"The History of the Telescope in Japan". By Peter Abrahams - anno 2002
An observatory that is possibly the earliest astronomical observatory in
Japan was established in 675, at Asuka, Nara Prefecture. In the third moon
of 735, a group sent to China returned with astronomical instruments.
The first telescope in Japan arrived in 1613, when H.M.S. Clove arrived in
Hirado, and Captain John Saris presented to a telescope to 'Tycoon Ieyasu'
(1) (2) Tokugawa Ieyasu received spectacles at the end of the 1500s. (3)
In the Genna era, 1615-1623, Tohichi Ikushima made a telescope, which
caused the Tokugawa Shogunate to prohibit telescope manufacture because of
their military applications. (4)
In 1640, the Shogun received a telescope. (5)
In 1659, observation towers were built on the coast at Kosetoura, Nomo and
Noroshi Yawa, equipped with telescopes to view the arrival of foreign ships.
The earliest known example of a reported observation through a telescope
in Japan is an undated manuscript by Kobayashi Yoshinobu (1601-1684) of
Nagasaki, titled the 'Nigi ryakusetsu', or 'Outline theory of terrestrial and
celestial globes'. This work is a group of texts assembled to teach Japanese
students at a Jesuit school, drawn from 'De sphaera', circa 1593, by Pedro
Gomez. The commentaries on these texts include, 'The learned astronomer
discussed the existence of innumerable small stars, which cannot be seen with
the naked eye, gathered in the Milky Way. Thus informed, I observed the
Milky Way with a telescope and noticed countless small stars.' (7)
The Eighth Shogun, Yoshimune Tokugawa, who became Shogun in 1711, kept a
small observatory at his castle and encouraged his employees to use it. The
dome had an iron frame covered with laquered leather. For solar observation,
he equipped a telescope eyepiece with cross hairs that were traversed by the
sun at noon. (8) In 1720, Yoshimune 'removed the ban on Western learning'.
In 1736, he ordered the importation and eventual translation of Dutch
astronomical literature. (9)
Shibukawa Harumi used a telescope to measure positions of circumpolar
stars, in the early 1700s, an era when the telescope was applied to angle
measuring instruments, and astronomical observation using the telescope
gained a more systematic basis. (10)
During the Kioho era (1717-1735), Nizayemon Mori, an optician in Nagasaki,
made an astronomical telescope, and / or a Sokugohyogi (type of transit
instrument) for the eighth Shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa. (11)
Keisai Ayabe (1734-1799) was a physician who made a telescope and engaged
in much astronomical research. (12)
Gorobei Juichiya made a celestial globe, an eclipse mechanism, and a
telescope, in the late 1700s. (13)
A book from the 1760s, Karaki Zuihitsu, included a note that a retired
Shogun was presented with telescopes by the Europeans 'for solar and lunar
observations. When directed at the sun it looked as if a glaring fire-ball
with a strong heat, and in the case of the moon one felt coolness'. (14)
In 1763 was published Gayu Hanroku, where appears: 'European telescope is
made of ground and polished glass inlaid in a long tube, through which one
can clearly see object at distance. When seen inversely object near-by looks
as if at a remote place'. (15)
In 1741, this warning was published in Kazan Kanwa: 'Do not look at sun
through telescope. If dare to do so, one's eye will get scorched. Beware of
this danger. When I was young, I myself witnessed it. Solar observation
will impair one's health'. (16)
The following records are from MacLean, using for sources the 'Colonial
Records'; and the 'Records of the Netherlands Factory in Japan, 1609-1860';
found at the State Archives, Rijks-archief, The Hague. MacLean cautions
(footnote 85) that 'Undoubtedly the names of the Japanese in the text are not
In 1725, the ship 't Casteel van Woerden brought from Amsterdam four
telescopes, four inches in length, to the Governors of Nagasaki.
Circa 1726, the Japanese requested a telescope with eleven or twelve glasses
and a range of twelve miles, noted in 1728 by the Dutch as not procurable.
In 1728, the ship Rijgersbroek brought a four inch telescope to the Governor
In 1729, the ship 't Casteel van Woerden brought an eight foot telescope from
Holland, for Saguemondonne, a steward.
In 1737, the ship Enkhuysen brought three telescopes of four foot length, and
the ship Abbekerk brought three telescopes of five foot length; all of which
were four lens telescopes.
In 1741, the ship Crabbendijke brought two, six inch telescopes for Governor
In 1743, the ship Polanen brought an ivory telescope from Amsterdam for
Governor Mattasiro Awa no Cammi Samma.
In 1747, the ship Westcappel bought two small telescopes to Japan, the ship
Beukesteyn brought from Amsterdam to Japan two cameras obscura, and the ship
Maarseveen brought two telescopes for Awa no Cammi Samma.
In 1749, the ship Witsburg brought from Amsterdam four telescopes of five
inches length, for Awa no Cammi Samma.
