Mamiya Rinzo Japan’s explorer of the north.

On our last day in Wakkanai we walked into the Wakkanai Cultural Center to look at the art exhibited there and we met Director Tanaka who upon learning of our tour wanted to show us something in the auditorium entrance area. It turned out to be the Mamiya Rinzo replica expedition boat used by maritime historians and enthusiasts to reenact the 200th Anniversary of Mamiya Rinzo’s exploration of the northern regions.

Mamiya Rinzo (1780-1844) was a Japanese surveyor and explorer who is known primarily for his expedition from Cape Soya to Sakhalin in 1808. He was a student of a famous surveyor and mapmaker Ino Tadataka. Mamiya Rinzo explored the northern regions of Japan, such as Hokkaido, Chishima Islands (South Kurile Islands) and Karafuto (Sakhalin) and went as far north on the Asian continent as the Amur River up to Deleng. It was Rinzo who in 1808 found that Sakhalin was indeed an island although western geographers had considered it to be a peninsula and western explorers had not managed to sail far enough north to penetrate the narrow strait that separates Sakhalin from the Asian mainland. This strait became known to the west through the writing of Philipp Franz von Siebold as the Straits of Mamiya. Rinzo is unusual for having explored regions outside of Japan during the Edo period known for its isolationist policy called Sakoku and prohibition on Japanese traveling overseas and on foreigners visiting Japan.

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Mamiya Rinzo was born in Ina-machi, Ibaraki now known as Tsukuba Mirai City and I visited his birthplace home now preserved as a prefectural historical site. The memorial hall next to the birthplace displays his footprints, maps of his explorations, and during my visit there in 2004 I met a 7th generation descendent of Mamiya Rinzo!


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