Bansho shirabesho

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Marker at former site of the Bansho shirabesho. Today, the site of the Shôwakan and Kudanshita Station.
  • Established: 1855 (as Yôgakusho); 1856/2 (as Bansho shirabesho)
  • Opened: 1857/1
  • Other Names: 洋学所 (yôgakusho)
  • Japanese: 蕃書調所 (Bansho shirabesho)

The Bansho Shirabesho (roughly, "Institute for Examination of Foreign Books") was an institute established by the Tokugawa shogunate for the study and teaching of Western Studies.

Originally established in 1855 as the Yôgakusho (roughly, "Western Studies Institute") on the former site of a firefighters' station in Ogawamachi, in the Kanda neighborhood of Edo, the institute was moved in 1855/12 to the former site of the residence of Nakaoku koshô Takemoto Zusho no kami Masatsune, at Kudanzaka.

Scholars such as Koga Kin'ichirô and Mitsukuri Genpo were appointed to prominent positions in the school. Not only shogunate retainers but also retainers of the various domains were permitted to study at the institute.[1]

The institute was renamed the Bansho Shirabesho in 1856/2, and was relocated yet again, later that month, to a different site within the Kudanzaka-shita neighborhood. Mitsukuri Genpo and Sugita Seikei were among those appointed to serve as instructors there; Tokushima domain retainer Takahata Gorô (Michizumi), Kagoshima domain retainer Terashima Munenori, Hagi domain retainer Tôjô Eian, Okayama domain retainer Harada Keisaku, Sanda domain retainer Kawamoto Kômin, Sakura domain retainer Tezuka Ritsuzô, and Annaka domain retainer Tajima Junsuke were among those who served as assistant instructors.

That same year, all Western books in the shogunate's collections were relocated to the Bansho shirabesho to be kept there. The various daimyô houses were then ordered to submit lists of the Western books in their collections, along with copies of translations that had been produced. The shogunate also ordered that all newly-published Western books and translations had to pass through inspectors (or censors) at the Bansho shirabesho.[2] A painting or illustration section was also established within the institute; a number of Meiji period Japanese painters in the Western-style studied there.[1]

The institution was opened for classes in 1857/1. For a brief time at the end of that year, the Bansho shirabesho was commissioned to serve as lodgings for US consul general Townsend Harris; during his stay, the institute had its activities shifted to Japanese Studies.

The Bansho shirabesho was later relocated to Kanda Hitotsubashi-dôri avenue, and was renamed the Yôsho shirabesho ("Institute for the Examination of Western Books") and then the Kaiseisho. The law, literature, and physical sciences departments of the University of Tokyo are considered to have developed out of the Institute.[1]

An explanatory plaque marking the former location of the institute stands today just outside Kudanshita subway station, near the Shôwakan museum/archives.[1]


  • Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 102, 110, 121, 156, 168, 172, 184, 275, 412.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Plaques on-site at former location of the Bansho shirabesho. Chiyoda-ku, Kudan minami 1-6.[1]
  2. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 203.