In 1749, the ship Geldermalsen brought for Cawatsi no Cammi Samma, the
Governor of Nagasaki, three telescopes of eight inches length, four
telescopes of seven inches length, and three telescopes of six inches length.
In 1754, the ship Vlietlust brought for the Shogun and the Crown Prince six
telescopes made of black ivory, and three other telescopes.
In 1756, the ship Radermacher brought for Sacquemon Samma four copper
telescopes of four inches length and four black ivory telescopes of four
In 1757, the ship Tulpenburg brought two telescopes for a 'Burgomaster'.
In 1759, two ivory telescopes of 2 1/4 Rhineland inches length, and two ivory
telescopes of 4 1/2 inches length, were delivered to Awa no Cammi Samma.
In 1762, the ship Overnes brought a copper telescope, seven feet in length,
for the 'Burgomaster' Setsje Dajou Samma.
In 1765, the ship Burgh brought ten small telescopes, requested in 1758, five
from Hoorn in North Holland and five from Amsterdam.
In 1771, the ship Burgh brought from Amsterdam two coppper telescopes eight
feet in length for the Chief Commissioner of the Money-Chamber in Nagasaki.
In 1794, the ship Erfprins brought a telescope for the Shogun.
In 1795, the ship West Capelle brought a telescope for the Shogun.
In 1800, the Dutch ship Massachusetts brought two telescopes for the Governor
and one for the Shogun.
In 1801, the ship Margaretha brought a 'sun telescope with a steel mirror',
and an 'object-telescope' for the Governor of Nagasaki.
In 1802, the Baltimore, Maryland ship Samuel Smith brought 'a most beautiful
telescope, for day and night'.
In 1803, the American ship Rebecca brought three telescopes.
In 1804, the ship Maria Susanna brought for the Governor Fita Boengo no Cammi
Samma, three large telescopes and another telescope.
In 1806, the ship Amerika brought a 'large, splendid telescope' for the
Shogun, three telescopes for other authorities, and two small telescopes for
the College of Interpreters.
In 1807, the ship Mount Vernon brought a telescope for authorities in
In 1809, the ship Rebecca brought six telescopes (kijkers).
In 1809, Japanese authorities requested that the shipment of 1810 include
these items: The Shogun requested a telescope conforming to a drawing
submitted 13 years previously. The Governor of Nagasaki, Magari Boeti Kay no
Cammi Samma, asked for three telescopes conforming to a drawing given three
years previously, two day & night telescopes, and another telescope. The
Governor Tsoetia Kie no Cammi Samma requested two day & night telescopes.
The College of Interpreters requested a telescope. The 'Head-Burgomaster'
Takasima Sviobij Samma requested a book on the construction of telescopes and
tools for polishing glass for telescopes; both of Takasima's requests were
repeated in 1814, 1818, 1819, and 1820.
In 1813, the ship Charlotta brought the Shogun a telescope.
In 1813, Magariboete Kay no Cammi Samma received seven telescopes, the
Governor of Nagasaki Tsotsia Kie no Cammi received two telescopes, the
College of Interpreters received one telescope; and further note is made of a
splendid telescope four feet in length, two splendid telescopes with concave
& convex mirrors, and another telescope.
Records for 1814 to 1824 include 44 telescopes, including an 'astronomical
telescope' in 1819 for the Governor of Nagasaki.
In 1832, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies requested 10
telescopes and 12 opera glasses, to be used as gifts to the Japanese.
In 1835, a Japanese client requested that a telescope be sent for repair to
the Netherlands, which was fulfilled and returned to Japan in 1837.
In the early 1700s, Japanese manufactured telescopes were becoming more
common, and the general public would have seen only domestic models, but
quality was inconsistent and imported telescopes were preferred, although
Mitaku Yorai indicated that not all imports were so favored: 'China has
failed to supply any of outstanding quality', continuing, 'every now and
again an inability to see much with a Japanese one is to be marked...Nagasaki
plays the leading role (supplying telescopes to) show the moon up close'. In
the 1770s, Swedish scientist Charles Thunberg described how lookouts were
given telescopes and placed on mountains near the sea to spot distant ships.
