Invitation to International Symposium Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Siebold’s Arrival in Japan (Online Zoom)

This year is the 200th anniversary of Siebold’s arrival in Nagasaki in 1823, when he made meteorological observations at Dejima. We are pleased to announce that we will hold an international symposium (online Zpom) to commemorate this anniversary with the following program.

Online Participation:

 The symposium will be held at Dejima Messe Nagasaki, on October 28 (Sat.), 2023 10:00 – 16:00 (JST = UTC + 8:00), and the lectures will be streamed live via online Zoom.
If you wish to participate online, please send an e-mail with your name and affiliation to the symposium secretariat (address below) with the subject line (title) “Participation in Nagasaki Symposium”.  Application deadline: Thursday, October 26. We will send you the invitation URL link, meeting ID, and passcode by return.

International Symposium Secretariat E-Mail:

We look forward to seeing many of you at the symposium (no registration fee).


International Symposium for the 200 years Anniversary of the Arrival of Von Siebold at Nagasaki,
with special reference to Meteorological Observation at Dejima from the viewpoint of Environmental History and East-West Exchange.

10:00 – 16:00 (JST), October 28 (Sat.), 2023

Organized by AJG Study Group for the History of Climate and Disaster
Supported by
Nagasaki City
JMA Nagasaki Meteorological Observatory
Association of Japanese Geographers
Tokyo Geographical Society
MSJ Research Group for Meteorological History
Certified and Accredited Meteorologists of Japan (Tokyo Branch)


10:00-10:10 Opening Address by Togo Tsukahara (Professor at Kobe University)【in Japanese】
10:10-10:20 Greeting Address by Hiroshi Tokunaga (Director of von Siebold Memorial Museum) 【in Japanese】
10:20-10:30 Greeting Address by Jun-ichi Himeno (President at Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies) 【in Japanese】
10:30-11:30 Takehiko Mikami (Professor Emeritus at Tokyo Metropolitan University): Analysis of the 1828 Siebold Typhoon based on meteorological observation data from Dejima, Nagasaki【in Japanese with English on PPT】

11:30-12:00 Masumi Zaiki (Professor at Seikei University): Meteorological Observation Records at Dejima, Nagasaki in the 19th Century 【in Japanese with English on PPT】

12:00-12:30 Junpei Hirano (Associate Professor at Teikyo University): Reconstruction of the East Asian winter monsoon based on early meteorological data in the 19th century -application of Nagasaki (Dejima) data for climatological analysis- 【in Japanese with English on PPT】

12:30-13:30 (Lunch Break)

13:30-14:30 Bruce Batten (Resident Director, Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies): The Historical Significance of Meteorological Observations on Dejima Island, Nagasaki in the 19th Century
【in Japanese with English on PPT】

14:30-15:30 Robert-Jan Wille (Lecturer at Utrecht University, The Netherlands): The Study of Weather by Dutch and Germans in East Asia in the 19th Century: Von Siebold in Nagasaki and his legacy 【in English】

15:30-16:00 (Q & A)


Objectives of our symposium: Togo Tsukahara (Kobe University)

An international symposium will be held to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Siebold’s arrival in Japan. Among Siebold’s accomplishments, meteorological observations at Dejima, in particular, will be examined from the perspectives of historical climatology, history of science, and environmental history.

From the perspective of historical climatology
In relation to climate change and global warming issues, the field of “environmental history” has been attracting increasing attention in recent years, and the reconstruction of past climates is becoming important. In doing so, research on past climates has been conducted from the perspective of historical climatology. From this perspective, the scientific research activities conducted by Siebold on Dejima, especially meteorological observations, provide valuable data. This has been made clear through research cooperation between the Netherlands and Japan by researchers including Takehiko Mikami (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Metropolitan University), Gunter Können (KNMI: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute), and Masumi Zaiki (Professor, Seikei University).
Siebold’s meteorological observations are now being interpreted in various ways, showing new approaches. In this symposium, various findings will be discussed, such as an analysis of the “Siebold typhoon” that triggered the Siebold Affair (Mikami), its significance in the reconstruction of 19th century climate (Zaiki), and the reconstruction of winter climate through the reconstruction of historical barometric pressure data (Hirano).

