Sato Nobuhiro

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Satô Nobuhiro was a prominent intellectual and political & economic commentator of the late Edo period.

A student of astronomy, geography, cartography, Confucianism, and a variety of other fields, he wrote numerous works on government and economy. Along with a number of his contemporaries, he advocated nationalist and rationalist political economic schemes. These were focused in part on reorganizing the status hierarchy to better emphasize and enhance efficient economic production, and in order to claim more funding for the state, to be put to use for national purposes (such as maritime defense).

Nobuhiro is perhaps best known for his works Kaibôsaku ("Strategies/Plans for Maritime Defense") and Kondô hisaku ("A Secret Plan for Confusing Times", 1823), in which he considers Japan's potential enemies, and possible avenues for the future. The latter is among a number of works by thinkers of his time which, marking a departure from the thought of the previous generation, first advocate invasion of China. While earlier works by the likes of Hayashi Shihei and Watanabe Kazan noted the Western powers and Qing Dynasty China as threats, and while his own Kaibôsaku advocates building a stronger friendly trade relationship with China, in Kondô hisaku, Nobuhiro suggests that it was now Japan's mission to go out, subdue the barbarians, and (re-)civilize the world. Representing China as having fallen into serious decline, he argues it would not be too difficult to successfully invade a weak and cowardly China.

He played a role in guiding the policies of Mizuno Tadakuni in the 1840s, advising that simply focusing on coastal defense, e.g. within Edo Bay, was not enough; that something had to be done to defend Japan's coastal waters, and not just the coasts themselves.


  • Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 89-90, 100-101.