Circa 1790, Zenbei Iwahashi, from Kaitsuka, Izumi, made an astronomical
telescope, using an an octagonal tube, circumference 27 cm, length about 270
cm, installed in the Government observatory, and reported to be as good as or
better than imported models. By 10th moon of 1795, he had a larger
telescope. Zenbei was an optician who became an active astronomer, observing
the sun and other objects, and is also noted for making telescopes for a
famous cartographer, Ino Tadataka. (17)
Circa 1800, Asada Goryu ground lenses for a telescope that he used to
observe the satellites of Jupiter. His 'Asada school' used European methods
& modern instruments to obtain data, using specialized instruments, such as a
transit to measure longitude and a quadrant to measure latitude. In the
early 1800s, Japanese artisans mastered lens production and telescope
building, and the range of Japanese made instruments expanded to include
transits, quadrants, and further telescopes, with relatively few Dutch
imports of telescopes and sextants. Smoked glass was made in Japan after
1800, and in the 1830s, solar observer Kunitomo Tobei made an astronomical
telescope judged better than any of the Dutch imports. (18)
Tohbei Kunitomo Nootoo (1778-1841) was a famous gunsmith in Omi, 14th heir
of a gunsmithing business, and a telescope maker and amateur astronomer. He
first used a telescope circa 1821-2, a Dutch instrument owned by a nobleman
(Iba describes it as a Gregorian reflector at the Tokyo Observatory). In
1832, he began work on a Gregorian of 7 cm aperture, fabricating all parts
except the brass tube, with a parabolic mirror, completing it in 1833 after
many difficulties, and beginning observation & sketching of the sky (an image
of the telescope is found in Yamamoto). Kunitomo made many speculum mirrors,
studying the metal in old mirrors and deciding on an alloy of 65% zinc and
35% copper, and using a grindstone that was oval in shape. He fabricated
eyepiece lenses of quartz crystal, using split bamboo tools and pine rosin.
1836 was a year of famine in Japan, and Kunitomo sold some of his telescopes
and drawings of the sun to assist his neighbors. He fabricated 'many'
telescopes, which were given and sold to friends and patrons. Hazama, an
astronomer at Osaka, bought a Kunitomo telescope and found it to be 'twice as
efficient' as a Dutch telescope. A Kunitomo telescope and various parts
survived in the home of a descendent as of 1937; where K. Nakamura of Kwasan
Observatory tested two mirrors and found them excellent. However, the
eyepieces he used caused chromatic aberration which Kunitomo was unable to
correct. Kunitomo made drawings of the sun, the moon, planets, and the
satellites of Jupiter, gaining great skill in accurately drawing planets &
satellites in their positions (accurate to 3 or 4 arcseconds). From
February, 1835, he sketched the sunspots twice every clear day, for 13
months, a total of 158 days and 215 sketches, showing great precision in
placement and detail of sunspots on a disc 5 cm in diameter. Kunitomo had
little or no contact with astronomers, and was not familiar with published
works on astronomy; and therefore certain phenomena which he observed &
sketched, such as lunar details and the solar penumbrae, were regarded by him
as discoveries - for example, he announced on 08 December, 1835, the
discovery of a fifth moon of Jupiter. (19)
The 1874 transit of Venus was photographed by Hikoma Uyeno in Nagasaki on
09 December, which is considered the first celestial photography in Japan.
In the late 1800s, assistance from Western nations was provided for the
astronomical measurements used to determine latitude and longitude for
mapping. The 1874 Transit of Venus was observed from Japan by Western
astronomers. The Japanese Navy built Kanshodai Observatory in 1874. (21)
Percival Lowell visited Japan and wrote on the culture and scenery, however,
there does not seem to be a commonality between his astronomical activities
and his Japanese travel, although there is a 21st century 'Lowell Society of
1. The History of Binoculars, as Outlined in Japan, no author, paper appears
to be from Otsuka Optical Company.
2. Nakayama, p100, citing: Mikami Yoshio, 'Nihon boenkyo shi', or 'History
of the telescope in Japan'; p102 of 'Nihon sokuryo jutsu shi no kenkyu', or
'Studies in the history of land surveying in Japan', Tokyo, 1948.
4. Iba 1938, p92.
5. MacLean, citing: O. Nachod, Die Beziehungen der Niederlaendischen
Ostindischen Kompagnie zu Japan im siebzehnten Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1897,
6. Iba 1938, p94.
7. Nakayama, p100.
8. Nakayama p122, & Iba 1937 p306.
9. Iba 1938, p94.
10. Nakayama pp123 & 198.
11. Iba 1938, p92.
12. Iba 1937, p308.
13. Iba 1937, p309.
14. Iba 1938, p93.
15. Iba 1938, p93.
16. Iba 1938, p94.
17. Iba 1938, p90; Screech pp213-4.
18. Nakayama pp196-197.
19. Yamamoto; Iba 1938, p92.
20. Iba 1938, p96.
In 1922, the Astronomical Herald published articles by Masamitsu Yamazaki
on making reflecting telescopes, which resulted in an amateur telescope
making movement, numbering over 200 by 1931. (The Herald is the monthly of
the Nihon Tenmon Gakkai, Japan Astronomical Association, with 900 members in
In 1931, military & Naval optical instruments were made by Government
Seizo Goto saw Comet Halley at age 19, and founded Goto Optical, in
Komazawa, Tokyo, in August 1926. In 2001, Goto had 110 employees in Tokyo &
Yamanashi, producing planetarium projectors, large reflecting telescopes,
amateur refractors, solar telescopes, coude refractors, and the 'Astro-Car'
Nihon Kogaku Kaisha, in Shiba, Tokyo, had produced hundreds of refractors
by 1931, as large as 8 inches, on equatorial mounts. Prototype 20 inch fork
mounted reflectors had been made.
