Ranpeki (people who devoted themselves to Dutch or Western learning) (蘭癖)

Ranpeki refers to people who devoted themselves to Western learning, or yearned and copied Dutch (or Western) manners and customs in the Edo period.

Emergence of Ranpeki
The ban on importing Western books was partially lifted as a result of the Kyoho Reform implemented by Yoshimune TOKUGAWA. Because of this, Western studies prospered from the mid-Edo period. However, not only from academic interest, but also the yearning of their way of living, customs, and personal appearance, people copied the Dutch (or Western) style came to appear. And some of them even had Dutch names.

However, there are not many examples of the usage of the term, 'ranpeki,' in the historical records of the mid- to late Edo period. In the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, it began to be used often as a disparaging name to refer to 'seiyo kabure' (ultra-Westernized persons) by joi-ha faction (the antiforeigner faction) like the Mito clan. And it became widespread in the Meiji period. That is, similar to 'sakoku' (national isolation) and other expressions, after it came into wide use in the Meiji period, it came to describe the people who were "ranpeki-"like before then.

There were also scholars like Kogyu YOSHIO, Gennai HIRAGA, and Gentaku OTSUKI who enjoyed Western manners and customs, including New Year celebrations according to the solar calendar called Dutch New Year. However, Dutch books, cultural products, and rare articles were very expensive. And buying them required vast economic power.
For this reason, there were more wealthy merchants, daimyo (feudal lords), and upper-class samurai (Japanese warriors) than scholars among those who were called 'ranpeki.'
Particularly, when they were feudal lords, they were called 'ranpeki daimyo' (daimyo who were devoted to Dutch or Western culture). Their interest transcended lordly outside interests, including their personal engagement in Western studies, promotion of learning, and so on. They were highly-acclaimed in cultural term. On the other hand, however, their interest in Western studies also tended to grow in intensity, driving their clans into a financial corner (although there were, of course, exceptions).

In the distribution of ranpeki daimyo, they were mainly tozama daimyo (outside daimyo who were not hereditary vassals of the Tokugawa family) in Kyushu region. This is thought to be related to the fact that they were close to the port that was open to Holland, Nagasaki, and they could easily obtain Dutch books and imported commodities. In this regard, Masayoshi HOTTA, who was a fudai daimyo (a daimyo in hereditary vassalage to the Tokugawa family) holding a territory in Kanto, was highly exceptional.

Representative individuals known as typical examples of the ranpeki daimyo include the lord of the Satsuma clan, Shigehide SHIMAZU. Shigehide's children, Masataka OKUDAIRA and Nagahiro KURODA, as well as his great-grandchild, Nariakira SHIMAZU, were also influenced by Shigehide. Perhaps because of this, each of them was described as ranpeki daimyo.

After civilization and enlightenment, 'seiyo kabure' ceased to be something unusual. And they were no longer described as ranpeki.

Main Examples of Ranpeki
Prominent ranpeki daimyo
Shigekata HOSOKAWA (the lord of the Kumamoto clan, 1721 to 1785)
Shigehide SHIMAZU (the lord of the Satsuma clan, 1745 to 1833)
Yoshiatsu SATAKE (also referred as Shozan, the lord of the Kubota clan, 1748 to 1785)
Masatsuna KUTSUKI (the lord of the Fukuchiyama clan, 1750 to 1802)
Kiyoshi MATSURA (the lord of the Hirado clan, 1760 to 1841)
Masataka OKUDAIRA (the lord of the Nakatsu clan, 1781 to 1855, Shigehide SHIMAZU's second son)
Narikiyo KURODA (the lord of the Fukuoka clan, 1795 to 1851)
Nariakira SHIMAZU (the lord of the Satsuma clan, 1809 to 1858, Shigehide SHIMAZU's great-grandchild)
Masayoshi HOTTA, (Roju [member of shogun's council of elders] and the lord of the Sakura clan, 1810 to 1864)
Nagahiro KURODA (the lord of the Fukuoka clan, 1811 to 1887, Shigehide SHIMAZU's ninth son, Narikiyo KURODA's adopted son)
Naomasa NABESHIMA (the lord of the Saga clan, 1815 to 1871)

Kokan SHIBA (a painter, 1738 to 1818)
Yoshikazu KUMAYA (a purveyor of the Choshu clan, 1795 to 1860)
Shigeyoshi YAMAGATA (a money exchanger, a merchant in Osaka, a purveyor of the Sendai clan, the master of Banto YAMAGATA)

Kazan WATANABE (the chief retainer of the Tahara clan, 1793 to 1841)
Tomonobu MIYAKE (the father of the lord of the Tahara clan, Yasuyoshi MIYAKE, 1793 to 1841)
Hidetatsu EGAWA (the local magistrate of Nirayama of Izu Province, 1801 to 1855)
Masanori MURATA (the chief retainer of the Saga clan, 1815 to 1874)

[Original Japanese]