What was the first Japanese book translated and published in one of the European languages?

By "first" I mean the date of translation, not the original.

  • What's your definition of "book" in this case (as opposed to say a pamphlet)? I'd guess that the first substantial documents translated into a European language would be tariffs and trade regulations but are you interested in something more literary?
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 7:30
  • First definition from M-W: "a long written work". Were the trade agreements published (again M-W: prepared and produced for sale)?
    – macraf
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 7:39
  • 2
    Would a indirect translation count (v.g. Japanese - Chinese - Portuguese)?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 8:33
  • 1
    @SJuan76 Sure it would count. In fact I am curious to learn what you had in mind.
    – macraf
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 12:49

1 Answer 1


Not often I get to upstage Semaphore on his own turf, but here it goes...

One of the first translators of Japanese works was the brilliant German polymath, Julius Klaproth. He made several translations from the Japanese in the 1830s, the first of which was of the Sangoku Tsūran Zusetsu in 1832. This important book, first published in 1785 in Japan, had been brought to Europe by Isaac Titsingh who had made a manuscript translation from which Klaproth worked.

Now, this, of course, was not the first Japanese book translated into a western language, but in terms of fame is perhaps the most notable. The actual earliest book is hard to determine, but one candidate is the Osacka Monogattari published in Yedo (Tokyo) in 1668. I believe this is a translation into Latin. There is a copy of this incredibly rare book in the British Museum.

  • Good catch. I got stuck thinking about literary works.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 21:47

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