Nihon Seiko manufactured Unitron refractor tube assemblies for US
distribution, of three inches aperture and possibly other sizes. Four inch
Unitron objectives were produced by many sources.
Shigejiro Nishimura & Sons, in Kyoto, began in 1920 by making reflectors,
managed by K. Nakamura of Kyoto Imperial University. As of 1931, Nishimura
had produced one 10 inch f3.8 photographic reflector, three 8 inch, three 6.5
inch, twenty five 6 inch, and over two hundred 5 inch & smaller reflectors,
all with mirrors by K. Nakamura. In 1929, Nakamura made a 6 inch refractor,
on a mount designed by Nakamura, which was the first equatorial refractor
built in Japan (followed closely by a Nihon Kogaku 6 inch equatorial of Zeiss
design). In the 1960s, Josef Biela Observatories in Anaheim sold Nishimura
telescopes: 6, 8, and 10 inch semi-portable Newtonians for $495-$1195.; 8,
10, 12, 16, and 24 inch observatory reflectors for $995 to $34,875, the 12,
16, and 24 inch models were Newtonian - Cassegrain combinations. A 16 inch
Cassegrain was described as corrected to one eighth wave of sodium light,
lunar / sidereal drive, 2050 pounds, 4 finders of 6, 4, & 3 inches and 'wide
field'; 3 cameras, Herschel wedge, prism image erector, eyepiece
spectroscope, guiding eyepiece, 24 eyepieces 4mm to 60mm. A six inch
refractor was $5375. A 5 meter Nishimura dome was $5875. Nishimura optician
S. Kibe made mirrors up to 36 inches.
Optron, in Yuki, Ibaraki, was founded in 1974. With 150 employees, Optron
is a subsidiary of Canon which began producing fluorite crystal (CaF2) in
1968, and later developed coating technologies. Fluorite lenses in
refractors by Mizar, Takahashi, and Vixen are by Optron.
Sokkisha of Tokyo, a surveying instrument manufacturer, made a few 12 inch
Cassegrains on German equatorial mounts for the U.S. military in the early
1960s, one of which is at the U.S. National Solar Observatory
In 1960, there were eight major optical glass manufacturers in Japan:
Chiba Optical, Chiyoda Optical, Fuji Film, Hotani Optical, Japan Optical,
Ohara Optical, Sumita Optical, Toshiba Chemical
Tokyo Astronomical Observatory began when the University of Tokyo hired
Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, Ohio State physics professor & later Superintendent
of the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, as their first physics & astronomy
professor, in 1877. Mendenhall started astronomy instruction & an optical
laboratory. H.M. Paul of the USNO took the first chair in astronomy at U.
Tokyo in 1879, and was replaced by Terao Hisashi in 1883-4. Also in 1884 was
the first Japanese participation in an international astronomy conference,
when Kikuchi Dairoku attended the Prime Meridian and International Time
Congress in Washington, D.C. (22)
The University's Science Department had opened their first, small
observatory in 1878. Henri Charveau had been requested in 1876 by the
Ministry of Interior to outline the requirements of an astronomical
observatory, and he used Greenwich Observatory as a model, suggesting two
Western employees and a minimum of instruments. His proposal was adopted
when the first observatory was formalized into a research institute in 1888
by Hisashi Terao, in a new building with a 20cm (8 inch) refractor, a 17cm
(6.7 inch) refractor, an 8 inch Gautier meridian circle, two astronomers and
four staff persons. (National Science Museum in Tokyo shows on their web
page an 8 inch astronomical refractor, imported in the late 19th century,
'the first full size astronomical telescope used in Japan' - probably the U.
Tokyo telescope.) In 1924, the observatory moved 20 km to Mitaka, adding a
65cm (26 inch) Zeiss photographic refractor, and a Zeiss solar tower
telescope. By 1931, equipment included an 18 inch reflector, an 8 inch Zeiss
refractor for visual use, and an 8 inch Brashear astrograph refractor donated
in 1997 by N.A.O.J. to the National Science Museum (Brashear's autobiography
notes that several important instruments were made for Terao). An accidental
fire during World War II, not war related, caused much damage and the loss of
the spectrohelioscope, 3 prism spectrograph, microphotometer, comparators,
and the library. The 26 inch telescope had been disassembled & survived, and
the solar tower with a spectroheliograph was operating in 1946. The original
observatory in central Tokyo had been used as a Student's Observatory, and
was destroyed during World War II. (23) In 1946, Yusuke Hagihara became
director, and added a 12 cm coronagraph and a 10 meter radio dish for solar
observation; reorganizing as the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory in 1949.
