Isaac Titsingh was head of the Japanese station of the Dutch East India Company 1780-94. He was a career merchant, but unusual in having a classical education and training as a physician. He could also read Chinese. In Japan, his impact was enormous. He became a friend and confidant of the shogun's father-in-law, the famously wise but wily Shimazu Shigehide, almost causing war between father and son-in-law. He also attempted the project of equipping Japan with an ocean-going fleet. However, he left Japan disappointed in the ability of the country to embrace change. After many years in India he settled in Paris, where he wrote down his experiences. It is one of the most exciting journals of the period and reveals the almost unknown world of 18th century Japan, discussing politics, history, poetry and rituals. The Illustrations of Japan appeared posthumously in 1822 in English and French. This fully annotated edition makes the original English version available for the first time in 180 years.
School of Oriental and African Studies, UK