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Otsuki Gentaku - opening the door to modern science in Japan


Kids and international residents in Ichinoseki are performing a play in English (and a few lines in Dutch!) about a man known as “the father of modern science in Japan.”

Otsuki Gentaku was born in Ichinoseki in 1757, in a period when Japan had policies which strictly limited contact with the rest of the world, and trade was limited to that with just Holland and China. A small island in southern Japan was the only place where exchange was allowed, through which books and items from Holland facilitated the study of science from Europe. This field of study is called ‘rangaku’ in Japanese, and Otsuki Gentaku greatly contributed to the field. 


The play, titled “Otsuki Gentaku – opening the door to modern science in Japan,” begins in Ichinoseki where a young Gentaku is studying hard, and his desire to help people via medicine and knowledge grows stronger. He sets foot in Tokyo (then known as Edo), where he studies medicine, Western knowledge and the Dutch language. Six years later he travels down to Dejima in Nagasaki, where he meets with the Dutch at the trading post, and then returns to Edo where he works as a doctor, starts his own school, and translates various works into Japanese, spending his life opening the door to knowledge which would modernize Japan. The first four acts of the play depict this journey, while the fifth and final act is set in Ichinoseki in the 2030s, with the International Linear Collider built and running. Here, medical treatment using accelerator technology comes into play for a pair of researchers from abroad.


A hand-held recording of the first performance, at the Yamanome Civic Center festival on October 16, can be seen on YouTube:


The play script can be seen in the link below.


The next performance will be on Saturday, November 26, from 1.30 to 2pm, at Garage Hall (address: Tamura-cho 3-46, opposite the former residence of the Numata samurai family).

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Click for the full script

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