In 1974, a Nikon 105 cm Schmidt-type telescope was installed at Tokyo
After 1988, Mitaka was mostly an administrative office, but had about 70
staff astronomers and still holds an open house day on one Saturday in the
autumn. Instruments include the Mitaka Automatic Photoelectric Meridian
Circle, made by Zeiss, which measures positions and determines movement of
celestial objects. Solar observations since the 1950s use the Mitaka Solar
Flare Telescope, providing H-alpha & continuum images of the Sun, and images
of solar magnetic & velocity fields since 1993. A 50 cm fork mounted visual
reflector, installed 1996, is for public use twice a month, and school &
university use at other times. Also at Mitaka is a photographic zenith tube,
and a six meter radio dish. In the late 1990s, an infrared interferometer
was under construction at Mitaka.
Norikura Solar Observatory was founded in 1949 as the first station of the
Tokyo Astronomical Observatory. Mt. Norikura, northern Japan, altitude 2876
meters, has severe winters, and crews work sessions of 2 to 3 weeks in
isolation, with meals of preserved food and water melted from snow.
A 10 cm coronagraph, installed 1950, was used with a direct vision
spectroscope to observe green 5303 Angstrom coronal emission, which was
photographed when desired. In 1998, the Norikura Green-line Imaging System,
a Lyot filter at 5303 Angstroms, began producing two dimensional maps of the
intensity of the green line and its Doppler shifts.
An 8 cm telescope, installed 1961, is used to observe the inner K corona
of the sun.
In 1971, a 25 cm coronagraph in a 12 meter dome was installed. This was
built by Nikon, with an objective by Nikon, 20 cm clear aperture, 5 meters
focal length, coude focus to a spectrograph, for high dispersion of about 0.2
Angstroms per mm.
A 10 cm coronagraph, constructed in 1990 and mounted alongside the first
10 cm coronagraph, is fully automated & used for CCD photometry of the
In 1960, another station of the Tokyo Observatory was established, Okayama
Astrophysical Observatory, on Mt. Chikurin-Ji, elevation 372 meters.
A 74 inch (188 cm) Grubb Parsons classical Cassegrain reflector was
installed in 1961, after 5 years work and 300 million dollars expenditures.
This is the largest telescope in Japan, with an English equatorial mount,
pyrex primary, f4.9 Newtonian focus, f18 Cassegrain focus, f29 Coude focus.
The 91cm telescope at OAO, by Nippon Kogaku, installed in 1960, was the
first Japanese made large telescope. It has a fork mount and f3.5 Pyrex
primary with an f13 Cassegrain focus. Used for photometry through the 1980s,
since the late 1980s it is used for polarimetry and spectroscopy.
A 65cm solar telescope, installed 1967, cost 120 million dollars, is the
largest Coude solar telescope in the world. It is used for spectroscopic
studies and a magnetograph is used to measure solar magnetic fields.
OAO has developed over 30 instruments, including spectrographs and
infrared camera systems.
Okayama is usually open to the public from 9:00 to 16:30 daily; with a
viewing room adjacent to the 188 cm dome, and an astronomical museum.
Kiso Observatory, altitude 1130 meters, was founded in 1974 as a part of
Tokyo Astronomical Observatory, with a 105 / 150 cm Schmidt telescope, field
of view 6 degrees by 6 degrees onto a 36 cm plate. A CCD camera, using a
2040 x 2040 pixel chip, was completed in 1997, and has a field of 50 minutes
x 50 minutes. Equipped with 2 objective prisms of 105 cm aperture, the first
with a 2 degree vertex angle, BK7 glass 30-70 mm thick; the second 4 degree
vertex angle, F2 glass 31-108 mm thick. As of 2001, a 0.3m telescope is
Dodaira Observatory, founded 1962, has a 91 cm reflector, a 50 cm
telescope used for comet photography, and satellite tracking equipment.
Other instruments at Dodaira, in rough translation from the Japanese, are:
the 'BN camera - Schmidt camera for satellite observation', 'noctilucence
observation device', and 'automatic meteor camera'. The 'photographic polar
tube' is also described as the '36 inch mirror, polar optical observation
equipment'. Dodaira was either closed in March of 2000 or closed except for
the 91 cm telescope.
Nobeyama Radio Observatory began solar research in 1970, and cosmic radio
observing began in 1978. A 45 meter dish and a radio interferometer,
consisting of an array of six 10 meter dishes (Nobeyama Millimeter Array,
NMA), are used for millimeter wavelength research. A radioheliograph was
installed in 1992, observing at 17 GHz, with spatial resolution of 10
arcseconds and temporal resolution of 50 ms, and adding 34 GHz receivers in
1996. Nobeyama is open to the public daily from 9:00 to 17:00, and the
laboratories are open September 23.
In 1988, The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), integrated
the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory, the Mizusawa International Latitude
Observatory, and the Nagoya University solar radio group.
The University of Tokyo MAGNUM (Multicolor Active Galactic Nuclei
Monitoring) 2 meter alt-azimuth telescope, used for measuring distances to
active galaxies by monitoring variability, was installed in 2000, on
Haleakala, Hawaii. The primary is f/1.75, Corning ceramic meniscus 2 meters
in diameter and 0.1 meters thick. Secondary, Corning ceramic, f/9 Ritchey-
Chretien focus, field 33.3 arcminutes in diameter. Tertiary mirror is on the
Cassegrain instrument rotator. Wide field Camera, 8k x 8k mosaic CCDs, 20.5
x 20.5 arcminutes field.