Perspectives on the History of East-West Interaction and Environmental History
From the perspective of environmental history, it is of great contemporary significance that such meteorological observations were made in Nagasaki, which is the “contact zone” of the history of East-West exchange, and that historical facts about the past climate have been clarified. For example, this has been highly praised by historical experts such as Bruce Barton (Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the American University of Canada, History and Environmental History).

Perspectives on World History and History of Science
Siebold and his colleagues conducted various scientific research activities in Dejima, especially in the field of natural history, which is well known through his and his collaborators’ major works such as “Flora Japonica” and “Fauna Japonica”. In addition to this, his various geoscientific studies, including meteorological observations, were undoubtedly a major footprint in the history of science. We will invite Dr. Robert-Jan Wille of Utrecht University and Department of History of Science from the Netherlands to discuss these issues.

As described above, from the perspective of historical meteorology, history of science, and environmental history, it can be said that the position of Nagasaki as an international city was important. In East-West exchange and the historical significance of the natural science research conducted in this town are becoming even more significant.
In addition to re-examining this, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Siebold’s arrival in Japan, we would like to hold this commemorative symposium to re-evaluate, from a contemporary perspective, the achievements of Siebold and Dutch legacy in historical scientific research.




Takehiko Mikami: Analysis of the 1828 Siebold’s Typhoon based on meteorological observation data from Dejima, Nagasaki

In Dejima, Nagasaki, meteorological observations were made by Dutch medical doctors from the first half to the latter half of the 19th century, providing the earliest meteorological data in Japan, dating back about 50 years to the official meteorological observations by the Japan Meteorological Agency. These Dejima meteorological data were corrected and homogenized by Dr. Zaiki et al.
Von Siebold made a series of intermittent but three-times daily temperature and pressure observations from 1824 to 1828. Using his data, we estimated the intensity and track of the strongest typhoon ever recorded, which made landfall in Nagasaki on September 18, 1828. This typhoon was later called “Typhoon Siebold” and is known as the trigger of the “Siebold Incident”. In this talk, I will present the analysis results of the air-pressure changes before and after the landfall of Typhoon Siebold based on the original meteorological records by Siebold, the damage caused by strong winds, and the estimation of typhoon track based on the weather records in the diary.


Masumi Zaiki: Meteorological Observation Records at Dejima, Nagasaki in the 19th Century

In Japan, it has been believed that there were no meteorological records prior to 1872, when official meteorological observations by the Japan Meteorological Agency began at the Hakodate Climate Observatory. However, recent research has revealed the existence of meteorological observation records made by P.F. von Siebold and other Dutch people on Dejima Island in the early 19th century. The meteorological observation records at Dejima in the 19th century are the oldest modern and systematic meteorological observation records in Japan using instruments and are important indicators for elucidating climatic changes in Japan before and after the end of the Little Ice Age. In this presentation, the characteristics of the observers and records that were found in the process of digitizing the meteorological records of Dejima, and the climatic changes in Japan since the 19th century that were revealed by the meteorological data will be introduced.


Junpei Hirano: Reconstruction of the East Asian winter monsoon based on early meteorological data in the 19th century -application of Nagasaki (Dejima) data for climatological analysis-

We analyzed inter-annual and intra-seasonal variations in the East Asian winter monsoon activities from the 1840s to the early 1850s in Japan by using early instrumental surface pressure data in Nagasaki (Dejima), Tokyo, Beijing and historical daily weather documents in Japanese old diaries. We revealed that active winter monsoon outbreaks in the early 1840s. Meanwhile, it was weak during mid to late winter in the mid-1840s. Records from Lake Suwa in Central Japan show that it did not freeze over during 1844/1845, in accordance with the above records of inactivity regarding the winter monsoon. Analysis of early instrumental surface pressure data in Nagasaki (Dejima), Tokyo, and Beijing revealed that continuous snowfall periods in northern Japan were associated with the active phase of the winter monsoon over East Asia, as represented by an east-west surface pressure gradient. These results indicate that early instrumental surface pressure data is effective to understand characteristics of East Asian winter monsoon activities in the mid-19th century.


