“Description of Ezo” by Arai Hakuseki

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“The Description of Ezo” is the first Japanese historical and geographical description of the Ainu,
a people who lived to the north of the Japanese, in Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. It was written in 1720 by the famous scholar and statesman Arai Hakuseki (1657–1725). In the second half of the Edo period (1603–1867), owing to the figure of the author and lucidity of the text, “The Description” virtually acquired the status of an official document. It was a significant source for many later works on the Ainu. The article presents the first full translation of the text into Russian.

About the authors

Vasilii V. Shchepkin

Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
Email: vshepkin@gmail.com

Cand. Sci. (History), Senior Researcher of the Department of Far Eastern Studies, IOM RAS

Russian Federation, Dvortsovaia naberezhnaia 18, St. Petersburg, 191186


  1. Arai Hakuseki 新井白石. “Ezo shi” 蝦夷志 [The Description of Ezo]. In: Hoppo mikokai komonjo shusei 北方未公開古文書集成 [A Collection of Unpublished Archival Materials on the North]. Vol. 1. Tokyo: Sobunsha 叢文社, 1979, pp. 39–54 (in Japanese).
  2. Kikuchi Isao 菊池勇夫. Ainu minzoku to nihonjin アイヌ民族と日本人 [The Ainu and the Japanese]. Tokyo: Asahi shimbunsha 朝日新聞社, 1994 (in Japanese).
  3. Marandjian Karine. “Istoriia Sakhalinskogo fonda iz sobraniia IVR RAN” [The Sakhalin Fund of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts]. Pis’mennye pamiatniki Vostoka, 2016, vol. 13, no. 4 (issue 27), pp. 91–99 (in Russian).
  4. Pozdneev, Dmitrii. Materialy po istorii Severnoi Iaponii i eio otnoshenii k materiku Azii i Rossii [Materials on the History of Northern Japan and Its Relations with the Continent of Asia and Russia]. T. 2. Ch. 1. Otnosheniia k narodam Manchzhurii i dannye po istorii Matsumaesskogo klana [Vol. 2. Part 1. Relations with Peoples of Manchuria and Data on the History of the Matsumae Clan]. Tokyo: Toyo insatsu kabushiki kaisha, 1909 (in Russian).
  5. Shchepkin, Vasilii. “Iaponskiie rukopisi i ksilografy, peredannye v Aziatskii Muzei iz Imperatorskogo Russkogo geograficheskogo obshestva v 1906 g.” [Japanese Manuscripts and Woodblock-Printed Books Transferred to Asiatic Museum from Imperial Russian Geographic Society in 1906]. Pis’mennye pamiatniki Vostoka, 2015, vol. 12, no. 2 (issue 23), pp. 157–167 (in Russian).
  6. Shchepkin, Vasilii. “Istoricheskiie svidetelstva bezmolvnoi torgovli u kurilskih ainov” [Historical Evidence of Silent Trade by the Kuril Ainu]. In: Torgovlia v etnokulturnom izmerenii: Materialy Chetyrnadtsatyh Mezhdunarodnyh Sankt-Peterburgskih etnograficheskih chtenii [Trade from the Viewpoint of Ethno-Cultural Studies: Materials of the 14th International St. Petersburg Ethnography Readings]. St. Petersburg: IPTs SPGUTD, 2015, pp. 83–86 (in Russian).
  7. Taskin, Vsevolod. Materialy po istorii drevnih kochevyh narodov gruppy dunhu [Materials on the History of Ancient Nomadic Peoples of the Donghu Group]. Moscow: Nauka, Glavnaia redaktsia vostochnoi literatury, 1984 (in Russian).
  8. Tolstoguzov, Aleksandr. Iaponskaia istoricheskaia nauka: problemy izucheniia srednikh vekov i feodalizma: ocherki istorii [Japanese Historical Science: Problems of the Study of the Middle Ages and Feudalism: Historical Sketches]. Moscow: Vostochnaia literatura, 2005 (in Russian).

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