Kyoto Observatory was founded in 1910 (University of Kyoto astronomy
department was founded 1918 -Kozai). By 1931, Kyoto had a 7 inch Zeiss
refractor, and a spectroheliograph. A 12 inch refractor was likely at
Kwasan Astronomical Observatory was founded in 1928-9 by Kyoto
Observatory, on Kwasan Hill, altitude 220 meters, outside Kyoto. A 12 inch
Cooke refractor was used visually. As of 2002, equipment includes a 45 cm
refractor, 18 cm refractor, and 70 cm ceolostat with spectrograph.
Kwasan included in 1931 an optical laboratory run by 27 year old Kaname
Nakamura, who designed equipment and fabricated mirrors, lenses, and flats.
In 1930, Nakamura designed & made a 4.5 inch f4.5 triplet, used by himself
for asteroid searches, and began work on a 7 inch telescope of the same
design for Iba. A Nakamura 7 3/8 inch refractor was delivered to Iba at the
end of 1930. Nakamura (1909-1932) was a noted astrophotographer & meteor
observer, and wrote articles on Mars. Date of birth is either 1909 (CMO) or
1903-4 (Iba); CMO notes that Kaname Nakamura of Kwasan Observatory, Kyoto
University, committed suicide in 1932.
As of 1946, the University of Kyoto had two observatories run by
Professor Ueta, at Kwasan; and another at Ikoma San, between Osaka and Nara,
with an unfinished solar tower. This became Mt.Ikoma Solar Observatory, and
some or all of the instruments were later moved to Hida.
Hida Observatory, Kyoto University, was founded in 1968, on Mt. Oamami,
1,290 meters, in north Japan. A 65 cm f16 refractor was installed in 1972,
and is the largest refractor in Asia. A 60 cm reflector, with f5.5 Newtonian
focus and f20 Cassegrain focus, is used for planetary observation. In 1979,
a 60 cm Domeless Solar Telescope was installed. In 1991, the Flare Monitor
Telescope began operation, this solar telescope is described as 'sextuple'.
Ouda Observatory of Kyoto University has a 60 cm Ritchey Chretien.
At Kiso, a one meter infrared telescope is operated by the Kyoto
University physics department.
The Mizusawa International Latitude Observatory was founded in 1899 by
Hisashi Kimura (who measured latitude to discover the 'Z-term' of the
rotation of the Earth,) as part of the worldwide 'International Polar Motion
Service' of six stations at 39 degrees N latitude. It had two zenith
telescopes and a Cookson floating zenith telescope. Mizusawa became an
'institute' in 1920. In December of 1930, M. Yamazaki, astronomer at
Mizusawa, completed a 12 inch equatorial reflector for personal use. The
observatory was undamaged during World War II, however both directors were
victims of the war. Time and latitude observations were developed in 1956,
and measurements of the ocean's tides in 1967. The Mizusawa Astrogeodynamics
Observatory now conducts research on the variable rotation and deformation of
the earth, using gravimeters, strain meters, tilt meters, and a 10 meter
'very long baseline interferometry' radio telescope, also used for radio
astrometry. An annual open house is held in the autumn.
The University of Sendai owned a 5 inch refractor and a 20 inch eclipse
coelostat, damaged during World War II. Tohoku University in Sendai has an
astronomy department founded after World War II.
Subaru is an 8.2 meter optical-infrared telescope at the summit of Mauna
Kea, 4200 meters, in Hawaii, operated by the National Astronomical
Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). First light was in January of 1999.
Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory, is on Mt. Ohnade, 40 km NW Himeji,
Hyogo Prefecture, a dark sky site with 100 clear nights a year. Telescopes
A 60 cm (24 inch) fork mounted classical Cassegrain, f/12, with a 35 cm
Schmidt Cassegrain guide telescope. Used for public viewing nightly until 9
PM, when research and educational programs begin, mostly CCD photometry of
variable stars and active galactic nuclei.
A solar telescope, installed 1990, domeless, with a 50 cm heliostat to a
30 cm f20 primary mirror. A Lyot filter passes only hydrogen emission at
6562.8 Angstrooms. A 6 cm refractor images in white light at the same time,
and both images are projected via video into the exhibit hall.
The K-1420 camera, fork mounted, designed in 1976 by Yoshio Kobayashi
(1919-1991), with a 17 degree field.
26 cm, 20 cm, 13 cm, & 10 cm reflectors; and 8 cm refractors are
Kyoto's Ayabe Astronomical Observatory, was founded in 1995, for education
and research. A 95 cm reflector has f13.5 Cassegrain, and f4.5 Newtonian
foci. A solar telescope has two 10 cm apertures and two 6 cm apertures, used
for hydrogen alpha and white light observing.
