"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 

all correct'.

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 

of Nagasaki.

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 

inches length.

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.

3.  Screech.

4.  Iba 1938, p92.

5.  MacLean, citing: O. Nachod, Die Beziehungen der Niederlaendischen 

Ostindischen Kompagnie zu Japan im siebzehnten Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1897, 

page 275.

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 

Optical Works.


   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' 

mobile observatory.


   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 

Astronomical Observatory.

   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 

under construction.


   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.


1.  Spectacles

   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 

local manufacture.

   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.


2.  Telescopes.

   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

Hida Observatory

Kyoto University Department of Astronomy

Magnum telescope, University of Tokyo

Misato Observatory

Mizusawa International Latitude Observatory

National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

National Science Museum, Tokyo

Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory

Norikura Solar Observatory

Okayama Astrophysical Observatory

Public Astronomical Observatories in Japan

Saji Astronomical Observatory

Subaru telescope

Tokyo Astronomical Observatory



Further references:

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

Other texts & images on the Japanese optical industry at:

Outline of Japanese binocular production.

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