Oshima Hikki (大島筆記)

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What follows is a quick translation and summary of the Oshima Hikki 大島筆記 followed by some important points that seem to have not been made public knowledge with this note.  Additionally if you would like to read this note for yourself and do your own translation you can find a scan one of one of the originals here at the University of the Ryukyus page.  All of my translation notes and footnotes will be in (* text *). If something is a different color try clicking on it!

Quick Translation and Highlights

On the 26th of April 1762 a Ryukyuan Tribute ship left the port of Naha and was headed to the Satsuma domain as it’s final destination.  (*The Satsuma domain 薩摩藩 is located on Kyushu, the southern island of Japan.  It was essentially the lower 3/4 of the island.*)  The first stop in the voyage was in Unten, which is in mid Okinawa, not far from Yayagi Island and Kouri Island.

The ship attempted to get underway from Unten several times, but bad storms and winds associated with 2 typhoons kept the ship in port.  The ship was finally able to get underway on 13 Jul 1762.  However three days later the ship met another typhoon in open ocean.  This time the mast and helm were damaged and the ship partially capsized.  The mast was ultimately cut off to allow the ship to return to a somewhat level pitch.  The ship floated with a north/northeast heading for three days like this.

On the third day land was spotted, the chief officer on board, Shionja Pechin, identified the land as being somewhere near Shikoku province Japan.

In the morning of 21 Jul 1762 the local authorities from identified the boat and asked them to drop anchor while the Satsuma authority was contacted.

On 22 Jul 1762 the boat was pulled by tugboat to Oshima, and the crew was put in a guesthouse ran by the local government.

The next section of the Oshima Hikki deals with the crew and inventory found on the ship.  Ryoen Tobe (*the man who wrote the Oshima Hikki*) recorded everything as close as possible to what was being said.

Ship’s Crew

There were four Ryukyuan Pechin onboard the boat.

Shionja Pechin (*Minister of Foreign Affairs*)
Gushi Satonushi Pechin (*Shionja Pechin's younger brother*)
Teruya Satonushi Pechin (*Shionja Pechin's cousin*)
Shionja Shi (*Shionja’s son*)


Ship’s Captain and Helmsman

Captain Takara
Helmsman Toma

Additional Crew

Two clerks, One Buddhist priest, Seven assistant clerks, Six extras, and 26 sailors.

After this section is an inventory of what was on the ship and interviews that were conducted either by Ryoen Tobe or by the Japanese authorities that Ryoen overheard and copied down into his report.

Concerning Kusanku

The mention of Kusanku comes from the ship’s captain.  He was recounting a time that he was in China and he mentioned that he saw a small man performing a demonstration where he defeated several larger men.  He did this with very little effort.  The name Kusanku as it is written means “Government Official” or “Mr. Government Official”, which is an indication that the captain never learned the name of the individual giving the demonstration, only that he was employed by the Chinese government.

Ending notes

The Oshima Hikki is a very cool document to read through, it is a bit of a tough read because it’s not in modern Japanese but well worth the effort.  Kusanku, NEVER visited Okinawa according to the note, the ship’s captain was just recounting a demonstration that he saw in China.  The ship itself never went to China on that trip, but instead was going from Naha to the Kagoshima area.  I think this can’t be stressed enough that the story that has been put out with the Oshima Hikki wasn’t really transmitted well and not many people seem to have gone back and actually researched or translated it.  One last note is the kata that is presently known as Kusanku has really been named that for about 100 to 120 years, the original name for that kata was Ufukun (大君).

Gambatte Kudasai!!!
Scot