Misato Observatory, in Misato, Wakayama Prefecture, was founded in 1995
for use by the public. Telescopes include a Nishimura 105-cm equatorial
Cassegrain, f7.6; a 25 cm Schmidt Cassegrain; a 15 cm refractor; an 8 cm
refractor; and a 7.5 cm refractor.
Saji Astronomical Observatory, in Saji, Tottori, was founded in 1994.
Telescopes include a 103 cm Cassegrain, f10.2 or f6.7; and a 15 cm solar
telescope for hydrogen alpha & white light use.
In 1636, spectacle sales by the Dutch in Japan totaled 19,425, increasing
to 38,421 in 1637.
Japanese opticians (megane-ya) became widespread in the 1700s, selling
'Dutch glass merchandise' (Oranda gyoku shinajina), including telescopes,
magnifiers, spectacles, mirrors, flasks & glasses. As lens making skills
spread during this century, many of the goods sold as 'Dutch' were in fact of
A book from 1732 by Mitaku Yorai listing products describes spectacles
lenses, 'about 3 mm thick and look like the chopped slices of giant radish',
of local manufacture but earlier imported from China.
In addition to the standard forms of instruments, enterprising merchants
sold 'fire-raising megane' (hidori-megane) to light a pipe, and 'moon viewing
megane' (tsuki-megane, there is a song hit by that name in 21st century
Japan). For amusement, there were 'upside-down megane' (sakasama-megane)
with a mirror, 'multiplication-megane' (su-megane) providing multiple images,
and 'secret megane' (sokai-megane) of unknown characteristics.
In fiction of this era (mostly late 1700s), optical devices acquired
mythical and supernatural qualities. In 1790, Koikawa Yukimachi wrote his
'Great Wealth Made through the Virtue of Glasses' (Sakaemasu megane no toku),
wherein a hard working lens polisher and spectacle peddler finds success but
becomes bored with standard spectacles. He advertises lovely woman's
glasses, fashion king's glasses, and lord's glasses. He invents and sells
'nearby-glasses' (chika-megane) that make near objects appear distant - thus
a small room appears as a palace; spectacles of glass mixed with medicine
that cure blindness; for those who cannot write, 'literacy megane' with
pulped books in the glass; 'scholar megane' for those who cannot read; and
'five-colored megane' (goshiki-megane) that render black & white pictures in
color, Yukimachi claiming that booksellers keep these goshiki-megane so that
customers will believe that inexpensive books have color plates.
Sakuragawa Jihinari wrote in 1797 of spectacles made from glass provided
by a god, that provide 'wealth without work'. The glasses provide a view of
any desired scene, even when the wearer is working in an unpleasant shop.
Such spectacles are made by the lucky recipient of this glass for himself and
his employees, causing them to believe they are at their dream destination
while working for their employer, and providing lucrative return for him.
Cheap lunch food is believed to be the finest fare, and the workers believe
themselves to be relaxing at home & address customers as 'Dad'. After 3
days, he removes the glasses while the workers sleep and they awaken to
express their gratitude over the wonderful vacations he has provided. In
this story, prisms are used as a metaphor, for they transform an image into
colors that do not have an obvious cause, and the word 'color' (iro) can mean
illusion & error.
In 1797, Jippensha Ikku published a book that created an anthropomorphic
spectacles that lead the protagonist through events, offer to show
'everything as your heart desires it', and proclaim 'It's all thanks to me
that you can see things as they really are'. Other authors wrote on glasses
that sharpened the perception of morality; or that encourage dishonesty &
augment the stupidity of the user. Spectacles are a metaphor for the
protagonist's perception of the world. There is a related literature in
which microscopes, providing views of hidden life, are subjected to similar,
highly creative literary treatment.
Placing glasses in use is a statement of intention that the object of
scrutiny is to be inspected acutely. Viewing through glass maintains
autonomy for the viewer. To use spectacles while interacting with another
person could be considered arrogant in the same way as dark sunglasses, they
allow the user to inspect without allowing inspection in return. Spectacles
were often purchased to enhance the appearance of the user, classified as a
personal accessory rather than medical or optical equipment, and could become
an affected folly; in one fictional piece the buyers say they wish to be
equipped so they can 'rivet a provocative leer' on a victim.
Tachibana Nankei wrote in 1795 that a microscope revealed the life in a
drop of water, leading him to imagine a living being at the far distances of
space, observing with a cosmic lens the universe as if it were a water drop.
In 1782, kibyoshi books were published that showed demons and gods viewing
the earth using a telescope (illustrated on p239 of Screech).
Lookout telescopes, which view the sea or land from a vantage point, were
imbued with political and social implications for the Japanese. The
commanding gaze or downward gaze was taboo for those of lesser rank or
status, who lived their lives without ever having looked down on a person.
These rules became less stringent and gradually abandoned during the era of
the telescope, but were part of the national mentality and integral to the
design of cities and architecture.
