Some visitors to Japan are more productive than others. In a stay of just two years, the naturalist and physician Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716) catalogued the country’s flora, discovered that the ginkgo tree was far from extinct, as then believed in Europe, made two visits to Edo, and presented himself to the Shogun.
|"Fusino Jamma: een zeer hooge en Zonderlinge Berg"|
Detail from a map in Engelbert Kaempfer's History of Japan (High Dutch edition)
On his way to and from the capital, Kaempfer passed close by the foot of Japan’s top mountain. In his History of Japan, published posthumously in English in 1727, he lauds "The famous Mount Fuji in the province of Suruga, which in height can be compared only to Mount Tenerife in the Canaries". Fuji, he continues, "is conical in shape and so even and beautiful that one may easily call it the most beautiful mountain in the world .... The poets and painters of this country never end praising and portraying the beauty of this mountain".
|Map of Suruga Bay, showing Mt Fuji (top right)|
|Mt Fuji: the traditional view|
H. Byron Earhart, Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan, University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
Map images: courtesy of the East Asian Library, University of California, Berkeley