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Kubasov F. On one document belonging to the Sawamura family archive Печать E-mail
29.03.2015 г.

On one document belonging to the Sawamura family archive: the Ascold frigate as viewed by a ninja spy

F. Kubasov

Famous books on ninja frequently tell a story of a spy Sawamura Jinzaburo Yasusuke who boarded a ship of Commodore M. Perry that had menaced Japan at its shores back in 1853. The Sawamura family generations are still handing down a calligraphically written sheet with the lyrics of a dashing and scurrilous song (for some reason written in Dutch) which was considered by the descendants of the ninja for many years to be a secret document stolen from the overseas barbarians.

While this plot wanders from one book to another gathering details and mistakes, the Sawamura archive stores a much less famous document connected to same Jinzaburo. This document was partly published in the fifth volume of "The History of Iga" (『伊賀市史』, 2012 ). Not only it is of ninja history interest but it is of interest in the context of Russian-Japanese relations as well. It is a fragment of the ninja diary that contains a "Report on the Russian ship examination in Kanagawa in July of the fifth year of Ansei (1858)". Here Sawamura clearly points out that he boarded the ship as a member of the bakufu delegation by using personal connections (it is not directly the bakufu who sent him there but prince Todo Takayuki who kept him in his service at those days). He even complains at the government officials who refused to stay on board long enough for the ninja to make a more detailed description of the ship. He gives the data on the quantity and peculiarities of the ship guns and describes the uniform of the Russian mariners and officers sometimes in quite a comic manner paying much attention to the fact that all their clothes have buttons (!) and that their headwear resembles a horaku bowl. He also describes how the ship's commander Futyashi (Putyatin) undertook landing and how somebody from the crew tried to speak Japanese poorly with the locals. In prospect it seems to be interesting to compare the data given by Sawamura to the information that Russian sources provide.
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