To these observations, Kaempfer added details he had gathered from a wide reading of travelers' accounts and the reports of previous trading delegations. The result was the first scholarly study of Tokugawa Japan in the West, a work that greatly influenced the European view of Japan throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, serving as a reference for a variety of works ranging from encyclopedias to the libretto of "The Mikado."
Kaempfer's work remains one of the most valuable sources for historians of the Tokugawa period. The narrative describes what no Japanese was permitted to record (the details of the shogun's castle, for example) and what no Japanese thought worthy of recording (the minutiae of everyday life). However, all previous translations of the History are flawed, being based on the work of an eighteenth-century Swiss translator or that of the German editor some fifty years later who had little knowledge of Japan and resented Kaempfer's praise of the heathen country. Beatrice Bodart-Bailey's impressive new translation of this classic, which reflects careful study of Kaempfer's original manuscript, reclaims the work for the modern reader, placing it in the context of what is currently known about Tokugawa Japan and restoring the humor and freshness of Kaempfer's observations and impressions. In Kaempfer's Japan we have, for the first time, an accurate and thoroughly readable annotated translation of Kaempfer's colorful account of pre-modern Japan.