It discusses the Satsuma invasion in 1609, but asserts that Ryûkyû has long belonged to Japan and that it bends before Japan’s majesty/dignity just as plants bend in the wind. The final section of the Ryûkyû portion of the text finishes up with discussions of geography. Other elements of the book include:

  • That Okinawan language is not mutually intelligible with Chinese, and shares many words with Japanese.
  • Contains an image of the Buddhist mortuary tablet (ihai) of Minamoto no Tametomo.
  • That Ryukyuans learn Buddhism, kami worship, Confucianism, and Daoism, and that there are many people who study Japanese manners and customs.
  • That Ryukyuans play biwa and shamisen, and that Japanese shamisen derived originally from Ryûkyû.
  • That Ryukyuan castaways in Japan are returned to their country by being first sent to Nagasaki, and then to Satsuma han, and from there back to Ryûkyû.
  • Some discussions of Ryukyuan local products, and of Ryukyuan trade with China.


  • 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), 221-224.