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20.06.2012 г.

Ethnographic component as a part of a missionary diary (based on St. Nikolai’s of Japan diary)

Antonina Akimova

Abstract. The Missionary diary of St. Nikolai of Japan is an attractive “ethnographic” document of the end of XIX and the beginning of XX century. In St. Nikolai’s “Diaries” distinguishing, traditional features of Japanese everyday life are set. Ethnographical data include the descriptions of social organization, customs, family relations, Japanese educational system, religious cults, local folklore etc. Thereby, it is justified to discuss a missionary diary as the specific type of documental diary that has its peculiar features, content and can not be strictly referred to secular or ecclesiastical literature.

Keywords: Saint Nikolai of Japan (Kasatkin), missionary literature, diary, ethnography.

Missionary Literature

At the turn of the XIX century there were a lot of prominent orthodox missionaries (i.e. St. Nikolai of Japan (Kasatkin; 1836-1912), St. Innokentii (Veniaminov; 1796-1879), St. Makarii (Nevskii; 1835-1926), metropolitan Nestor (Anisimov; 1884-1962) and others). The missionaries left the documental evidence of their time – notes [1], church diaries [2], missionary’s diaries (Diaries of Mission) [3], letters [4] and other documents that can be united as Missionary Literature.The traditional genre of Missionary Literature is diary that has differences from documental one. Missionary diary may combine documentary data with artistic interpretation of life. In comparison with documental literature the goals of missionary literature are more varied. Missionary diary is the source of multifarious knowledge covering everything what is around a person: from religious values to everyday life descriptions.

Themes of missionaries diaries are the reflection of Russian missionaries’ activities in countries where different from Orthodoxy religion was professed (i.e. China, Korea, Japan etc.). On the one hand, such diaries were kept by the orthodox missionaries so they included sermons, religious thoughts, notes to be referred just to missionary activities. On the other hand there are notes that might have been written by any person (not just by a missionary or a religious). For instance, notes written during trips, newspapers’ articles retellings, meetings’ descriptions etc. It should be mentioned that missionaries tended to scientific objectivity in all their works.

The “Diaries” of Saint Nikolai of Japan

The “Diaries” [5] of St. Nikolai of Japan stand out sharply against the background of other Russian priests’ documental heritage of the second part of XIX – the beginning of XX century. St. Nikolai himself named his diary as a “missionary’s” [6].The missionaries were constantly improving their diaries: put notes in order, classified them and united. The result of such work was, for example, a brilliant research made by IoannVeniaminov “Notes about the Unalashkinski islands” (1840). St. Nikolai of Japan used information from his notes for official reporting and writing papers for the academic journals and newspapers [7]. Initially the diary notes were put into a shape of a reference book where statistic data, full names of people important for the Mission etc. could be found.At the beginning of the missionary work St. Nikolai made up his mind to collect information for a future book and in his diary he outlined the topics he would like to pay attention to: “Japan – geographical, ethnographical and historical descriptions” [8], “Christianity and not-Christianity, about Catholics and Protestants – something like denunciative theology” [9], “Missionary, that is missionary diary and everything about not Orthodox Missions” [10]. It can be stated that afterwards St. Nikolai’s “Diaries” embraced all mentioned themes.

Japanese pages in the “Diaries” of Saint Nikolai

St. Nikolai’s intention to make ethnographical and geographical notes about Japan was embodied in “Missionary notes” during Churches’ visiting. The notebooks with ethnographic information can be united in separate group “Missionary notes during Churches’ visits”. Judging the reliability of collected information scientific background of St. Nikolai of Japan must be taken into account. Besides the fact of being a graduate of St. Petersburg Theological Academy [11] St. Nikolai of Japan had studied the Japanese language, culture and history of Japan for 10 years before he started his missionary activities. It should be noted that the achievements of monks and missionaries in the field of ethnography are highly praised by contemporary researchers. For instance, archimandrite Iakinf (Bichurin; 1777-1853) and archimandrite Pallady (Kafarov; 1817-1878) are known as prominent sinologists; St. Innokentii (Veniaminov) is one of the eminent ethnographers of the XIX century [12]. The reasons for the fact that there are a lot of remarkable researchers among missionaries are different. One of the reasons is the approach to missionary activities that implies thorough scrutinizing of culture, traditions and history of people. However ethnographic data of St. Nikolai of Japan shouldn’t be treated as an absolutely credible document because the aim of the “Diaries” creation was different from any ethnographic research.