Circa 1800, observation sites were erected on mountains, offering views
through telescopes. Views overlooking cities were described in the
literature in voyeuristic terms, and one term for the extending spyglass type
of telescope, 'biidoro', had a second meaning that was used in these erotic
stories. Daikokuya Kodayu noted that both Japanese & Russian red-light
districts had telescopes available for times when there was something to
view, one engraving shows the arrival of ships in harbor being viewed by
denizens. Telescopes appear in many 'Floating World' pictures, as well as
other Japanese art of the era.
Kibyoshi stories about telescopes frequently concern a fictional ability
to reveal sights beyond the normal senses. Shiba Zenko wrote in 1787 about a
bamboo tube that provided spiritual seeing. Also in 1787, Sharakutei Manri
published a story about a traveler who, instead of visiting exotic isles,
uses a telescope to visit remotely or in imagination. Since the traveler can
experience things before doing them, he realizes mistakes ahead of time and
avoids error. In a 1794 book, 'A Device for Peeping into the Human Heart'
(Ningen isshin nozoki-karakuri), by Shikitei Sanba, a telescope given by a
god to a wastrel has the power to reveal character. This 'gut revealing
lens' (fukumei-kyo) improves the aimless protagonist by showing him the
underlying natures and motivations of others, and he becomes a better, more
accepting & discrete person.
An elaborate new astronomical observatory was built in Edo by the Shogun
in 1782. No note is made of telescopes at the facility; which could be an
oversight or it could be a detail of interest, revealing the extent of the
integration of the telescope into the astronomy of this era, when the primary
issue was the reworking of the Japanese calendar. The Kansei calendar of
1798 was the first that was calculated with some use of Western instruments
and theories. Publication of calendars was a closely guarded government
perogative, and independent printers would issue unauthorized disguised
calendars, elaborate pictures that contained the calendars in a complex
pattern. Individual astronomers would sometimes attempt to improve the
calculations based on their own observations, or devise another calendar
because of the limited availability of the official version. These
astronomical activities were strongly discouraged, as when Tachibana Nankei
in Nagasaki was observing with an imported quadrant and relates, 'We were
excitedly commenting on how this star must belong to that constellation and
the rest, until the neighbours became suspicious and berated us, asking what
we thought we were playing at because it was making them apprehensive. So we
composed ourselves and came down'.
Iba, Yasuaki. Amateur Astronomy and Telescope Making in Japan. Popular
Astronomy 39 (1931) 290-291.
Iba, Yasuaki. Fragmentary Notes on Astronomy in Japan. Popular Astronomy 42
(1934) 243-252, 45 (1937) 301-310, 46 (1938) 89-96 & 141-148.
Kozai, Yoshihide. A Flowering of Japanese Astronomy. Sky & Telescope 75
(June 1988) 590-594.
MacLean, J. The Introduction of Books and Scientific Instruments into Japan,
1712-1854. Japanese Studies in the History of Science #13 (1974) 9-68.
(Sources: Colonial Records; and the Records of the Netherlands Factory in
Japan, 1609-1860. Found at the State Archives, Rijks-archief, The Hague)
MacLean at the Institute for the History of Science, Free University of
Nakayama, Shigeru. A History of Japanese Astronomy; Chinese background and
Western impact. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969.
Screech, Timon. The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo
Japan: The Lens within the Heart. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1996. Chapter 7, pp212-253, The View From on High. (Screech, School of
Oriental & African Studies, University of London.)
Ueta, Professor. Astronomy in Japan. The Observatory 54 (April 1931) 105.
Woolley, R. Japanese Astronomy after the War. The Observatory 66 (1946)
Yamamoto, Issei. Kunitomo and his astronomical activities in the pre-Meizi
era. Isis 26 (1937) 330-335. (Yamamoto, Kwasan Observatory)
Ayabe Astronomical Observatory
Dodaira Observatory http://optik2.mtk.nao.ac.jp/dodaira/history-j.html
Hida Observatory http://www.kwasan.kyoto-u.ac.jp/Hida/Hida-e.html
Kyoto University Department of Astronomy
Magnum telescope, University of Tokyo
Misato Observatory http://www.obs.misato.wakayama.jp/mo-e.html
Mizusawa International Latitude Observatory
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
National Science Museum, Tokyo
Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory http://www.nhao.go.jp/
Norikura Solar Observatory
Okayama Astrophysical Observatory http://www.cc.nao.ac.jp/oao/e/
Public Astronomical Observatories in Japan
Saji Astronomical Observatory
Subaru telescope http://subarutelescope.org/
Tokyo Astronomical Observatory http://www.cc.nao.ac.jp/oao/e/
Communications in Mars Observations #175, May 1996.
Coronagraphs in the World
Goto Planetarium projectors and telescopes
Nikon solar flare telescope at Mitaka
Nikon 25cm coronagraph at Norikura
Norikura: 'Selected Solar H-alpha Photographs' by H.Morishita (1987)
Optron Company http://www.optron.co.jp
Other texts & images on the Japanese optical industry at:
Outline of Japanese binocular production.