Bruce Batten: The Historical Significance of Meteorological Observations on Dejima Island, Nagasaki in the 19th Century

In this presentation I highlight the historical significance of meteorological observations by Dutch (actually, German) physicians on the artificial island of Dejima in Nagasaki, Japan, during the early 19th century. Historians study the past, but the topics they choose often reflect present-day concerns. Two key features of today’s world are globalization and environmental degradation, including climate change, so it is not surprising that many contemporary historians are interested in the origins and development of these phenomena. The activities of Siebold and other physicians in Dejima are highly relevant to both the history of globalization and to environmental history. From the perspective of globalization, these men not only introduced Western scientific knowledge to Japan, but they also transmitted information about Japan, including information on its geography and climate, to Europe. As a result, they contributed to Japan’s integration within the global infosphere. From the perspective of environmental history, meanwhile, their meteorological observations are significant because they provide data that is useful for reconstructing past climate and understanding the origins of the present climate crisis.


Robert-Jan Wille: The Study of Weather by Dutch and Germans in East Asia in the 19th Century: Von Siebold in Nagasaki and his legacy

In my presentation I will shed light on new practices of meteorology brought to Japan by a German scholar Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866). He worked in service of the Dutch empire at Nagasaki. Like so many other scholars working for the Dutch, he was a German, or a ‘mountain Dutch’, as many German people such as him were called, to prevent more questions about this different European language in Nagasaki.
But in a few ways Siebold was not very similar to the many Germans that in the early modern age (1500-1800). He has been seamlessly fitted into the larger framework of the Dutch East India Company, the organization that sent the Dutch to Nagasaki.
Although we now tend to see Von Siebold as standing in a longer tradition of Rangaku, ‘Dutch studies’, I propose to study Von Siebold’s meteorology within this new European tradition: Humboldtian science, a practice very popular in the German states at that time, or perhaps a hybrid: Humboldt-Gaku, or perhaps even mere consistent: Hunborutogaku. Siebold brought Hunborutogaku from German Bavaria to the Netherlands and to Japan, and then became the ‘Humboldt of Japan’, selling Japan as an important scientific site to the rest of Europe (and North America). Under Siebold, Humboldtian science could still also be sold as ‘Dutch’, like that of that other German in Dutch service, in Indonesia, the Prussian Franz Junghuhn (1809-1864), ‘the Humboldt of Java’. It was the Dutch political infrastructure that made the extension of German science practice into the Pacific possible.
However, after 1853 and Bakumatsu, the Dutch lost their unique European access. Dutch colonialism in ‘the East’ became very much focused on Java and the other Indonesian islands, while German states such as Prussia and Bavaria took the initiative in meteorologically ‘opening up’ (a euphemism for ‘enforcing their weather knowledge on’) Japan. This did not happen overnight, and new structural measurements only appeared in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
In my talk I would like to compare Siebold’s meteorological measurements with other attempts of ‘the new German meteorology’ in the long nineteenth century, such as those of Erwin Knipping (1844-1922), a Prussian officer who worked for the Meiji regime. Slowly, the Dutch became less present in Japan, and the Germans more. In the 1920s, almost 100 years after Siebold, when the meteorologists started to measure the global atmosphere at greater heights with the help of weather balloons (an invention of the 1890s), the trilateral relations between Japan, Germany and the Netherlands in meteorology had completely changed. Japanese meteorologists actively trained themselves in Germany, such as Oishi Wasaburo (1874-1950). The Dutch also actively learned from the Germans.

Dutch meteorologists still had an unique access to the Indonesian archipelago, with Willem van Bemmelen (1868-1941) launching weather balloons in Jakarta (then Batavia), but Oishi’s attempts were much more successful on a global scale than Van Bemmelen’s in Indonesia. Oishi integrated the new German dominated European meteorology into the Pacific. Japanese meteorologists even wrote about the Jet Streams before the Germans and the Dutch did. How did a story of Dutch-Japanese meteorological measurements turn into a story of German-Japanese relations? To understand why meteorologists measured the atmosphere at specific locations and altitudes, it is important to say something about shifting power balances. And in the nineteenth century, the first 100 years after Siebold’s coming to Japan, shifting balances within Europe still had a big effect on the measurements of the Pacific. Scientific meteorology in the nineteenth century Pacific was the result of international cooperation, competition, conflict, and colonialism, and it was sometimes hard to separate between these processes.



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