Ethnographic research includes ethnogenesis and ethnic history; basic activities and social organization; material and spiritual culture [13]. The last two parts are broadly covered in the “Diaries” of St. Nikolai of Japan. The “Diaries” include economical and geographical notes that are essential for any ethnographic research [14]. Being in this or that part of Japan St. Nikolai tried to point the character of people living in the region [15]. From the “Diaries” records history of this or that place can be known. For instance about Sanuki province (present – prefecture Kanagawa) on Shikoku island St. Nikolai writes: During Taikun time this place was owned by Khatamono, who was raised to lord just before feudal system abolishment. The place is famous for Iositsune’s archery struggle with Taira, and having flown through the target one of the Taira’s arrows went into the tree Matsu (pine), the parts of that tree are still kept in the house of Doctor Luka Murakami” [16]. “Ethnographical” component of St. Nikolai’s Diaries includes records of local folklore as well [17].

Ideological and thematic contents of a missionary diary are extremely diverse. Missionary diary embraces various genres (i.e. diary proper, travel notes, ethnographic descriptions etc.) and types of narration (monologue, dialogue, lyrical digression, comments or explanation). The “Diaries” of St. Nikolai of Japan are the bright example of such type of diary where a completely different text formation is used.


1. See Makary, hieromonk. Notes made by missionary of Altai Spiritual Mission – hieromonk Makarii. Publishedfrom 1862 till 1868 inthe «Dushepoleznoechtenie” and the «Strannik” jounals; Nestor (Anisimov), metropolitan. Kamchatka of mine. Notes of the orthodox missionary. – theHolly Trinity – St. SergiusLavra, 1995.
2. Ioann (Veniaminov) isknowntobekeepingthediarywhereheputgeographical, ethnographical, meteorologicaldescriptions. Healsomadenotestravellingaroundthe Aleutian Islands (See Works of Innokentii, metropolitan of Moscow (1886-1888).
3. See Diaries of St. Nikolai of Japan: 5 Vol. /Edited by K. Nakamura. – St. Petersburg: Giperion, 2004.
4. Sergy, archimandrite.Around Far East (Letters of the Japanese missionary). – Sergiev Posad, 1897.
5. The mentioned diaries are published “Diaries” of St. Nikolai of Japan, that cover the period from 1870 till 1912. On some researchers’ opinion (K. Nakamura, А.А. Scherbina) St. Nikolai of Japan had been keeping the diary since 1861, but it has been lost.
6. Diaries of St. Nikolai of Japan: 5 Vol: Vol. 1. /Edited by K. Nakamura. – St. Petersburg: Giperion, 2004. – P. 323. The articles written by St. Nikolai of Japan were being published in the “Ancient and Nowadays Russia (“Drevnyayai Novaya Rossia”)”, the “Christian readings (“Khristianskiechtenia”)”, the “Russian Herald (“Russkiivestnik”)”, the “Eastern Pomorye (“Vostochnoepomr’e”)” and others.
7. Diaries, op. cit., p. 323.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. St. Pertesburg Theological Academy was considered to be one of the prominent theological institutions in the world, where besides common courses, full phylosophy and theology complexes were taught as well as oratory, physics and languages (Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Geman and French). Theological education was highly recognized as the academies were not just the institutions where higher theological education was given but they also were research centers with educational and publishing targets.
11. See Polyanichkina G.A. Ethnography . – Rostov-on-Don: Feniks, 2006. – P. 48.
12. Its R.F. Introduction into Ethnography. – Leningrad: University of Leningrad, 1991. – P. 13.
13. See: Ibid., p.66, 106.
14. Ibid., p. 163.
15. Ibid., p. 169.
16. Ibid., p. 70.

Akimova Antonina Sergeevna, postgraduate student, Sakhalin State University
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